What Is Sunburn?

A sunburn is skin damage from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. Most sunburns cause mild pain and redness but affect only the outer layer of skin (first-degree burns). The red skin might hurt when you touch it. These sunburns are mild and can usually be treated at home.

Skin that is red and painful and that swells up and blisters may mean deep skin layers and nerve endings have been damaged (second-degree burn). This type of sunburn is usually more painful and takes longer to heal.

What Other Problems Can Occur With a Sunburn?

  • Heatstroke or other heat-related illnesses from too much sun exposure.
  • Allergic reactions to sun exposure or to sunscreen products.
  • Vision problems, such as burning pain, decreased vision, or partial or complete vision loss.
  • An increased chance of having skin cancer.
  • An increase in other health problems, such as lupus or cold sores.
  • Cataracts, from direct, intense sun exposure over many years. Cataracts are one of the leading causes of blindness.
  • Skin changes, such as premature wrinkling or brown spots.

Who Is At Risk For Sunburs?

People with fair or freckled skin, blond or red hair, and blue eyes usually sunburn easily. Your age also affects how your skin reacts to the sun. The skin of children younger than 6 and adults older than 60 is more sensitive to sunlight.