The truth about Sunburns and Suntans

We all know that sunburns harm the skin and can be painful as well. However, did you know that suntans are equally as bad? In fact, both sunburns and suntans are caused by ultraviolet light, from the sun’s UVA and UVB rays.  There is no such thing as a healthy glow from a suntan. In fact, if you have a suntan, your skin is damaged, and you have increased your chances of developing skin cancer later!


Sunburns vs Suntans

Did you ever wonder why some people end up with a golden tan, while others end up looking like a burnt lobster! Although both are a result of unprotected ultraviolet exposure, it is the amount of melanin in everyone’s skin that makes the difference.


What is melanin? It’s the natural pigment that gives color to your skin, hair and the iris of your eyes. Melanin is also the body’s own natural sunscreen as it absorbs ultraviolet light and removes it as heat. Darker skin tones have a higher amount of melanin than lighter skin tones.


 When the skin is exposed to the sun for a long period of time, the body goes into a defense mode and starts to produce more melanin. In darker skin tones this process produces a tan. Since lighter skin needs more protection, the body’s defenses can become overwhelmed, and create a toxic reaction resulting in a sunburn.  


Types of Sunburns

It takes 6-24 hours after sun exposure to see a sunburn. There are different types of sunburns that range from first, second- and third-degree burns. The degrees are based on the thickness of the skin that was burned.

  • First Degree- only the skin surface is burned. This is the most common type of sunburn. The skin will be hot to the touch and will experience redness, irritation, and dryness.
  • Second Degree- the second layer of skin is injured Second degree includes all the symptoms of a first degree, as well as blistering. Other symptoms can include a high fever, extreme pain, headache, confusion, nausea or chills.


  • Third Degree- the most severe type of burn, goes through the dermis and affects the deeper tissues. Third-degree burns include all the same symptoms of a second degree burn as the skin appearing severely red to purplish.


Although first-degree sunburns usually heal by themselves with topical creams, second, and third-degree burns do need medical attention!


 Preventing a Sunburn

Despite health warnings about sun damage, many of us still subject our skin to the sun's burning rays. According to the CDC, more than one-third of adults and nearly 70% of children admit they've gotten sunburned within the past year. Although the best way to prevent sunburn is the daily use of sunscreen, there are other ways to protect your skin. Here are some tips to keep your skin safe when you're outside:


  1. Watch the clock: Sun's rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  2. Do the Shadow Test: If your shadow is shorter than you are, get out of the sun, or make sure you are wearing sunscreen.
  3. Wear the right clothes: When you must be outdoors, wear sun-protective clothing that has UPF sun protection, also include items such as:
  • A broad-brimmed hat
  • UV-blocking sunglasses
  • A long-sleeved shirt and pants


  1. Use sunscreen properly:
  • Cover any exposed areas of skin liberally with at least 1 ounce of broad-spectrum sunscreen protecting you from both; UVA and UVB rays.
  • Apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before you step outside unless you are using natural sunscreen. Natural sunscreens do not absorb, and they reflect the harmful sun rays away from your skin. Therefore, they work as soon as you apply them to the skin.
  • Use sunscreen every day even on cloudy, snowy and rainy days. Weather conditions do not prevent the penetration of UV rays.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours.


Remember sunburns and suntans are clear signs of skin damage. Protect your skin every day from sun damage by using natural and effective sunscreens. Select from a variety of natural sunscreens by visiting: