Health Effects of Sunburns on Skin

Suntan is good, but not sunburns. Suntan gets us enough vitamin D which is essential for the functioning of our organism and syntesis. However sunburn is a painful inflammatory skin reaction due to over exposure to UV radiation. “Sunburn literally cooks the protein in the skin,” says Zoe Draelos, MD, clinical associate professor of dermatology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, North Carolina.

Here are two effective natural suggestions to soothe the burn and heal using dairy.

1. Make cold milk compresses by soaking a clean cloth in a bowl with equal parts milk, ice cubes and water. Then hold the cloth on the burned area for five minutes. Repeat three times or more.

2. Also, you can apply full fat yogurt on sunburned skin and let it dry, then wash off.

Why does it work?

The fat, protein and pH of milk have a soothing anti-inflammatory effect on the skin. Cold temperatures constrict blood vessels and reduce swelling. The coolness takes out the initial fire and milk creates a protein film that helps ease the ensuing discomfort.

Also, you can use honey. It’s been used as a topical burn salve since Egyptian days. “Studies suggest it may work better than some antibiotic creams at speeding up healing, reducing infection, and minimizing pain,” says Kathi Kemper, M.D., author of The Holistic Pediatrician.

And of course, drink plenty of water, as burns are dehydrating, and use non- greasy soothing creams such as aloe vera gel. If fever accompanies sunburn it maybe a heatstroke where it’s advisable to seek a visit to a doctor.


For those interested in medical description, this is what happens: “When you get sunburn, your skin is actually damaged by UV radiation and your body is responding to the damage. Sunburn is a popular term applied to the marked erythema and pain that commonly follows injudicious sun exposure. A sunburn is really a delayed ultraviolet B-induced erythema caused by an increase in blood flow to the affected skin that begins about 4 hours and peaks between 8-24 hours following exposure. The underlying cause of this vascular reaction is direct and indirect damage to specific cellular targets from photochemical reactions and the generation of reactive oxygen species. Damage to DNA, and the activation of several inflammatory pathways, particularly involving prostaglandins, are thought to trigger this reaction, ultimately leading to vasodilation and oedema. Biologic response modifiers released by both keratinocytes and lymphocytes also play a role. The development of erythema therefore implies that enough ultraviolet damage has occurred that inflammatory pathways have been activated. Erythema is probably best thought of as a total failure of sun protection, and is a marker for severe UV damage.

Several lines of evidence suggest a relationship between erythema and DNA damage. There is rough correlation between pyrimidine dimer yield and susceptibility to erythema with sun exposure. Wavelengths that are the most efficient at producing erythema are also the most efficient at producing pyrimidine dimers. From a scientific point of view, a sunburn can be viewed as a marker for a substantial ultraviolet over-exposure that has clinical implications for skin cancer risk. It is now appreciated that there is a linkage between a history of repeated, severe sunburn and increased risk for melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer.” (Mark F. Naylor, MD, Department of Dermatology
Center for Molecular Medicine, University of Oklahoma).