Does Your Sunburn Require Medical Attention? Here Are The 2 Signs It Does.

For many folks, red, itchy and peeling skin is a common occurrence during the summer months. More than one-third of adults in the U.S. get sunburned every year. In most cases, sunburns can be easily managed at home with things like cold compresses, gentle lotion, hydration and a break from the sun.

Sometimes, though, a sunburn might be too severe to treat at home or may be accompanied by symptoms that need medical attention.

Below, dermatologists share the types of sunburns and symptoms that require a doctor’s visit.

Needing medical attention for a sunburn is rare, but extensive blistering over a large portion of your body is a bad sign.

“Sunburns come in all different severities,” said Dr. Jennifer Tang, a dermatologist at the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“The most common sunburn is just a little bit of redness, and that can result in some peeling,” Tang noted — but if it’s worse, “you can get really severe blisters.”

When a lot of the body’s surface is affected, your sunburn might resemble any other type of burn, she added.

“In that instance, when you lose such a portion of your skin barrier, you’re no longer able to regulate your temperature and you lose a lot of water,” she stated. “That’s when we recommend seeking care in the emergency room or a hospital.”

This would look like large, extensive blistering that covers a significant portion — probably around 30% — of your body, added Tang.

At that point, supportive care is necessary so doctors and nurses can help you stay hydrated and perform wound care to keep the burn clean, she said.

But needing medical attention for a sunburn is rare. As a species, our protective mechanisms have evolved so that we generally seek shade or go inside once we notice redness or discomfort from a burn, Tang said.

“Usually, it’s just that redness and the peeling, which is the body’s inflammatory response to the sun that damages our skin cells,” she noted.

A sunburn that requires medial attention tends to happen in more extreme circumstances, like when someone is trapped outside or unable to move into the shade because of an injury, Tang said.

In other words, you likely do not need to rush to the hospital the next time you get a sunburn.

See a doctor if your sunburn is accompanied by heatstroke.

“Generally, most sunburns do not require immediate medical attention, but if they are extensive, some people may feel unwell,” Dr. Kevin Boyd, a dermatologist at Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse, Wisconsin, told HuffPost via email.

Since sunburns typically happen when it’s hot out, heatstroke can be a concern — and a crucial reason to seek medical attention, Boyd said.

Heatstroke “is characterized by a body temperature greater than 103, confusion, dehydration and a rapid pulse,” he said, adding that the condition constitutes a medical emergency.

Direct sun exposure can cause sunburns and other skin changes.

Pollyana Ventura via Getty Images

Direct sun exposure can cause sunburns and other skin changes.

Just because you don’t get sunburned doesn’t mean the sun isn’t harming your skin.

“Even without a sunburn, the sun exposure can increase your risk for skin cancer,” Tang said. “Just because … you’re not getting a sunburn doesn’t mean you’re not being exposed to the harmful effects of UV rays.”

To stay safe in the sun, you should take some precautions.

The best means of protection from a sunburn include sunscreens, UV-protective clothing and avoidance of the sun’s rays when they are at their most intense, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.,” Boyd said.

You should apply sunscreen at least every two hours, and more frequently if you are swimming or sweating, he noted.

“Look for products labeled ‘broad spectrum’ to ensure protection from UVB and UVA rays and with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30,” Boyd said.

Certain people need to be more careful in the sun. Boyd said that it’s “important to be aware of any medications you are taking that could make you burn more easily, such as antibiotics and some acne treatments.”

“I tell my patients to be ‘sun safe’ not ‘sun scared,’” Boyd said. With proper protection like a shirt, a wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen, you can have a safe summer in the sun.

Need a great summer sunscreen? Check out these reviewer-beloved favorites.

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HuffPost Readers’ Favorite Mineral Sunscreens


Summer Fridays ShadeDrops Mineral Milk Sunscreen SPF 30

Alongside our readers, both Pamela Anderson and Hailey Bieber are fans of Summer Fridays’ ShadeDrops SPF 30 mineral sunscreen. It’s a great option for anyone looking for a lightweight, naturally radiant finish that protects from UV rays while also providing nourishing ingredients to the skin. Made with vegan and cruelty-free ingredients, this sunscreen is formulated with zinc oxide, squalane, chamomile and an antioxidant blend of vitamin E and ethyl ferulate. They work together to shield the skin from sun damage and to hydrate, soften and smooth the skin and protect against further damage from free radicals.


