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Health Chatter: Sunburn - The Facts

Updated: Mar 7, 2022

We all know that the sun can be harmful, so why do we still get sunburned?

We're giving you the lowdown, to remind you why protecting your skin is so important, and how best to go about it.

What is it?

Sunburn is skin damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Harmful effects

Short term

  • Noticing mild redness of any part of the skin from sun exposure.

  • Sunburn can also blister the skin and make it peel.

Longer term- More serious problems can arise

  • Too much sun speeds up ageing of the skin, making it leathery, mottled and wrinkled.

  • The most serious effect is an increased chance of developing skin cancer.

Signs & symptoms of skin cancer

A change in your skin is the most common sign of skin cancer.

For example, a change in mole (colour, size, shape), a sore that doesn’t heal or a completely new growth.

Remember: Check your skin regularly for any unusual moles or spots. If you find anything that is changing in shape, size or colour, itching or bleeding, seek doctors advice.


There are many ways to protect your skin from strong sunlight, always remember the ‘Sun Smart Code’

  • Suitable clothing - a wide-brimmed hat that shades your face, neck and ears

  • A long-sleeved top

  • Trousers or long skirts made from close-weave fabrics that don't allow sunlight through

  • Sunglasses with wraparound lenses & UV protection

  • Suncream - the letters "UVA" in a circular logo and at least 4-star UVA protection

  • Stay in the shade whenever possible, during your breaks and especially at lunch time.

  • Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

Person lying on beach wearing a sunhat
Wearing a wide brimmed hat that shades your face, neck and ears protects your skin from strong sunlight

Did you know? In the UK, the risk of getting sunburn is highest from March to October, particularly from 11am to 3pm, when the sun's rays are strongest.

Who’s at risk?

Everyone is at risk, especially outdoor workers!

  • fair or freckled skin that doesn’t tan, or goes red or burns before it tans;

  • red or fair hair and light coloured eyes;

  • a large number of moles.

Key Point/ Facts

  • Around 35ml (6-8 teaspoons) of sun lotion is needed to cover the body of an average-sized adult and achieve the stated SPF. Make sure you apply enough!

  • If your shadow is shorter than you are, the sun rays are at their peak and you have a higher increased chance of burning.

  • Providing and encouraging sun protection for outdoor workers helps create a healthy and safe workplace. It can also increase your productivity, and reduce sickness absence.

  • Sun exposure is a serious – and largely preventable – occupational hazard. It is the leading cause of skin cancer and can cause other health issues including sunburn, skin damage, cataracts, eye damage, and heat stress.

A simple way to remember the signs of melanoma is to remember the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma—

  • A stands for asymmetrical. Does the mole or spot have an irregular shape with two parts that look very different?

  • B stands for border. Is the border irregular or jagged?

  • C is for colour. Is the colour uneven?

  • D is for diameter. Is the mole or spot larger than the size of a pea?

  • E is for evolving. Has the mole or spot changed during the past few weeks or months?

Our sources & for more information:


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Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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