We talk about sunburn when we have red, hot and sore skin after staying for too long in the sun.  This condition is accompanied by itching, fever and pain.

Why do we burn in the sun?

Red painful skin is caused by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) sun  rays. Sun rays have three types of wavelengths:


  • UVA
  • UVB
  • UVC

UVC light doesn't reach the Earth.  But UVA and UVB ultraviolet light penetrates your skin. Skin damage is caused by both UVA and UVB rays. Under the surface, ultraviolet light can alter your DNA, prematurely aging your skin.

sunburn, sun rays, UVA, UVB, UVC

If your skin is not protected, you should not stay in the sun. We can sunburn at the beach as well as in the mountains and in the town.

Symptoms of sunburn

Sunburn symptoms may include:

  • Itching, often on the back
  • Painful and stretched skin
  • Reddish skin – from pink to dark red
  • Skin blisters
  • General fatigue
  • Lack of energy and dizziness
  • High temperature
  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting

In extreme cases, symptoms of shock can occur, for instance:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Fainting
  • Extreme weakness

sunburn, sunburn symptoms 

Stages of sunburn

  • First degree burns – 1st degree burns usually affect only the epidermal layer - the skin is slightly pink. These burns are considered mild ones;
  • Second degree burns – the skin is already deep red and painful;
  • Third degree burns – considered to be the worst burn degree. Blisters and wounds appear on the skin.

stahges of sunburn, skin types


First aid for sunburn

  • After taking a bath, dry gently your skin with a towel with no brushing or pushing;
  • Apply some moisturizer to the red skin. It’s better if it contains some itching relief ingredients;
  • Do not scratch the skin, leave it to “breathe” a little bit;
  • Apply some cream or other anti-burn substance and try to apply it evenly to all affected zones;
  • If we have dire burns, there may be serious consequences so go to consult a specialist as soon as possible.


When sunburn is dangerous

When the skin is deep red, painful and with blisters, we have serious sunburn and we have to consult a dermatologist immediately.

Treatments for sunburn

It is very important to start sunburn treatment as soon as possible. The skin has to be cooled, to stop exposing it to sunshine and to treat it with moisturizing cream, ointment or a soothing spray. In case wounds and blisters occur, there should be a therapy administered by a doctor.


Some simple steps:


  • Stay out of the sun - avoid making the burn worse by exposing it more to UV.
  • Do not use butter – in fact it can prevent healing and damages the skin.
  • Peeling skin - do not pick peeling parts and continue to apply moisturizer.
  • Don't break small blisters -  If a blister breaks, clean it with mild soap and water.
  • Rehydrate - drink water to help rehydrate the skin.
  • Hydrocortisone cream - may also help reduce inflammation and itching.

Pain relief - over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications can help relieve pain and reduce swelling.


There are 6 skin photo types:

First skin type – milky-white skin with freckles and red hair. People with this type of skin always burn and never get a tan. They need the highest protection factor (SPF) for staying outside all year long.

Second type – so called Scandinavian type – white, almost transparent and thin skin. Usually it is combined with blue or green eyes and blond hair.  People with this skin type also sunburn very often and never get a tan. They need the highest protection factor for outside all year long too.

Third type – the most frequent in Bulgaria – those of people who sunburn and get tan after that. They have slightly yellowish or brownish skin color, usually they are with brown or black hair and dark eyes. They may get exposed to the sun with regular planning and need the highest sun protection only in the beginning and then it can be downgraded to 30 SPF.

Fourth type – it is characteristic of people who are olive-skinned. They never sunburn and always get a tan. But they still need sun protection as a prevention of photo aging. Of course, their sun protection should be with a lower SPF and to cover mainly the face and the neckline.

Fifth type – the Arabs have this type of skin.

Sixth type – Afro-Americans have this type of skin. Photo protection with them is only for cancer prophylaxis. 


Is solarium protective for sunburn?

There are people who think that going to the solarium will protect them from sunburn on the beach. But that’s not the case. Dermatologists advice people:

It’s better to start first with 1 – 2 hours at the beach. For people that sunburn easily it’s better to gradually enlarge the exposure to sun rather that go to the solarium in advance.

Sunburn protection

sunburn protection

Skin has its protective mechanisms against sun’s negative impact – pigmentation and efficient antioxidant system. But in certain circumstances these natural protective mechanisms may not be good enough. All dermatology specialists advise people to stay away from exposing themselves to direct sunshine between 11 AM and 4 PM in summer.

Additional photo protection

  • Apply sun protective products before going outside. If you do not have a tan, use a high SPF – between 20 and 30.  Use 50 SPF for your face. Apply the protective cream at least 20 minutes before going out into the sun;
  • When sunbathing on the beach, apply the sun protective factor every 2 hours and after being in water;
  • If you have a sensitive skin, consult your dermatologist to advise you what is the proper protective product for you.

Sun protection according to the age


Sun protection for the youngest is specially designed so the parent can cover the baby’s whole body.


SPF, sunburn protection



For teenagers it’s important that sun protection products are not oily. They contain ingredients that are beneficial for acne and at the same time they hydrate the skin. Some of the products that are used for acne should not be applied in the morning or in the beach.




Doctors recommend mainly hydrating photoprotection so the skin to be protected both from sunburn and the first signs of aging.



There are special products for this age that are with anti-age ingredients and are an additional help for women and their self-esteem.   


After 55 years


You should apply products with a very high protection that are water resistant for that age. They protect the skin also from the first signs of acute aging.  sun protection for children

Sunburn in babies and children

Babies should not be exposed to direct sunshine, pediatricians and dermatologists recommend. It is a scientific fact that skin has memory so parents are advised not to let their babies burn in the sunshine. Dermatological practice has shown that the number of sunburns in childhood is in proportion to malignant skin carcinoma chances later in life. So parents should keep babies in the shades, preferably not at the beach but for example in the sea park. If there is a sunburn in early childhood, then this can lead to more serious problems with skin carcinoma later in life.

The most appropriate time for sunbathing for children older than 2-years old are the hours before 11 AM and after 5 PM during the day.

Is sun protection necessary in the town?

We have to protect our skin from the sun even in town. Dermatologists recommend SPF 20 – 30. Apply your sun protection 2 times a day – first in the morning around 20 minutes before leaving home and then before the lunch break or when we go out for coffee because most products can protect your skin for 4 – 5 hours maximum. We have to apply the same principle when going out with the children for playing.


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