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“Sunburn causes 95% of melanomas, the most deadly form of skin cancer. In Australia, 1 in 8 adults and 1 in 5 teenagers are sunburnt on an average summer weekend”*

Avoid sunburn at all costs. Sunburn is your body’s reaction to excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. You should also avoid solariums.

Be sure to monitor your skin for new and changing lesions and be sure to have your skin checked. You are at increased risk if you are over 40, if you have fair skin, have had repeated sunburn, family history of melanoma or a large amount of pigmented lesions.

Without proper protection, UV radiation (both UVA and UVB) will immediately start to penetrate deep into the layers of your skin causing damage the skin’s cells.

When exposed, chemicals in the top layers of your skin are released causing your blood vessels to expand and leak fluids, leading to inflammation, pain, and redness.


Your skin will usually turn red within two to six hours of being burnt and will continue to develop over the next 24 to 72 hours. Peeling may also start as the skin heals and is the body’s way of getting rid of damaged skin cells that have the potential to turn cancerous.

Every time you get sunburned, whether serious or mild, it can cause permanent and irreversible skin damage. Repeated sunburn increases your risk of developing melanoma.

Important: If you’re severely sunburned and experiencing blistering, headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, or severe pain, you should seek hospital treatment immediately.

How to treat sunburn

Try these suggestions to manage the symptoms of your sunburn:
  • Stay out of the sun until the redness, inflammation, peeling and pain have disappeared.

  • Make sure you drink plenty of water to replenish your fluid levels.

  • Take cool showers as necessary. Cool compresses can also work wonders.

  • Try a cup of white vinegar to a cool bath and soak.

  • It won’t prevent peeling, but moisturising will help prevent the new skin below from drying out.

Apply a moisturising cream to the burnt area to keep it moist and supple as soon as you feel comfortable doing so. Your chemist stocks a range of sunburn treatments that can be rubbed or sprayed onto the skin.

*Cancer Council of Australia

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