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Health Condition

Sunburn

About This Condition

Sunburn is damage to the skin resulting from excessive exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Depending on the strength of these rays and the degree of skin pigmentation, sunburn to unprotected skin can occur with as little as a few minutes or as long as several hours of exposure. Unlike other types of burn, sunburn is not fully apparent until hours after exposure. Severe sunburn should be evaluated and treated by a doctor. Frequent sunburn contributes to wrinkling and aging of the skin and increases the risk of skin cancer.

Symptoms

Reddening of the skin is the hallmark of sunburn, and the skin may become swollen as well. Pain in the area develops over several hours and may persist for days. Blistering and fever can occur with severe sunburn. After a few days, sunburned skin will peel.

Other Therapies

People suffering from sunburn should avoid further exposure until symptoms improve. Cold water compresses made from gauze or thin cloth may soothe inflamed tissue and ease the pain.

References

1. Fuchs J. Potentials and limitations of the natural antioxidants RRR-alpha-tocopherol, L-ascorbic acid and beta-carotene in cutaneous photoprotection. Free Radic Biol Med 1998;25:848-73 [review].

2. Werninghaus K, Meydani M, Bhawan J, et al. Evaluation of the photoprotective effect of oral vitamin E supplementation. Arch Dermatol 1994;130:1257-61.

3. Fuchs J, Kern H. Modulation of UV-light-induced skin inflammation by D-alpha-tocopherol and L-ascorbic acid: a clinical study using solar simulated radiation. Free Radic Biol Med 1998;25:1006-12.

4. Eberlein-Konig B, Placzek M, Przybilla B. Protective effect against sunburn of combined systemic ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and d-alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E). J Am Acad Dermatol 1998;38:45-8.

5. McArdle F, Rhodes LE, Parslew RA, et al. Effects of oral vitamin E and beta-carotene supplementation on ultraviolet radiation-induced oxidative stress in human skin. Am J Clin Nutr 2004;80:1270-5.

6. Garmyn M, Ribaya-Mercado JD, Russel RM, et al. Effect of beta-carotene supplementation on the human sunburn reaction. Exp Dermatol 1995;4:104-11.

7. Wolf C, Steiner A, Honigsmann H, et al. Do oral carotenoids protect human skin against UV erythema, psoralen phototoxicity, and UV-induced DNA damage? J Invest Dermatol 1988;90:55-57.

8. Mathews-Roth MM, Pathak MA, Parrish J, et al. A clinical trial of the effects of oral beta-carotene on the responses of human skin to solar radiation. J Invest Dermatol 1972;59:349-53.

9. Gollnick HP, Hopfenmuller W, Hemmes C, et al. Systemic B-carotene plus topical sunscreen are an optimal protection against harmful effects of natural UV-sunlight. Eur J Dermatol 1996;6:200-5.

10. Lee J, Jiang S, Levine N, Watson RR. Carotenoid supplementation reduces erythema in human skin after simulated solar radiation exposure. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med 2000;223:170-4.

11. Heinrich U, Gartner C, Wiebusch M, et al. Supplementation with beta-carotene or a similar amount of mixed carotenoids protects humans from UV-induced erythema. J Nutr 2003;133:98-101.

12. Aust O, Stahl W, Sies H, et al. Supplementation with tomato-based products increases lycopene, phytofluene, and phytoene levels in human serum and protects against UV-light-induced erythema. Int J Vitam Nutr Res 2005;75:54-60.

13. Cesarini JP, Michel L, Maurette JM, et al. Immediate effects of UV radiation on the skin: modification by an antioxidant complex containing carotenoids. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed 2003;19:182-9.

14. Greul AK, Grundmann JU, Heinrich F, et al. Photoprotection of UV-irradiated human skin: an antioxidative combination of vitamins E and C, carotenoids, selenium and proanthocyanidins. Skin Pharmacol Appl Skin Physiol 2002;15:307-15.

15. La Ruche G, Cesarini JP. Protective effect of oral selenium plus copper associated with vitamin complex on sunburn cell formation in human skin. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed 1991;8:232-5.

