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How long does it take for sunburn to heal?

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If you’re here, odds are you forgot to apply your SPF cream and fell asleep in the hot sun. How long does it take for sunburn to heal, you’re asking, while the pain, stinging, burning, and itching deplete your emotional resources. 

Well, it will not last forever. 

The effects of sunburn will appear in about 24 hours from the incident. And they can last for a couple of days tops depending on the severity.

Table of Contents: 

  • Types of sunburn
  • When is sunburn the most tender?
  • How long does it take for sunburn to heal? What affects the duration of healing?
  • How does sunburned skin heal?
  • Can skin fully recover from sunburn?
  • How long does sunburn stay red?
  • How long does sunburn swelling last?
  • How long does sunburn pain last?
  • How long do sunburn blisters last?
  • How long does sunburn peeling last?
  • How long do sunburn irritation and rash last?
  • What is sun poisoning?
  • Does sunburn turn into a tan? Does it cause freckles?
  • How can you make your sunburned skin heal faster?
  • Apply body moisturizers
  • Use mild body washes to gently exfoliate the skin
  • Use aloe vera face wash to help nourish your skin
  • Apply cold compresses with essential oils to soothe the skin

      Types of sunburn

      If you forgot about UV protection and especially if you have fair skin, odds are you’ll be dealing with a sunburn. 

      sunburn

      How long does it take for sunburn to heal? It depends on its severity.

      A mild sunburn (a first-degree burn) is accompanied by a little redness and some pain. You can feel it for about three to five days. You may notice your skin peeling a little towards the last days. This is your skin’s attempt to repair the damaged layers and regenerate.

      Moderate sunburns are more painful. Your skin is red, you can notice swelling, and it will be hot to the touch. In about a week, such burns will heal. However, your skin will peel off for a few more days.

      A severe sunburn can be recognized by blisters and red, inflamed skin. It's a second-degree burn. Your skin will hurt, sting, burn, itch, and will peel off. If you have such a sunburn, your skin will recover in more than two weeks. Third-degree burns can take months to heal, depending on how much the epidermis, dermis, and fat tissue have been affected.

      When is sunburn the most tender?

      You will feel the full effects of sunburn from six hours after the incident and up to 24 hours. The risk of skin cancer remains for years after that. 

      How long does it take for sunburn to heal? What affects the duration of healing?

      As you’ve read above, the most severe forms of sunburns last even more than two weeks. Some factors can make you more susceptible to prolonging the healing of the affected skin. 

      freckles

      You are more vulnerable if you:

      • have fair or light skin 
      • have freckles or red hair
      • Expose yourself to ultraviolet was when the rays are more intense (from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.)
      • take certain drugs or use treatments that are photosensitizing
      • stayed in the sun at high altitudes or in areas with ozone holes
      • were visiting (or living in) areas near the equator
      • have certain health conditions that make healing slow. Diabetes, obesity, chronic stress, arterial disease, poor circulation, smoking, malnutrition may delay healing. 

      How does sunburned skin heal?

      Skin exposed to ultraviolet rays sends the body into protective mode. One way the skin is protecting itself is by producing melanin faster. 

      That extra melanin creates your tan, which is nothing but an attempt to block UV rays and prevent sunburns. 

      When the skin cannot produce melanin at the rate you’re exposing it to sun rays, sunburns appear. 

      Sunburned skin becomes red and inflamed. The skin becomes red as the body sends blood to the blood vessels to repair the damage. 

      sunburn

      Affected skin may become swollen and even develop blisters as the body tries to fight inflammation and protect the skin. 

      If you get blisters, don’t break them! They help your skin heal faster. 

      Also, breaking them can cause an infection. After the blisters burst, the skin will peel off the affected layers, making room for new healthy cells to grow. Peeling can appear even if there are no blisters.

      Can skin fully recover from sunburn?

      Sunburned skin can fully recover with proper care and treatments. The effects of sunburn can remain present within the skin, years to come. 

      According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, sun damage may be the main cause of melanoma, as the UVA rays may damage the gene-coding DNA of the skin. 

      Both UVA and UVB rays cause aging: wrinkles and brown spots. 

      How long does sunburn stay red?

      Skin cells will regenerate. But as they do, your skin will remain red and inflamed. Redness starts in two to six hours after exposure. 

      It will peak around 24 hours from the sunburn and will diminish in the next one or two days. The more severe the burn, the longer the skin will remain red.

