What are the causes and remedies for sensitivity to sunburn?

Symptom Database

Sensitivity to sunburn is a common issue that many people experience, especially during the summer months or in regions with high levels of UV radiation. Sunburn occurs when the skin is exposed to excessive amounts of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or artificial sources like tanning beds. While some individuals may have a higher tolerance to sun exposure, others may have sensitive skin that is more prone to sunburn. In this article, we will explore the causes of sensitivity to sunburn and provide remedies and preventive measures to protect your skin from harmful UV rays.

Causes of Sensitivity to Sunburn

1. Sensitive Skin: Some individuals naturally have more sensitive skin, which can make them more susceptible to sunburn. This sensitivity can be due to genetic factors or underlying skin conditions such as eczema or rosacea.

2. Fair Skin: People with fair skin have less melanin, the pigment responsible for protecting the skin from UV radiation. As a result, fair-skinned individuals are more prone to sunburn compared to those with darker skin tones.

3. Medications: Certain medications, such as antibiotics, diuretics, and acne treatments, can increase the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight. These medications may cause a condition known as photosensitivity, making the skin more susceptible to sunburn.

4. Environmental Factors: The intensity of UV radiation varies depending on geographical location and altitude. People living in areas closer to the equator or at higher altitudes are exposed to higher levels of UV radiation, increasing their risk of sunburn.

Remedies for Sensitivity to Sunburn

Sun Protection

1. Sunscreen: Applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF (Sun Protection Factor) is crucial in protecting your skin from harmful UV rays. Choose a sunscreen that suits your skin type and apply it generously to all exposed areas of your body. Reapply every two hours or more frequently if you are sweating or swimming.

2. Protective Clothing: Wearing protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts, pants, and wide-brimmed hats, can provide an additional layer of defense against the sun’s rays. Look for clothing with a high UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) rating for maximum protection.

3. Seek Shade: Limit your time in direct sunlight, especially during peak hours when the sun’s rays are the strongest. Seek shade under trees, umbrellas, or use a sunshade to reduce your exposure to UV radiation.

Sunburn Prevention

1. Gradual Sun Exposure: If you have sensitive skin or are prone to sunburn, gradually increase your sun exposure over time. Start with short periods of sun exposure and gradually increase the duration to allow your skin to adapt and build tolerance.

2. Avoid Tanning Beds: Tanning beds emit UV radiation that can be even more intense than the sun. Avoid using tanning beds altogether to reduce the risk of sunburn and long-term skin damage.

3. Stay Hydrated: Proper hydration is essential for maintaining healthy skin. Drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated and less prone to sunburn.

Sunburn Remedies

1. Cool Compress: Applying a cool compress or taking a cool bath can help soothe sunburned skin and reduce inflammation. Avoid using ice directly on the skin as it can cause further damage.

2. Aloe Vera: Aloe vera gel has natural anti-inflammatory properties and can provide relief from sunburn. Apply aloe vera gel to the affected areas for a cooling and soothing effect.

3. Moisturize: Sunburn can cause dryness and peeling of the skin. Apply a gentle moisturizer to keep the skin hydrated and promote healing.

4. Over-the-Counter Pain Relief: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen can help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation associated with sunburn. Follow the recommended dosage instructions and consult a healthcare professional if needed.


Sensitivity to sunburn can be caused by various factors, including sensitive skin, fair complexion, medications, and environmental factors. However, by taking appropriate preventive measures and following sun protection strategies, you can minimize the risk of sunburn and protect your skin from harmful UV radiation. Remember to always wear sunscreen, seek shade, and wear protective clothing when exposed to the sun. In case of sunburn, use remedies like cool compresses, aloe vera, moisturizers, and over-the-counter pain relief to alleviate discomfort and promote healing. By prioritizing sun protection and taking care of your skin, you can enjoy the outdoors while minimizing the risk of sunburn and long-term skin damage.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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