How Long Should a Sunburn Last?

Sunburns are a common result of overexposure to the sun's UV rays, causing painful and unsightly burns. Here’s a concise guide on how long sunburns last, how to prevent them, and how to alleviate their symptoms.

Duration of a Sunburn

Most sunburns will last between three to five days. The pain typically begins within five or six hours of exposure and peaks around 24 hours later. Your skin will start peeling as it heals, revealing fresh skin beneath. The severity of the burn and your skin type can affect the healing time, with fairer skin often experiencing more severe and longer-lasting sunburns.

Preventing a Sunburn

Sunburns can cause long-term skin damage, including wrinkles, sunspots, and an increased risk of skin cancer. To protect your skin, follow these preventive measures:

  • Use Sunscreen: Apply a broad-spectrum SPF 50 or higher sunscreen every time you spend extended periods outdoors. Reapply every 30 minutes and use waterproof sunscreen for water activities or heavy sweating.
  • Avoid Peak Sun Hours: Stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • Seek Shade: Stay in the shade whenever possible.
  • Wear Protective Clothing: Use clothing with UVA/UVB protection, hats, and sunglasses.
  • Check Expiration Dates: Ensure your sun protection products are not expired.

Treating Sunburn Redness, Peeling, and Pain

There’s no overnight fix for sunburn, but these tips can help speed up healing and relieve symptoms:

  • Use Milk or Yogurt: Apply milk-soaked cloths directly to the sunburn for cool relief and reduced inflammation. Yogurt can also help with healing and pain relief.
  • Vitamin E and Antioxidants: Apply vitamin E oil to reduce redness and swelling or take supplements to benefit from its anti-inflammatory effects.
  • Aloe Vera-Based Creams or Gels: Use aloe-based products to soothe and moisturize the skin, reducing redness and peeling.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water to replenish fluids and aid in skin recovery.
  • Over-the-Counter Pain Medication: For severe sunburns, take ibuprofen or naproxen sodium, or use pain-relieving gels.

What to Avoid After Getting Sunburned

Certain actions can worsen a sunburn or slow down the healing process:

  • Don’t Pick at Peeling Skin: It can cause skin tears and slow healing.
  • Handle Blisters with Care: Avoid applying products to blistered skin. Cover it to prevent tearing and let it heal naturally.
  • Keep Cool: Maintain a cool environment to reduce discomfort.
  • Avoid Further Sun Exposure: Stay in the shade until your sunburn heals to prevent further damage.


The duration of a sunburn varies based on skin type and severity, but there are several ways to help speed up the healing process and alleviate symptoms. Preventive measures are key to maintaining overall skin health and avoiding the harmful effects of sun exposure.

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