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By Bjarne Lühr Hansen PhD, MD and Philipp Skafte-Holm MD, Mentor Institute

Too much sun leads to sunburn, wrinkled skin or skin cancer. You should be especially careful in the sun if you are a redhead, your skin is not used to the sun or if you sunbathe on a white beach or on the sea. It is recommended that you use sun block.

When the sun gains strength during the spring, most people are in a good mood and many people start the sunbathing. Sensible exposure to the sun is healthy and wonderful. However, it is a known fact that too much exposure to the sun can cause sunburn and that frequent sunbathing leads to wrinkled skin and a coarsening of the structure of the skin. Too much sunbathing can cause skin cancer.

The ultraviolet rays in sunlight damage the skin cells. Normally, the skin is able to repair these damages, when the skin is not exposed to sunrays for a longer period of time. Sunrays consist of shortwave UVB rays and long wave UVA rays. It is primarily the UVB rays that damage the skin cells, while it is primarily the UVA rays that tan the skin, as many people desire.

In the case of an overdose of sunrays the skin is irritated. The skin does not react right away but after a few hours the skin becomes red, swollen and sore. After around 8 hours there may be pain and the redness increases. If the exposure has been very severe, blisters develop and the pain increases. In the most severe cases, you will have a fever and feel ill. Mild sunburn disappears in the course of a few days while the skin that has been destroyed flakes off. The more severe cases with blisters can last weeks.

How much sun does it take before your skin is burned? It is difficult to answer. Sunburn occurs most often in the spring and early summer when the sunlight hits parts of the body that is not used to the sun. It is especially when the white, pale skin is exposed to the sun that burns arise. The effect of sunlight increases by reflexion from beach or ocean. Therefore, your skin can take less time in the sun on a white beach or at sea on a boat. Redheads are more sensitive to sunlight and their skin can only take short periods of exposure to the sun.

In some situations, the skin reacts very violently even though you have not been out in the sun for a longer time. If this happens, you should suspect sun rash or whether it is the use of medication that increases the sensitivity of the skin to sunrays.

Sun rash especially occurs with younger people and most often appears in the spring when the skin is not yet used to the sun. The rash itches and consists of small pale sports and red blots. The read blots are especially located in the face, while the sports most often are found on hands and arms.

There are many different kinds of medication that increases the sensitivity of the skin to sunrays. You can consult your general practitioner about this.


You can buy a crème over the counter that contains corticosteroid that counteracts the worst irritation of the skin. Ordinary painkilling medication (e.g. paracetamol) helps with the pain.

What can you do?

It is best to prevent sunburn with sensible sunbathing. Remember to be especially cautious during spring and early summer when the skin is white and most sensitive. Always use sun block. Avoid the sun when the sun is strongest, which is around midday. If you have a sunburn, the pain can be soothed by putting a wet cloth over the affected area.

Contact the doctor tomorrow

If you still have pain in the skin in spite of your own treatment. If your skin reacts with redness and itching without excessive sunbathing-

Contact the doctor immediately

If you have a fever and chills.