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Sunburned Skin

October 2, 2008

What makes sunburned skin warm to the touch?


Why sunburned skin sizzles…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Perhaps a bad sunburn prompted listener Ryan Dunning of Fresno, California, to ask today’s Why Is It question. He wants to know why sunburned skin feels warm to the touch even days afterwards. We talked to Paradi Mirmirani, a dermatologist at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Group in Vallejo, California. She says a sunburn occurs when UV light damages skin cells.

PARADI MIRMIRANI (Kaiser Permanente): The body reacts by mounting an immune reaction. And either removing the damaged cells, destroying the damaged cells, or trying to limit the damage that’s occurring.

HIRSHON: That causes inflammation — which generates heat and can last a few days. Mirmirani says ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatory drugs can relieve the effect. If you’ve got a science question, call us at 1-800-WHY-IS-IT. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.