Supergoop! Mineral Sheer Screen SPF 30

Dr. Brendan Camp, a board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology, recommended this reader-fave screenie. “This is a 100% mineral sunscreen product that offers SPF 30 protection,” Camp said. “The labeling also includes information about protection from UVA radiation, PA (protection grade of UVA), which many sunscreens do not report.” It also shields the skin from blue light. It’s completely sheer so you don’t have to worry about a white cast and has a lightweight finish that won’t weigh your skin down.


Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Face mineral sunscreen SPF 50

“This lightweight, non-greasy product provides SPF 50 protection and contains zinc oxide as the active ingredient,” Camp said. It’s specially formulated with antioxidants to be water-resistant, is naturally sourced and dries down quickly without leaving a greasy finish.

HuffPost Readers’ Favorite Chemical Sunscreens


Supergoop! Glow Screen SPF 40

High on my personal list of sunscreen essentials is Supergoop! Glow Screen, and I’m thrilled to see it is one of our readers’ top picks from our chemical sunscreen story. It’s what I reach for when I want a hint of tint and shimmer. It’s basically your skin, but better — plus sun protection. It’s available in four different shades and has a slightly heavier finish than other chemical sunscreens, in part because of the tint component. But since it essentially replaces foundation for me, I don’t mind that it isn’t as lightweight as others. The pearlescent finish gives skin an immediate glow while hyaluronic acid and niacinamide hydrate, nurture and help to diminish the look of common signs of aging. This was also a top reader pick from our article featuring sunscreens with anti-aging ingredients!


SkinCeuticals Daily Brightening UV Defense sunscreen

Along with the rest of the SkinCeuticals line, HuffPost readers swarm to this popular, luxurious sunscreen. Not only does the chemical formulation protect against sun damage, it claims to actively work to diminish the look of discoloration, helping to brighten and even out skin tone thanks to ingredients like tranexamic acid and niacinamide. Reflective pigments help to give the skin an immediate glow, making it ideal for someone looking to perk up their skin quickly and visibly. This was also a top pick from our article about the best sunscreens with anti-aging ingredients!


Beauty of Joseon probiotic SPF 50+

If you’re a fan of Korean beauty products, then you’re going to want to stock up on this gorgeous sunscreen. It’s wildly popular among the skin care set, with everyone from beauty lovers to influencers touting its skin-enhancing abilities. It’s my go-to daily sunscreen — primarily because it perfectly splits the difference between a fluid and a cream — and I’m thrilled to see it top the chemical sunscreen list of faves. It has a bit more grip than a fluid finish but doesn’t feel as heavy or oily as a full-on cream or moisturizer. I rarely get more compliments than when I head out wearing this sunscreen and a touch of concealer. As with all Korean beauty products, it’s important to remember to only purchase via reputable sites like Stylevana. It does take about two to three weeks to arrive, so I usually order two at a time to tide me over, but each tube lasts around three months, making it worth the already low price and shipping wait time.

HuffPost Readers’ Favorite Korean And Japanese Beauty Sunscreens


Round Lab moisturizing birch juice sun cream

According to Flores’ previous article on Korean and Japanese beauty sunscreens, “this hydrating daily sun cream by Round Lab is lightweight, non-greasy and fast-absorbing and doesn’t leave a white cast. The broad-spectrum SPF 50 formula feels cool and refreshing on the skin and contains both birch tree sap and hyaluronic acid to help keep skin moisturized throughout the day.” It was one of HuffPost readers’ top three picks and with good reason!


Biore UV Aqua Rich Sunscreen Water Essence facial sunscreen

Shopping writer Tessa Flores pointed out in previous coverage that, “A prime example of water-based Japanese sunscreens, Bioré UV’s Aqua Rich SPF 50 sun essence is a feather-light and oil-free gel formula that feels virtually undetectable on the skin and is compatible with all skin types including those who are acne-prone. It’s infused with hyaluronic acid for lasting hydration and breathable protection that layers seamlessly under makeup.” No wonder HuffPost readers couldn’t get enough.


