Why do we get sunburn and how can I protect myself?

One day you are enjoying the sun, and the very next day your skin is tight and itchy. Without realising it, you have got sunburn. But how does that happen?

This is how we get sunburn.

Basically, we get sunburn when our skin is subjected to an overdose of UV radiation. We are subjected to this radiation by the sunlight that radiates down onto the Earth. The intensity of the UV radiation depends on various factors, for example, the position of the sun, the weather conditions and the altitude.

UV radiation is divided up into short-wave UVB radiation and longer-wave UVA radiation. UVB radiation only penetrates the upper layers of the skin. However, it is very high in energy and excessive exposure can result in damage to the skin. Therefore, UVB radiation is mainly responsible for causing sunburn. On the other hand, UVA radiation is not as high in energy as UVB radiation. Extremely high exposure to UVA radiation can also cause sunburn and a higher risk of skin cancer.

The natural protection of the skin is not adequate for excessive exposure to the sun. The energy of the UV light damages the skin cells and the skin develops the typical symptoms of sunburn - it becomes irritated, inflamed and red, or even forms blisters.

The self-protection mechanism of the skin

In order to ward off UV radiation and protect our bodies, the skin has its own natural protection system. However, this natural protection is limited and depends on various factors: the skin type, the existing level of tanning and the intensity of the sun (UV Index).

ยป You can read more about the skin's self-protection mechanism and the various skin types here.

The consequences of sunburn

The consequences of intensive sunbathing usually take several hours to appear. The symptoms are only noticeable after four to eight hours.

  • the skin reddens, especially in the areas that receive the most exposure to the sun, e.g. the face and the crown
  • the affected areas feel tight and itchy
  • the skin peels
  • the skin feels warm and swelling occurs
  • in the case of severe sunburn, blisters may form

This is how you can protect yourself:

Even though the skin usually regenerates from mild sunburn within a few days, long-term damage can occur. Therefore, it is particularly important to protect the skin from UV radiation.

The scalp is also very sensitive. Bald men, or men with sparse, thin hair, are particularly at risk if they don't wear a hat or a cap. Alpecin Scalp Sun Liquid can help in this regard. It wards off the UV rays, and unlike many sun creams, is not greasy.

It is generally advisable to avoid the midday sun. During this time, the solar radiation is particularly intense. Furthermore, you should not overstrain your body's own sun protection mechanism. Using a sun cream with a sufficiently high sun protection factor (SPF) helps here.

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