Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Select An Article


Font Size

You lie out in the sun hoping to get a golden tan, but instead walk away from your lounge chair looking like a lobster that's been left in the pot too long.

Despite health warnings about sun damage, many of us still subject our skin to the sun's burning rays.

More than one-third of adults and nearly 70% of children admit they've gotten sunburned within the past year, according to the CDC.

Here's what you need to know about how to keep your skin safe and where to find sunburn relief if you do linger on your lounger too long.

What Causes Sunburn

You already know the simple explanation behind sunburn. When your skin is exposed to the sun for a period of time, eventually it burns, turning red and irritated.sunburn

Under the skin, things get a little more complicated. The sun gives off three wavelengths of ultraviolet light:

  • UVA
  • UVB
  • UVC

UVC light doesn't reach the Earth's surface. The other two types of ultraviolet light not only reach your beach towel, but they penetrate your skin. Skin damage is caused by both UVA and UVB rays.

Sunburn is the most obvious sign that you've been sitting outside for too long. But sun damage isn't always visible. Under the surface, ultraviolet light can alter your DNA, prematurely aging your skin. Over time, DNA damage can contribute to skin cancers, including deadly melanoma.

How soon a sunburn begins depends on:

  • Your skin type
  • The sun's intensity
  • How long you're exposed to the sun

A blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman sunbathing in Rio de Janeiro will redden far sooner than an olive-complexioned woman sitting out on a sunny day in New York City.

Signs of Sunburn

When you get a sunburn, your skin turns red and hurts. If the burn is severe, you can develop swelling and sunburn blisters. You may even feel like you have the flu -- feverish, with chills, nausea, headache, and weakness.

A few days later, your skin will start peeling and itching as your body tries to rid itself of sun-damaged cells.

Next Article:

Today on WebMD

Pictures and symptoms of the red, scaly rash.
woman with dyed dark hair
What it says about your health.
woman with cleaning products
Top causes of the itch that rashes.
atopic dermatitus
Identify and treat common skin problems.
itchy skin
shingles rash on skin
woman with skin tag
Woman washing face
woman washing her hair in sink
close up of womans bare neck
woman with face cream