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  5. Sunburn On Face: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments & Preventive Tips

Is your skin prone to sunburns? It can be a nightmare, especially when sunburns happen on the face. This is because the facial skin tissue is very sensitive and it can turn out to be a very painful experience.

But, do not worry! You can be relieved from the pains of sunburns if you act promptly with the right treatments. In this article, we explain what exactly causes sunburns on your face, signs, symptoms, and effective treatment options available.

Our Ayurvedic Doctor Speaks

‘’As per Ayurveda, people with pitta dominant prakriti are more susceptible to sunburns. The over-exposure of your skin to the sun rays increases the pitta dosha and decreases the Rasa dhatu in your skin.‘’

-Dr. Zeel Gandhi, Chief Ayurvedic Doctor, Vedix

What Causes Sunburn On The Face?

Sunburn is nothing but your skin's response to UV damage. The UV radiation from the sun has three wavelengths, which are termed UVA, UVB, and UVC [1].

  • UVC radiation has nothing to do with sunburns on your face as it doesn't reach the earth's surface.
  • Though UVB rays do not penetrate deep into your skin, they are highly intense and can cause severe sunburn on the surface layer of your skin.
  • UVA rays are less intense when compared to UVB rays. However, UVA rays can penetrate your facial skin deeply and damage your deeper skin cells over time. Also, UVA rays can damage the gene-coding of DNA in your skin cells. This increases the risk of melanoma.

When your facial skin is exposed to the sun's UV rays for a longer time, your skin produces melanin aggressively in its outer layer. This excessive melanin forms a suntan on your skin, which acts as a potential blocker for UV rays [2].

But, this natural protection mechanism of your skin from UV radiation works only to a certain extent. When your skin continues to get exposed to UV rays, it further leads to the burning and peeling of your skin tissue.

‘’As per Ayurveda, people with pitta dominant prakriti are more susceptible to sunburns. The over-exposure of your skin to the sun rays increases the pitta dosha and decreases the Rasa dhatu in your skin. This, in turn, causes sunburn in your skin tissue leading to severe inflammation and pain. Eventually, sunburns also aggravate the vata dosha in your skin, which leads to dehydration and a dull appearance,’’ says Dr. Zeel Gandhi, Chief Ayurvedic Doctor at Vedix.

Risk Factors For Sunburns On Face

1. Living in high altitudes, or in places with sunny and warm weather.

2. Outdoor professions

3. Having lighter skin tones (less melanin production) and blue eyes.

4. Consuming alcohol outdoors

5. Taking photosensitizing medications such as retinoids.

6. Swimming with direct sun exposure on your body. Wet skin tends to have more sunburns than dry skin.

The number of cases and severity of sunburn have increased in recent years worldwide due to chemical damage to the ozone layer. Between 1970-2000, around 4% of stratospheric ozone has depleted, which led to a 4% increase in the intensity of UV radiation.

What Does Sunburn On The Face Look Like?

The sunburn on your face appears as red and painful skin that feels hot when you touch it.

Your facial skin turns red as the blood flow rushes to the small veins in the affected area during sunburn. Also, your skin peels off the damaged and dead skin cells after healing.

sunburn face of a boy

‘’Besides sunburn on the face, an intense and continuous exposure of your skin to UV light may lead to other complications such as wrinkled skin, dark spots, rough spots, freckles, eye damage, etc. Also, it increases the risk of melanoma (skin cancer)[3],’’ says Dr. Zeel.

Symptoms Of Sunburn On Face

  • Tenderness or pain
  • Tiny fluid-filled blisters on the face that tend to break
  • Inflammation and slight itchiness
  • Skin turning red or pink
  • Skin feels warm to touch
  • Painful or irritated eyes
  • Headache, fatigue, nausea, and fever in severe cases

How Do You Get Rid Of Sunburn On Your Face?

1. Ayurvedic Herbs

A. Neem + Chickpea Flour

Add half a spoon of organic neem oil into half a cup of chickpea flour. Add sufficient water into it to make a dense paste. Apply the paste on the sunburns and rinse it off with cold water after half an hour.

B. Aloe Vera

Apply natural aloe vera gel directly on the affected area and leave it overnight. Repeat daily until your skin heals from sunburns.

C. Sandalwood + Turmeric

Prepare a paste by mixing sandalwood powder and turmeric powder in equal amounts. Apply it on the sunburns and wash it off after half an hour.

2. Pitta Pacifying Diet

Include loads of hydrating fruits and vegetables such as gourds, cucumbers, watermelon, amla, grapes, peaches, oranges, lettuce, coriander, mint, tomatoes, yogurt, soups, cabbage, capsicum, cauliflower, coconut water, buttermilk, etc. in your diet regularly. A good diet helps your body heal from sunburns rapidly.

Vedix Tip: Avoid having spicy, hot, salty, and heavy foods in your diet as they aggravate pitta dosha and may worsen the sunburns on your face.

