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Sunburn Degree Blister Peel Overexposure from the Sun

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Last updated 05/10/2023

I know I have done this (when younger) I didn’t intend to stay in the sun that long. So, I forgot all about my sunscreen. Sunburn degree.

As a result, my skin was a deep red (think lobster). This is sunburn and it damages skin cells as well as DNA. Furthermore, all the heat and sun dries out the skin.

Skin desperately needs some TLC when this happens. Moisture and nutrients are delivered to the damaged skin by blood vessels dilating in the dermis. Some of the warmth of the UV rays is absorbed and converted to heat by the melanin. In short, this gives the sunburn color.

The best treatment for sunburn is to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and replenish the skin’s moisture. I find that aloe vera really helps soothe the skin.

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What is Sunburn?

Sunburn is the visible reaction of overexposure to UV rays, or sun lamps. It is a type of radiation burn. This is any tan or color on your skin. Furthermore, the redness is due to extra blood in your capillaries.

You can view this by pressing your sunburn skin. It will turn white and then back to red when the capillaries refill.


After the sunburn happens swelling develops in your epidermis due to the damage. This is known as erythema. Your body is in the healing process and increasing blood flow to the affected areas. As a result, swelling and areas hot to the touch.

Inflammation can vary from a short period of time or longer. Certainly, this depends on the amount of damage done to your skin’s DNA from the sun. Your skin has been injured because of the sunburn.

Now your deeper layers of skin cells are more vulnerable to UV damage. Most importantly, you really need to remember to apply sunscreen and cover up now to prevent additional damage.

Blister and Peel

This can be an unattractive phase. Similar to an onion your skin is now peeling. Again, depending on the extent this could be in sheets. That is to say, with severe sunburn blisters can be visible. Some can even contain fluid.

Usually, skin cells are routinely but slowly replaced. However, with sunburn the cell regeneration stage is accelerated. In order to compensate the damage, the top layers in your dermis create new keratinocytes. With the forming of these new cells your surface layer begins to shed and becomes replaced.

Due to this accelerated process these new cells don’t have time to divide and flake away like they normally would. But they cling together and peel off.

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Risk Factors for Sunburn

These can increase your risk for sunburn:

  • Being outdoors between the hours of 10AM and 4PM. This is when the UV index is highest
  • Having fair skin, blue eyes, freckles, or red or blonde hair
  • Doing outdoor activities at higher altitudes, like skiing or hiking
  • Participating in sports outdoors
  • The closer you are to the equator

Certainly, teenagers are at higher risk with outdoor activities. That is to say, about 50% of high school boys and 60% of high school girls. These are adolescents that had sunburns in the last 12 months.

Those with dark skin are at lower risk but still require measures to remain safe from sunburn.

Causes of Sunburn

Typically, you know you get sunburn because you were out in the sun too long. And possibly you didn’t wear any sunscreen.  But you can also get sunburn while using a tanning bed or sun lamp.

In addition, certain medications can make you more sun sensitive. So, keep this in mind if you are currently taking a medication that causes photosensitivity. And be aware if you are applying a topical product containing a chemical that can create photosensitivity.

It is also possible to have a sun allergy. This only occurs in very sensitive people. Further, the skin allergy is triggered by changes in the skin.

Sunburn Degree Types

First Degree Sunburn

Your outer layer of skin is damaged. However, it can heal on its own. About 4 hours after you’ve been in the sun you could observe symptoms.

First Degree Sunburn symptoms:

  • Pink to red color more visible on fair skin
  • A warm or tight feeling
  • Feeling sore to touch

In addition, your skin could peel some 3 to 8 days after exposure. As well as other symptoms with first degree sunburn:

  • Headaches
  • Raised temperature
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea

Treatment for First Degree Sunburn

First degree sunburn can take about a week to heal.

To assist with easing symptoms:

  • Take ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain relief, headaches or fever
  • Drink plenty of water and electrolytes to stay hydrated
  • A cool bath or shower could help calm skin
  • Apply cool compresses to skin that sunburned
  • Stay out of sun until sunburn heals
  • Treat with aloe vera, moisturizing cream or over the counter hydrocortisone cream
  • If you have any blistered areas apply antiseptic ointment or hydrocortisone cream and lightly bandage to prevent infection
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Second Degree Sunburn

Second degree sunburn can reach deeper and damage your dermis layer. It could take weeks to heal and could require a dermatologist visit.