16. Sies H, Stahl W. Nutritional protection against skin damage from sunlight. Annu Rev Nutr 2004;24:173-200 [review].

17. Sies H, Stahl W. Carotenoids and UV protection. Photochem Photobiol Sci 2004;3:749-52 [review].

18. Fuchs J. Potentials and limitations of the natural antioxidants RRR-alpha-tocopherol, L-ascorbic acid and beta-carotene in cutaneous photoprotection. Free Radic Biol Med 1998;25:848-73 [review].

19. Werninghaus K, Meydani M, Bhawan J, et al. Evaluation of the photoprotective effect of oral vitamin E supplementation. Arch Dermatol 1994;130:1257-61.

20. Fuchs J, Kern H. Modulation of UV-light-induced skin inflammation by D-alpha-tocopherol and L-ascorbic acid: a clinical study using solar simulated radiation. Free Radic Biol Med 1998;25:1006-12.

21. Eberlein-Konig B, Placzek M, Przybilla B. Protective effect against sunburn of combined systemic ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and d-alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E). J Am Acad Dermatol 1998;38:45-8.

22. McArdle F, Rhodes LE, Parslew RA, et al. Effects of oral vitamin E and beta-carotene supplementation on ultraviolet radiation-induced oxidative stress in human skin. Am J Clin Nutr 2004;80:1270-5.

23. Garmyn M, Ribaya-Mercado JD, Russel RM, et al. Effect of beta-carotene supplementation on the human sunburn reaction. Exp Dermatol 1995;4:104-11.

24. Wolf C, Steiner A, Honigsmann H, et al. Do oral carotenoids protect human skin against UV erythema, psoralen phototoxicity, and UV-induced DNA damage? J Invest Dermatol 1988;90:55-57.

25. Mathews-Roth MM, Pathak MA, Parrish J, et al. A clinical trial of the effects of oral beta-carotene on the responses of human skin to solar radiation. J Invest Dermatol 1972;59:349-53.

26. Gollnick HP, Hopfenmuller W, Hemmes C, et al. Systemic B-carotene plus topical sunscreen are an optimal protection against harmful effects of natural UV-sunlight. Eur J Dermatol 1996;6:200-5.

27. Lee J, Jiang S, Levine N, Watson RR. Carotenoid supplementation reduces erythema in human skin after simulated solar radiation exposure. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med 2000;223:170-4.

28. Heinrich U, Gartner C, Wiebusch M, et al. Supplementation with beta-carotene or a similar amount of mixed carotenoids protects humans from UV-induced erythema. J Nutr 2003;133:98-101.

29. Aust O, Stahl W, Sies H, et al. Supplementation with tomato-based products increases lycopene, phytofluene, and phytoene levels in human serum and protects against UV-light-induced erythema. Int J Vitam Nutr Res 2005;75:54-60.

30. Cesarini JP, Michel L, Maurette JM, et al. Immediate effects of UV radiation on the skin: modification by an antioxidant complex containing carotenoids. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed 2003;19:182-9.

31. Greul AK, Grundmann JU, Heinrich F, et al. Photoprotection of UV-irradiated human skin: an antioxidative combination of vitamins E and C, carotenoids, selenium and proanthocyanidins. Skin Pharmacol Appl Skin Physiol 2002;15:307-15.

32. La Ruche G, Cesarini JP. Protective effect of oral selenium plus copper associated with vitamin complex on sunburn cell formation in human skin. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed 1991;8:232-5.

33. Sies H, Stahl W. Nutritional protection against skin damage from sunlight. Annu Rev Nutr 2004;24:173-200 [review].

34. Sies H, Stahl W. Carotenoids and UV protection. Photochem Photobiol Sci 2004;3:749-52 [review].

35. Gonzalez S, Pathak MA. Inhibition of ultraviolet-induced formation of reactive oxygen species, lipid peroxidation, erythema and skin photosensitization by polypodium leucotomos. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed 1996;12:45-56.

36. Middelkamp-Hup MA, Pathak MA, Parrado C, et al. Oral Polypodium leucotomos extract decreases ultraviolet-induced damage of human skin. J Am Acad Dermatol 2004;51:910-8.

37. Middelkamp-Hup MA, Pathak MA, Parrado C, et al. Orally administered Polypodium leucotomos extract decreases psoralen-UVA-induced phototoxicity, pigmentation, and damage of human skin. J Am Acad Dermatol 2004;50:41-9.