Isntree hyaluronic acid watery sun gel

Both Flores and myself have covered this reader-beloved sunscreen in the past. It’s great for people with dry skin and anyone who loves a dewy (not greasy) finish. I love that is white-cast-free and has hydrating ingredients including eight different types of hyaluronic acid to help strengthen the moisture barrier and keep skin hydrated all day long. It boasts a hypoallergenic formula that is great for those with sensitive or compromised skin, and has been a popular pick among K-beauty fans for many years.

HuffPost Readers’ Favorite Water-Resistant Sunscreens


La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-In Milk sunscreen SPF 60

If you’re as big a fan of French pharmacy beauty products as I am (and according to our data, you are), try La Roche-Posay’s various sunscreens. In my opinion, their Anthelios melt-in sunscreen is by far their most exciting formulation. This super lightweight SPF truly does melt into the skin, leaving it dewy, natural-looking and non-greasy while providing a whopping SPF 100 protection that is also water-resistant. Your skin will love it.


SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense mineral sunscreen

Skin care devotees will likely be familiar with SkinCeuticals’ line of high-end serums and creams, but did you know that its sun protection products are just as effective and good for your skin? You likely do now, because this was one of our bestselling water-resistant sunscreens. This has a subtle tint that gives skin a radiant glow without leaving behind a thick white cast or oily residue. It’s a surprisingly lightweight mineral formula that is water-resistant for up to 40 minutes and can also help to defend skin against environmental stressors.


Vacation Classic Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30 travel size three-pack

I can’t get enough of the entire Vacation lineup, and it was the clear frontrunner for readers looking for water-resistant sunscreen. It has a really clean, lightweight finish that disappears into the skin leaving behind a delicious coconut-forward summery scent. It is easy to rub into skin and is water-resistant, making it ideal for all manner of summertime activities. It’s also packed with skin-friendly ingredients like vitamin E, niacinamide, banana extract, aloe vera and coconut oil that help to soothe, soften and nourish skin. You can’t go wrong with a three-pack of travel sized options from Amazon, just pop one in each of your bags and in your bathroom cabinet for easy access. Or you can purchase them individually and full-size at Ulta.

HuffPost Readers’ Favorite Sunscreens At Amazon


Sun Bum Original SPF 50 sunscreen

You can’t go wrong with sunscreen classic, Sun Bum — no wonder it’s a HuffPost readers’ top pick at Amazon. This moisturizing sunscreen lotion is clearly a crowd favorite. It’s oxybenzone-, octinoxate- and oil-free, plus water-resistant.


Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen spf 40

This cult-favorite and HP reader-favorite sunscreen from Supergoop has a clear, lightweight and unscented formula so you don’t have to deal with an irritating white cast. It’s also oil-free and great for anyone who might have sensitive or acne-prone skin.


Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch sunscreen

Neutrogena’s Ultra Sheer sunscreen is lightweight and fast-absorbing, making it especially ideal for use on hot summer days. It even provides up to 80 minutes of water resistance — no wonder it’s a popular reader go-to.

HuffPost Readers’ Favorite Sunscreens For Mature Skin


La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra-Light sunscreen SPF 50

According to Dr. Marisa Garshick, a board-certified dermatologist at MCDS Dermatology, “This ultralight sunscreen fluid is mineral-based, containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, but also offers a fast-absorbing, lightweight texture. It is easy to apply and also offers antioxidant protection.” It’s also one of HuffPost readers’ favorite options for mature skin.


CeraVe hydrating mineral sunscreen SPF 50

Garshick noted that “[t]his hydrating formulation contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to provide broad-spectrum coverage. In addition, it contains hyaluronic acid to help provide moisture, ceramides to help support the skin’s natural barrier as well as niacinamide which can soothe the skin. This mineral sunscreen is fragrance- and paraben-free making it a good option even for those with dry or sensitive skin.” Readers agree!


La Roche Posay Anthelios XL 50 Anti-Shine Dry Touch gel-cream SPF 50+

Dr. Corey L. Hartman, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, Alabama personally uses this sunscreen. He says it “applies easily and doesn’t leave the skin feeling extra shiny or sticky. It also doesn’t leave a white cast on my skin.” It absorbs quickly and has soothing antioxidant ingredients that HuffPost readers can’t get enough of.

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