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Why Do Some People Get More Sunburnt than Others?

Sharmistha Sarkar
A sunburn is reddening of the skin resulting from excessive exposure to the sun or to ultraviolet radiation. Anyone exposed to sunlight is at the risk of sunburns. However, there are some factors which make one more susceptible. This story tells you about them.
According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, about 40 percent of people polled get a sunburn at least once a year.
Sunburns cause damage to skin tissues resulting in burns or reddening of the skin. It happens due to excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. Other sources like tanning lamps, welding arcs, or ultraviolet germicidal irradiation may also have a similar effect on the skin.
The symptoms of sunburns include reddish, tender, flaky, and itchy skin, blisters, pain, fatigue, and mild dizziness.
Why do some people get more sunburnt than others? Well, one's skin type and some other genetic factors make the individual more or less susceptible to sunburns. These people should necessarily avoid exposing themselves to sunlight for long hours. They should take the required care for protecting their skin from ultraviolet radiation, when outdoors.

What Increases the Risk of Sunburns

➺ People with a fair skin such as pale, white, or light brown, and with blond or red hair are more likely to get sunburns than dark-skinned people. This is because fair-skinned people have less while dark-skinned people have more melanin in their skin and hair. Melanin is a type of pigment that provides color to the skin, eyes, and hair, and helps to block UV radiation from the sun.
➺ People with light-colored eyes are more susceptible to sunburns. Light eyes indicate less melanin, which is why light-eyed people are at a higher risk of getting sunburns.
➺ Infants and young children are more sensitive to the effects of UV rays of the sun. Hence, extra care is necessary to protect their skin from sunlight.
➺ People staying in sunny or high-altitude regions are more likely to get sunburns as the sun's rays are stronger at higher altitudes. The radiation level increases by about 5% for every 300 m increase in elevation.
➺ People who reside in hot countries or close to the equator are more likely to get sunburns as the sun's rays are particularly intense there.
➺ People who go for trekking are more susceptible to sunburns due to direct exposure to the sun's rays as well as its reflection from the snow. It is important to know that snow, ice, or water reflects the sun's rays onto the skin.
➺ People who spend more time outdoors are greatly exposed to the sun. This increases their risk of skin burns and skin aging due to excessive sun exposure.
Some medications like the antibiotic doxycycline can make one more susceptible to sunburns.
➺ Medical conditions like lupus also put one at the risk of getting sunburns.


➺ Always wear a broad spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher while stepping out in the sun. It will protect your skin from UV rays. Reapply it every three or four hours.
➺ Avoid going out in the sun in the middle of the day or in the afternoon. The sun's ultraviolet rays are the most intense during this time.
➺ Wear protective clothing such as full-sleeved shirts or tops, slacks, and hats when going outdoors.
➺ Make your children aware of sunburns and teach them the importance of protecting themselves from a young age, as this may help them make it a lifelong practice.
➺ While going out in the sun, it is necessary to wear sunglasses that do not allow UV rays to enter the eyes.