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Coups de soleil cuir chevelu.

What To Do About a Sunburn on the Scalp?

Sunburns are burns that have unfortunate consequences for the skin: redness, itching and pain. The scalp is one of the areas most exposed to the sun. The risk of sunburn at this level is high. Discover the solutions to avoid sunburn on the scalp.

Published December 2, 2022, by Sandrine, Head of Scientific Communication, — 5 min read

Sunburn: What Is It?

UVB rays, which penetrate the dermis only slightly, are responsible for tanning and sunburn, also called actinic erythema. At the skin level, a sunburn manifests itself by a burn causing redness, pain with itching (pruritus) and the possible appearance of blisters. This reaction appears 8 to 24 hours after exposure to the sun.

It is important to note that sunburn can occur without direct exposure to the sun. UVB rays are present in all weather conditions and are reflected by water, sand and snow.

Sunburns increase the risk of premature skin aging and the development of skin cancers, especially melanoma, due to UVA and UVB rays that are genotoxic (ability of a radiation to compromise the physical or functional integrity of the genome).

Along with the nose, forehead, cheeks and shoulders, the scalp is an area that is highly exposed to the sun. The risk of sunburn is therefore very high in this area.

The risk factors for sunburn on the scalp.

  • Age: Children burn 4 times faster than adults because their skin is thinner. Therefore, infants under 12 months of age should not be exposed to UV rays.

  • Light phototypes: The lighter your phototype, the greater the risk of sunburn. Phototypes I to III are the most vulnerable.

  • People with thinning hair or total or partial baldness: They have a higher risk because their hair offers less protection.

  • The use of photosensitizing molecules: Whether it is in medication (isotretinoin for example) or in dermocosmetics (such as hair care products containing AHA or BHA), the sensitivity of your skin to UV rays will be increased with an increased risk of sunburn.

  • Lack of sun protection: Sun protection for the hair and scalp is often neglected. It is however necessary to protect your scalp from sunburn.

  • Lack of clothing protection: Wearing a cap or hat will protect your scalp from the aggression of UV rays.

The Recommended Actions To Take After a Sunburn on the Scalp.

  • First of all, the burn must be cooled down in order to relieve the pain and prevent it from spreading further. Apply moist compresses for 15 to 30 minutes.

  • Then apply aloe vera gel to soothe the redness and pain.

  • Avoid extended and repeated exposure to sunlight during your healing time.

  • Wear a cap or hat to protect the burn from further UV damage.

  • Rehydrate your body. Drinking water is crucial for sunburns. Hydration contributes to faster healing. So, it is essential to drink more than usual (2 liters minimum).

  • Let regeneration take its course. After a sunburn, the skin will regenerate naturally. Therefore, avoid scratching the peeling skin to remove it.

Preventive Measures To Avoid Sunburn on the Scalp.

  • Avoid exposure to the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m, when UV rays are most intense.

  • Apply a sun oil to your hair 30 minutes before exposure and reapply every 2 hours.

  • Wear a cap or hat during the entire exposure period.

Note: These preventive measures should be adopted by everyone.

Sources :

  • BERTHELEMY S. Conseil à un patient se plaignant d'un coup de soleil. Actualités Pharmaceutiques (2013).

  • YUENG H. & al. Sunburn frequency and risk and protective factors : a cross-sectional survey. Dermatology Online Journal (2021).

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