      How long does sunburn swelling last?

      In case of severe burns, swelling may last more than two days. But in mild and moderate cases, swelling will go away in 48 hours. 

      How long does sunburn pain last?

      Pain associated with sunburn starts after six hours of exposure. It’s the most intense around the 24 hours threshold. The pain will subside in a couple of days (about 48 hours).

      How long do sunburn blisters last?

      Blisters signal there is moderate to severe skin damage. They appear after six, up to 24 hours from UV exposure. They can appear even after a couple of days from the burn. They can persist even for a week.

      How long does sunburn peeling last?

        After the burn, your skin starts peeling. From flaking up to peeling, this phase can last for several days, three to say the least. 

        peeling skin

        Peeling stops when your skin fully heals. In moderate burns, peeling can last up to a week. In severe burns, peeling can last for weeks. 

        What if you peel your sunburn?

        While it helps to gently remove dead skin cells as they peel off, do not pull the layers. Your skin knows what to do and will shed at its own pace. 

        How long do sunburn irritation and rash last?

        Rashes, irritation, and itching develop within six hours after exposure. Depending on the severity, they can last up to three days. 

        What is sun poisoning?

        Sun rash or sun poisoning occurs when dealing with severe burns. Symptoms such as rashes, blisters, fever, nausea, chills, vomiting, confusion, even faint, extreme thirst and no urine output, and a rapid pulse, may be noticed. 

        You may need medical assistance. Sun poisoning may take up to 10 days, even a couple of weeks. 

        Does sunburn turn into a tan? Does it cause freckles?

        After your skin heals from sunburn, the affected area may develop a darker pigment or a tan. Tanning is yet another sign that your sign has suffered damage due to ultraviolet radiation. 

        Freckles may appear more prominent after absorbing UV rays. 

        How can you make your sunburned skin heal faster?

        You should not stay out in the sun, so your skin can heal itself. Wearing protective clothing during sun exposure is essential. So is hydrating yourself. 

        You can maximize the healing process by:

        • getting lots of sleep
        • taking cool baths
        • eating healthy (plenty of veggies, fruit, healthy protein, and fats)
        • adapting your skincare routine to boost healing

        Apply body moisturizers

        Moisturizing burnt skin is essential for healing. Use mild, gentle, natural moisturizers! Make sure to apply them on a small skin patch. If you notice stinging, try another hydrating agent. 

        The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends cooling down as much as possible and using moisturizers while the skin is damp. 

        They suggest you stay away from petroleum and oil-based moisturizers because they can trap in the heat and worsen the burn. 

        Choosing a gentle moisturizer is key.

        Use mild body washes to gently exfoliate the skin

          Since your new skin is delicate and vulnerable to irritation, make sure not to exfoliate directly. Rather add your body wash to a warm bath. 

          That will help loosen the dead skin cells.

          Use aloe vera face wash to help nourish your skin

          The American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends aloe vera to soothe sunburned skin. 

          Apply cold compresses with essential oils to soothe the skin

          Various essential oils can be added to your cold compresses and cold baths (colloidal oatmeal baths help soothe the skin when it’s inflamed). 

          Some essential oils, such as peppermint, rosemary, and lemon, may help reduce itching, swelling, and the inflammatory processes in the skin while boosting the cooling effect. 

          essential oils, wow skin science, buywow

          Such oils also have a topical anesthetic effect and boost circulation to the affected area. They may also help heal the nerve endings damaged by sunburns, stimulating them. 

          Some oils such as lavender, rose, ylang-ylang or chamomile soothe and nourish the skin. Their calming effect is useful when the skin is peeling. 

          Essential oils may also help keep blisters clean and infection-free. Make sure to test your skin first to prevent allergies and rashes. 

          While that extra time in the sun may be fun, the aftermath sure seems like something to be avoided. We recommend you avoid the risk of sunburn, protecting your skin. 

          And if you’ve reached the stage of sunburning, make sure to act fast in sustaining your skin’s healing.

          Iulia Claudia Dumitru

          I feel happy when I get to tell meaningful stories. About people. About the world. About life. About what people need to feel good. Healthy food, a balanced lifestyle, a grateful approach to relationships with others and ourselves. That is how I keep myself grounded and purposeful. That is how I aim to contribute: striving to make ourselves the best we can. Creating life in the little things. Living every day with the joy, wonder, and curiosity of a child. Trying to #seeKbeauty. Inside and out.

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