38. Gonzalez S, Pathak MA, Cuevas J, et al. Topical or oral administration with an extract of Polypodium leucotomos prevents acute sunburn and psoralen-induced phototoxic reactions as well as depletion of Langerhans cells in human skin. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed 1997;13:50-60.

39. Graham HN. Green tea composition, consumption, and polyphenol chemistry. Prev Med 1992;21:334-50.

40. Kim J, Hwang JS, Cho YK, et al. Protective effects of (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate on UVA- and UVB-induced skin damage. Skin Pharmacol Appl Skin Physiol 2001;14:11-9.

41. Katiyar SK. Skin photoprotection by green tea: antioxidant and immunomodulatory effects. Curr Drug Targets Immune Endocr Metabol Disord 2003;3:234-42 [review].

42. Katiyar SK, Perez A, Mukhtar H. Green tea polyphenol treatment to human skin prevents formation of ultraviolet light B-induced pyrimidine dimers in DNA. Clin Cancer Res 2000;6:3864-9.

43. Elmets CA, Singh D, Tubesing K, et al. Cutaneous photoprotection from ultraviolet injury by green tea polyphenols. J Am Acad Dermatol 2001;44:425-32.

44. Fuchs J. Potentials and limitations of the natural antioxidants RRR-alpha-tocopherol, L-ascorbic acid and beta-carotene in cutaneous photoprotection. Free Radic Biol Med 1998;25:848-73 [review].

45. Werninghaus K, Meydani M, Bhawan J, et al. Evaluation of the photoprotective effect of oral vitamin E supplementation. Arch Dermatol 1994;130:1257-61.

46. Fuchs J, Kern H. Modulation of UV-light-induced skin inflammation by D-alpha-tocopherol and L-ascorbic acid: a clinical study using solar simulated radiation. Free Radic Biol Med 1998;25:1006-12.

47. Eberlein-Konig B, Placzek M, Przybilla B. Protective effect against sunburn of combined systemic ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and d-alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E). J Am Acad Dermatol 1998;38:45-8.

48. McArdle F, Rhodes LE, Parslew RA, et al. Effects of oral vitamin E and beta-carotene supplementation on ultraviolet radiation-induced oxidative stress in human skin. Am J Clin Nutr 2004;80:1270-5.

49. Garmyn M, Ribaya-Mercado JD, Russel RM, et al. Effect of beta-carotene supplementation on the human sunburn reaction. Exp Dermatol 1995;4:104-11.

50. Wolf C, Steiner A, Honigsmann H, et al. Do oral carotenoids protect human skin against UV erythema, psoralen phototoxicity, and UV-induced DNA damage? J Invest Dermatol 1988;90:55-57.

51. Mathews-Roth MM, Pathak MA, Parrish J, et al. A clinical trial of the effects of oral beta-carotene on the responses of human skin to solar radiation. J Invest Dermatol 1972;59:349-53.

52. Gollnick HP, Hopfenmuller W, Hemmes C, et al. Systemic B-carotene plus topical sunscreen are an optimal protection against harmful effects of natural UV-sunlight. Eur J Dermatol 1996;6:200-5.

53. Lee J, Jiang S, Levine N, Watson RR. Carotenoid supplementation reduces erythema in human skin after simulated solar radiation exposure. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med 2000;223:170-4.

54. Heinrich U, Gartner C, Wiebusch M, et al. Supplementation with beta-carotene or a similar amount of mixed carotenoids protects humans from UV-induced erythema. J Nutr 2003;133:98-101.

55. Aust O, Stahl W, Sies H, et al. Supplementation with tomato-based products increases lycopene, phytofluene, and phytoene levels in human serum and protects against UV-light-induced erythema. Int J Vitam Nutr Res 2005;75:54-60.

56. Sies H, Stahl W. Nutritional protection against skin damage from sunlight. Annu Rev Nutr 2004;24:173-200 [review].

57. Sies H, Stahl W. Carotenoids and UV protection. Photochem Photobiol Sci 2004;3:749-52 [review].

58. Lin JY, Selim MA, Shea CR, et al. UV photoprotection by combination topical antioxidants vitamin C and vitamin E. J Am Acad Dermatol 2003;48:866-74.

59. Burke KE, Burford RG, Combs GF Jr, et al. The effect of topical L-selenomethionine on minimal erythema dose of ultraviolet irradiation in humans. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed 1992;9:52-7.

