Four Different Types Of Sunburn (And How To Avoid Them)

If you’ve ever spent time at the beach, or outside hiking and playing sports out in the sun, you’ve probably gotten a sunburn.

But…what exactly is a sunburn and what types of sunburn we know?

Sunburn is an inflammatory response of your skin when there’s too much exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR).

It doesn’t matter if it’s from sunlight or tanning beds, this is how your body reacts to excessive ultraviolet radiation.

According to the 2010 National Health Interview Survey 35.3% of adults reported being sunburned in the previous year.

Many sunburns may cause your skin to peel or blister but some can even be more severe and painful, forcing you to stay in bed all day from the discomfort. 

These unfortunate symptoms of a sunburn are just one reason why it’s so important to put on sunscreen before spending extended time out in the sun: it’s also important to protect your skin from damaging UVA and UVB rays that can cause skin cancer in the future. 

And although your health is more important than your looks, no one wants to walk around bright red like a lobste

When you’re traveling, it can be easy to forget to take precautions for a sunburn. 

There is so much to do and so much to see that it may distract you from realizing how long you are in the sun or how it may affect you.

If you do get a sunburn, it’s important to know the severity of the burn and what steps to take next so it can heal. 

Let’s take a look at four types of sunburn and how to tell them apart.

When you're traveling, it can be easy to forget to take precautions for a sunburn

Types of sunburn

First-Degree Burn

The least harmful burn is the first-degree burn, also called superficial skin burn. This burn makes your skin red, dry, and painful when you touch it. This is the most common type of sunburn and can heal within 3 to 6 days.

Second-Degree Burn

The second-degree type of burn, also called superficial partial-thickness burn, effects the top two layers of your skin. It will hurt if the temperature changes or if you touch it. You may see blisters appear on your burn, which hold leak fluid. This type of sunburn will heal in 7 to 21 days and the color of the original skin may be lighter or darker. You might develop a scar with this type of burn.

Third-Degree Burn

The third-degree burn, also called deep partial-thickness burn, is deeper than the second-degree burn and is more severe. This burn will most definitely give you blisters and takes even longer to heal. This burn will give you a scar if it doesn’t heal by the 21st day.

Fourth-Degree Burn

The last type of burn is very serious and to be avoided at all costs. This is the fourth-degree burn, also called full-thickness burn, and it would be treated like a surgery. It affects all the layers of skin and possibly the fat and muscle underneath as well. This burn makes the skin turn a different color, normally white, grey, or black! You could end up in the hospital for days taking medications. To say this would put a damper on your vacation would be an understatement – this type of burn can cause severe long term damage to your skin.

Sunburn damage may cause different types of sunburn ranging from very mild redness to excruciating vast burn with blistering but rarely reaches the deep-partial thickness type of burn.

Types of sunburn healthy skin
It’s important to treat burns properly and as soon as possible so you can reduce symptoms and speed up your skin’s recovery. 
If you have a mild sunburn, put your burn under cold water and gently wash it with soap (do not put ice directly on the skin as it can cause frostbite or skin damage) and then apply aloe vera or an antibiotic cream. 
You should stay out of the sun and/or cover the sunburned area if you need to be outside in the sun. And be sure to apply 30 SPF+ sunscreen several times a day to protect your skin and avoid a bad sunburn!

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Livia Hengel

Livia is an Italian-American writer who grew up moving around the world. She has traveled to over 30 countries and lived in Washington DC, Peru, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Turkey before moving back to Rome in 2010.