We went to the beach last weekend and got a sunburn on a spot we missed with sunscreen. What causes sunburn, and how does sunscreen help stop sunburns from happening?
When you’re outside, your skin is exposed to ultraviolet radiation (sometimes called UV radiation) from the sun’s rays. Even on cloudy days! Covering up your skin with long sleeves or a hat can help protect it from UV radiation and sunburn. Sunburns can be really painful, and can cause some types of skin cancer if you get too many of them in your lifetime. Some of the more common effects of a sunburn are redness, itchiness, and peeling skin. Your skin literally dries up and peels off! (EW!) Really bad sunburns, like other kinds of burns, can give you blisters on your skin.
Your skin has melanin, or pigment, that gives it color and protects it. You notice that the color of the skin on your arms is different from your friends, or even your brothers and sisters and mom or dad. If you have very pale skin, especially if you have freckles, you will be more likely to get a sunburn when you’re out in the sun. People with darker skin have more melanin. When they’re in the sun their skin may get a little darker and they’ll get a suntan. Many doctors say that even a little suntan is too much, and advise you to always wear sunscreen and a hat when you’re going to be in the sun for long periods.
Sunscreen coats your skin and blocks out the ultraviolet rays of the sun. Your bottle of sunscreen probably lists its “SPF” or “Sun Protection Factor”. The higher the SPF, the more protection it gives. Many sunscreens for kids have an SPF of 50 or higher. You need to apply more sunscreen after you’ve been swimming or if you’re sweating a lot. Staying out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. will reduce your risk of sunburn.