60. Bangha E, Elsner P, Kistler GS. Suppression of UV-induced erythema by topical treatment with melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine). Influence of the application time point. Dermatology 1997;195:248-52.

61. Bangha E, Elsner P, Kistler GS. Suppression of UV-induced erythema by topical treatment with melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine). A dose response study. Arch Dermatol Res 1996;288:522-6.

62. Dreher F, Gabard B, Schwindt DA, Maibach HI. Topical melatonin in combination with vitamins E and C protects skin from ultraviolet-induced erythema: a human study in vivo. Br J Dermatol 1998;139:332-9.

63. Dreher F, Denig N, Gabard B, et al. Effect of topical antioxidants on UV-induced erythema formation when administered after exposure. Dermatology 1999;198:52-5.

64. Fuchs J. Potentials and limitations of the natural antioxidants RRR-alpha-tocopherol, L-ascorbic acid and beta-carotene in cutaneous photoprotection. Free Radic Biol Med 1998;25:848-73 [review].

65. Cesarini JP, Michel L, Maurette JM, et al. Immediate effects of UV radiation on the skin: modification by an antioxidant complex containing carotenoids. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed 2003;19:182-9.

66. Greul AK, Grundmann JU, Heinrich F, et al. Photoprotection of UV-irradiated human skin: an antioxidative combination of vitamins E and C, carotenoids, selenium and proanthocyanidins. Skin Pharmacol Appl Skin Physiol 2002;15:307-15.

67. La Ruche G, Cesarini JP. Protective effect of oral selenium plus copper associated with vitamin complex on sunburn cell formation in human skin. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed 1991;8:232-5.

68. Saliou C, Rimbach G, Moini H, et al. Solar ultraviolet-induced erythema in human skin and nuclear factor-kappa-B-dependent gene expression in keratinocytes are modulated by a French maritime pine bark extract. Free Radic Biol Med 2001;30:154-60.

69. Saliou C, Rimbach G, Moini H, et al. Solar ultraviolet-induced erythema in human skin and nuclear factor-kappa-B-dependent gene expression in keratinocytes are modulated by a French maritime pine bark extract. Free Radic Biol Med 2001;30:154-60.

70. Lin JY, Selim MA, Shea CR, et al. UV photoprotection by combination topical antioxidants vitamin C and vitamin E. J Am Acad Dermatol 2003;48:866-74.

71. Burke KE, Burford RG, Combs GF Jr, et al. The effect of topical L-selenomethionine on minimal erythema dose of ultraviolet irradiation in humans. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed 1992;9:52-7.

72. Bangha E, Elsner P, Kistler GS. Suppression of UV-induced erythema by topical treatment with melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine). Influence of the application time point. Dermatology 1997;195:248-52.

73. Bangha E, Elsner P, Kistler GS. Suppression of UV-induced erythema by topical treatment with melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine). A dose response study. Arch Dermatol Res 1996;288:522-6.

74. Dreher F, Gabard B, Schwindt DA, Maibach HI. Topical melatonin in combination with vitamins E and C protects skin from ultraviolet-induced erythema: a human study in vivo. Br J Dermatol 1998;139:332-9.

75. Dreher F, Denig N, Gabard B, et al. Effect of topical antioxidants on UV-induced erythema formation when administered after exposure. Dermatology 1999;198:52-5.

76. Fuchs J. Potentials and limitations of the natural antioxidants RRR-alpha-tocopherol, L-ascorbic acid and beta-carotene in cutaneous photoprotection. Free Radic Biol Med 1998;25:848-73 [review].

77. Crowell J, Penneys N. The effects of aloe vera on cutaneous erythema and blood flow following ultraviolet B (UVB) exposure. Clin Res 1987;35:676A [abstract].

78. Aust O, Stahl W, Sies H, et al. Supplementation with tomato-based products increases lycopene, phytofluene, and phytoene levels in human serum and protects against UV-light-induced erythema. Int J Vitam Nutr Res 2005;75:54-60.

79. Stahl W, Heinrich U, Wiseman S, et al. Dietary tomato paste protects against ultraviolet light-induced erythema in humans. J Nutr 2001;131:1449-51.

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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2018.

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