Second Degree sunburn symptoms:

  • Deep red (lobster) skin, especially on fair skin
  • Swelling and blistering over a large area
  • Painful
  • When pressed, white discoloration in the sunburned area

These could also be included with second degree sunburn:

  • Headache
  • Having a higher temperature
  • Exhaustion
  • Nausea
  • Feeling hot and having shivers (chills)
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Muscle cramps
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Slurred speech
  • Fast breathing or rapid pulse

Treatment for Second Degree Sunburn

Those with second degree sunburn can also follow the steps to ease pain as first-degree sunburn. It can take several weeks to heal second degree sunburn. Furthermore, advice and treatment from your doctor could benefit.

A specialist may be necessary. Treatment could require burn cream and burn dressings. That is to say, skin that is badly blistered and swollen.

In conclusion, rarely hospital treatment is needed. Most importantly, be aware if sunburn is accompanied with heatstroke or heat exhaustion.

Hospital Treatment for Sunburn

  • Ice packs, cool baths or cool compresses to bring down body temperature
  • Cold water flushes into the stomach or rectum
  • Anti-seizure or muscle relaxing medications to assist with shivering and convulsions
  • Diverting blood from the heart and lungs, cooling it in a special machine, then returning it back to the body

Children and Babies

Children and babies who become severely sunburned should especially visit their physician for additional advice and treatment.

When to Consult Your Dermatologist

Being sunburn you should make an appointment with your dermatologist if:

  • Blistered skin covers a large area
  • These blisters are on your face, hands or genitals
  • You see signs of infection, like bad smelling pus, bleeding, pain or swelling
  • Your symptoms show no improvement after a couple days

Seek emergency treatment if you experience:

  • Fever
  • Confusion or fainting
  • Symptoms of dehydration
  • Heat stroke
  • Heat exhaustion

Results from Sunburn

Premature Aging of Your skin

UV rays and having sunburns can race your skin's aging process. This is referred to as photoaging. As a result, wrinkles, freckles, dry patches and thin capillaries.

Precancerous Skin Lesions

Precancerous skin lesions are rough, scaly patches of sun damage. Furthermore, these can alter into skin cancer. Other names are actinic keratoses and solar keratoses.

Skin Cancer

You are at increased risk for developing melanoma from sun overexposure even if you had no sunburn. Sunburn can damage your DNA of skin cells. Melanoma can develop later in life.

Eye Damage

Overexposure of UV light can damage your cornea. As a result, this can lead to clouding of the lens (cataracts). Sunburn of the cornea (snow blindness) can feel painful or gritty.

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10 Sunburn Degree Prevention Tips

  1. Apply your sunscreen every day, no matter if the sun is out or not.
  2. Search for sunscreens that are labeled “Broad-spectrum”. These provide protection against both UVA and UVB rays that can cause skin cancer.
  3. To deflect UV rays mineral sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are the best.
  4. Avoid retinyl palmitate (extra vitamin A) in sunscreens and lip blocks. This ingredient has been known to increase skin cancer and can speed the growth of skin tumors.
  5. Choose a SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15. If you plan to be outdoors for a while apply SPF 30.
  6. Rub in your sunscreen 30 minutes prior to adventuring in the sun. In conclusion, you should use about two tablespoons of product for the whole body. And reapply every two hours, do this more if you’ve been swimming or sweating.
  7. Seek the shade from 10AM until 4PM.
  8. Put on a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses that wraparound. These will block at least 99 percent of UV rays.
  9. Keep in mind UV radiation can penetrate car and office windows. So, apply your sunscreen accordingly.
  10. Even with your best efforts, a day outside can still leave you sunburned. Aloe vera gel provides a great relief and calms the redness.
Wrapping it up

Usually, sunburn can be treated at home. However, symptoms of dehydration, heatstroke or heat exhaustion would require urgent care. You can have fun and still be sun safe.


Mary is the founder of All About Our Skin. Former esthetician and CPC. Enjoys researching skincare and has been studying our skin for the past fifteen years.

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