3. Home Remedies

  • Apply a cool pack on the affected area with a clean, damp towel or cloth. Avoid taking hot showers.
  • Apply a cooling and soothing moisturizer that contains herbs such as aloe vera or soy twice a day.
  • Add 2-3 spoons of baking soda or apple cider vinegar into a bowl of water. Wash your face with it to ease the redness and irritation from sunburn.
  • Soak oatmeal in cold water and apply it to the sunburns. Rinse it off after 15-20 minutes.
  • Soak a clean cotton cloth in cold milk. Apply it on the sunburned skin for a few minutes to relieve the pain and burning sensation.
  • Cut open a Vitamin E capsule and rub it gently onto the affected area. Do it regularly as it helps in controlling the inflammation.
  • Blend a cup of cucumber pieces into a fine pulp and apply it to the sunburns.
  • Prepare a smooth paste by adding a spoon of cornstarch into a small cup of water. Apply the paste on the sunburns and wash it off after 10 minutes.
  • Add a few drops of essential oil such as lavender, chamomile, peppermint, or camphor oil into a spoon of coconut oil. Now, rub the oil into the affected area twice a day.
  • Apply a freshly brewed and cooled black tea bag on the sunburns. You can also add a few leaves of mint into it for a cooling effect.
  • Soak green tea bags in cold water and put them on your sunburned eyelids. This helps in reducing inflammation and burning sensation in your eyes.

Though home remedies can provide you instant relief from sunburn, it may take a few days for the burn marks to fade away.

4. Medical Treatments

  • You can use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory OTC medications such as naproxen or ibuprofen to control swelling and pain in the affected area.
  • Also, 1% hydrocortisone creams may help you relieve itching and inflammation.
  • Doctors may prescribe using oral steroids and intravenous fluids in cases of severe sunburns and heat stress in the body.

How To Care For The Skin With Sunburn?

  • Please avoid further sun exposure of your face until the skin heals completely from the sunburns.
  • Avoid any skin products and cosmetics that contain sulfates, sulfonates, alcohols, and parabens when your skin is sunburnt.
  • Do not apply ice packs, petroleum jelly, or products with heavy consistency such as butter on the sunburn affected area.
  • Do not pick on the small blisters as they can lead to infection and scarring. Also, avoid scratching or removing the peeling skin.
  • It is recommended to use loose-fitting clothing until your skin heals from sunburns.
  • Keep yourself well-hydrated by drinking sufficient water.

How To Prevent Sunburn On The Face?

1. The UV rays from the sun are strongest between 10 a.m and 4 p.m. So, you are strictly advised to avoid prolonged sun exposure during those hours. If you can't completely avoid it, at least try to minimize your time in the sun by seeking shade whenever possible.

2. It is a myth that getting a base tan would reduce the risk of sunburn on your skin. You need to stay away from tanning beds and sun tanning practices to protect yourself from sunburns.

3. Prefer using a scarf or wide-brimmed hat that covers your face when you step outside in the sun. Tightly woven fabrics in dark colors would offer more protection.

4. Also, you can find specially designed outdoor gear with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF number) to protect your skin from sunburns. The higher the UPF number, the safer and better it is.

5. Always use a water-resistant sunscreen [4] on your face and neck with a minimum of SPF 30. Your sunscreen should protect your skin against broad-spectrum UVA and UVB radiation. Also, using sunscreen with physical blockers such as zinc oxide or titanium oxide is a better choice to avoid unnecessary skin irritation.

6. You should apply sunscreen generously on your skin 15-30 minutes before you go outdoors. And, you need to reapply every 2-3 hours throughout the day. Also, reapply sunscreen on the dry skin after sweating or swimming.

woman with sun cream on tanned shoulder

7. For toddlers under 6 months, it is not recommended to use sunscreen. Babies should be protected with proper clothing and need to be kept away from direct sunlight exposure.

8. Use sunglasses that protect your eyes from UVA and UVB rays. Darker shades are not necessarily better at UV protection and you need to check the UV rating before purchasing the glasses. Also, pick sunglasses with wraparound frames that fit close to your face.

9. You need to be aware of certain sun-sensitizing medications such as retinoids, ibuprofen, tetracyclines, sulfonamides, oral contraceptives, diabetic medications, diuretics, phenothiazines, thiazides, antibiotics, and other OTC drugs before using them [5]. Discuss with your doctor about the possible side effects and take precautions accordingly.

10. Also, you need to protect your skin when you are around snow, sand, and water as they can reflect the UV rays from the sun.

11. You need to be extra careful when you are at higher altitudes as UV rays are more intense there.

Not just on sunny days, but sunburn can also happen on overcast days. You need to follow the above preventive tips even on hazy, cool, or cloudy days to keep your skin in good health.

How Long Does Sunburn Last On Your Face?

Sunburn can happen within 2-6 hours after your skin gets too much exposure to UV radiation from the sun or any other sources such as tanning beds, sunlamps, etc. However, you will know the severity of the sunburn only after a day or two as the symptoms peak. ‘’You may feel increased pain 6-48 hours after the exposure and sunburn,’’ says Dr. Zeel.

  • Mild sunburns on the face start to heal after 3-4 days and the damaged top layer of your skin starts to peel off.
  • Moderate sunburns may last for 5-7 days before the damaged skin peels off.
  • In case of severe sunburn, it may take several days (more than a week) for your skin to heal itself.

The Last Word

You need to consult a doctor immediately if the sunburn on your face doesn't improve within a few days or if it is associated with severe swelling, large open blisters, high fever, dehydration, low blood pressure, rapid pulse, shallow breathing, weakness, etc.

At Vedix, we customize a dosha-balancing Ayurvedic skincare regimen as per your skin type and its needs.

Know Your Dosha Now

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