Tips & Articles for Your Skin

Why Does Your Skin Remain Red After a Bad Sunburn?

Suppose you've experienced the effects of prolonged sun exposure without any protection and have noticed that your skin is quite sensitive. In that case, you're probably wondering why does your skin remain red after a bad sunburn? There are a few reasons for this.

In principle, we must understand that sunburns are different from thermal burns produced through infrared radiation. In the latter, the heat of sunlight is present, but it is not responsible for the injury.

There is no clear explanation for the process through which sunburn occurs, but several chemical reactions can be identified, which produce the common symptoms.

The sun's ultraviolet radiation, on the other hand, can negatively affect the molecules of the skin, altering its structure and causing chemical reactions that alter the skin's normal state.

A sunburn triggers a combination of chemical reactions that cause the skin to exhibit common symptoms, such as temperature changes in the affected area due to increased blood flow, inflammation, and redness.

Sun exposure for a prolonged period of time always has negative consequences for the skin. Long-term or short-term, exposure to UV rays causes significant skin conditions. Often, the damage can be repaired, but in other cases, it cannot and may even be irreversible.

An injury's recovery depends on its severity. A mild injury will result in symptoms lasting three to five days, whereas a moderate injury will result in more intense symptoms and disappear after about a week. Burns with severe symptoms will usually require medical attention. Recovery will usually take longer since, in addition to the common symptoms, blisters and peeling of the skin may also occur, which needs a minimum of two weeks to heal completely.

Even though there are many modern ways to protect and rejuvenate your skin from the sun, some things never change. It is always best to prevent burns from occurring in the first place, which is why sunscreen is essential. As we proceed through the article, we will explore the rest of the aspects related to sunburn, explaining why your skin remains red after a severe sunburn and what needs to be done to help prevent this from occurring.


The Answer to Why Your Skin Remain Red After a Bad Sunburn

If the skin is directly exposed to solar radiation without protection for a long time, redness is one of the first visible symptoms. To understand why your skin remains red after a bad sunburn, we must understand that there are countless chemical processes within the human body, including those that happen in the skin's DNA in response to ultraviolet radiation.

After excessive sun exposure, the body begins to process the large amount of solar radiation it is receiving through enzymes and proteins. These molecules (particularly prostaglandins and cytokines) cause the blood vessels of the skin to dilate, leading to the accumulation of inflammatory cells. It is precisely this process that causes the pain, inflammation, and redness that the skin suffers after a serious sunburn. 

These proteins are normally formed after four to six hours of exposure to the sun, which is why a severe sunburn does not appear immediately; instead, they appear a few hours after exposure.

Skin peeling indicates the skin has been damaged to the point of destruction and has, therefore, been detached, allowing the regeneration process to begin. The human body can regenerate DNA from damaged skin caused by ultraviolet radiation; however, if exposure to solar radiation occurs regularly, the chances of permanent damage increase.

Responses After Sunburn: Tanning and Peeling

The body's responses to a burn vary depending on the level of severity of the injury. For example, melanin – which is a dark pigment found in the epidermis – serves the function of giving the skin its natural color. When exposed to an excess of ultraviolet radiation from the sun, melanin acts as a protective layer, releasing more color and giving the skin a more bronzed appearance.

Therefore, a mild sunburn will cause the body to produce a tan, visualized as a slight darkening of the skin. This type of burn heals relatively quickly and is less invasive.


Long-term exposure to ultraviolet rays leads to a deficiency of melanin, which is why the skin reddens excessively, indicating a severe sunburn. This type of sunburn tends to be more severe and increases the chances of other more permanent conditions such as dark spots, wrinkles, and some type of melanoma or skin cancer in more severe cases.

Consequences Of Unprotected Sun Exposure

There is a range of damage caused by ultraviolet radiation, and the chance of regenerating skin cells depends on the severity and frequency of the burns.

Sun exposure without protection causes diseases that negatively impact the state of the skin. It is possible to experience premature aging of the skin (called photoaging) because solar radiation accelerates the aging process by weakening the tissues and increasing the skin's elasticity, allowing for the appearance of deeper lines of expression and deeper wrinkles. 

Excessive solar radiation can also cause skin lesions; these usually appear on the skin as scaly, rough patches in the burn area. These injuries most commonly occur on exposed parts of the body, such as the face, hands, or neck.

One of the most serious consequences of prolonged sun exposure is skin cancer, which can present itself in different ways: a mole that begins to change its appearance or a spot that increases in pigmentation over time. It develops mainly on the arms and legs, on the lips, scalp, ears, or back, usually where the skin is most sensitive to contact with the sun. That is why it is vital to watch out for any changes in the appearance of the skin, and examine the growth of lesions.

How Can a Severe Sunburn Be Prevented?

Prevention will always be the best solution to avoid damage due to excess solar radiation; it is important to consider that sunburn can occur both in hot climates with sunshine and in cloudy and cold environments. Because ultraviolet light reflects from water, sand, or snow, sunscreen is an important tool to always have with you regardless of the weather.

It is also essential to incorporate other skin care routines, which will help protect our skin from sun damage. The intensity of the sun's ultraviolet rays increases between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., so avoid excessive exposure during this period.


The alternative option would be to wear clothing that covers the areas of the body most vulnerable to the sun. A hat or garment covering the arms and legs may be an option, and it would be best to wear sunglasses that provide ultraviolet protection to the eyes.

Sunscreens can provide us with an effective way to prevent severe sunburns; when choosing one, it is necessary to verify that its protection factor is greater than 30 and incorporates broad-spectrum UV protection.

The sunscreen will be more effective if a considerable amount is applied to the area that will be exposed to the sun (approximately 15 minutes before leaving) so the skin can absorb all of its components; it is also advisable to reapply it every two hours for maximum protection.

Importance of Protecting the Skin From the Sun's Rays

Taking care of your skin is important for your overall health, regardless of age. Even so, our skin becomes more sensitive and loses some of its natural strength due to prolonged sun exposure when you get older. This is why it is necessary to pay more attention to skin care as you age.

For young people, skin care is vital to prevent long-term damage and premature aging. Although we may not realize that we have been exposed to the sun during our youth, these damages intensify as we age—the skin's ability to renew its properties, such as collagen and elastic fibers, decreases.

The most important thing is to understand that excess solar radiation can have more serious consequences than visible damage to the skin (such as wrinkles caused by aging). There may also be more serious complications, raising the risk of getting skin cancer and other serious diseases.

Prevention and the correct use of sunscreen will help us reduce the risk of permanent damage and thus maintain optimal care of one of the most important organs of our body: the skin.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can protect your skin from sun damage, visit our blog for more information!