Sunburned Scalp Symptoms, Flaking, Repair and Home Remedies

We explore the various aspects affecting a sunburned scalp including the symptoms, flaking, yellow crust, oozing and hair loss. Also included are various natural home treatments and methods to repair a sun damaged scalp.

Sunburned Scalp

Sunburns occur following direct exposure to ultra violet rays. After exposure to UV light, the skin accelerates its production of melanin in a bid to protect the skin from the harmful effects of the light. This results in the appearance of a dark colored tan. This form of protection may not be enough where exposure is over long duration. As a result, the UV light eventually penetrates the skin causing painful sunburns. 

In addition to sun rays, it is possible to acquire sunburns from sunlamps and tanning beds as these too emit ultra violet light. 

Although sunburns are most common in uncovered parts of the skin, they could also occur on areas that are covered. As such, a head full of hair could get sunburned although a bald one will have consequences of a greater level.

Sunburned Scalp Symptoms

Sunburned scalps symptoms do not appear immediately after exposure to ultra violet rays. They may take hours to appear.

Itch

One way to tell that you have a sunburn is the accompanying itch. This may or may not result in a sunburn rash. Wondering why your scalp sunburn itches so bad? Well, when the skin gets sun damaged, the effectiveness of the nerves in terms of functionality and structure is affected. This then results to the brain sending sensations of itch. Where the itch is severe, it is referred to as hell’s itch. During the healing process, it is also possible for the sunburns to itch especially at the flaking stage.

Scalp Redness

Sunburns are associated with a red coloration. This occurs due to the dilation of blood vesssels following the skin damage that occurs after exposure to ultra violet rays. The dilation increases blood flow to the area and also makes the scalp warm to touch. This symptom of a sunburned scalp tends to occur within three hours of exposure and gets to the peak at 24 hours.

Blistering

For this to happen, the sunburns on the scalp have to be severe. According to livestrong.com, adolescents that suffer sunburn blistering have a doubled risk of developing melanoma later in their life.

Fever and Headache

These occur as an inflammatory response and is caused by the blood vessels releasing chemicals such as histamine, prostaglandins and cytokines. As a result, chills, fevers and a headache may follow.

Nausea and Vomiting

These, too, are as a result of an inflammatory reaction. They can be handled by remaining well hydrated. These are only likely to occur in cases of a severely sunburned scalp.

Scalp Sunburns Risk Factors

According to Mayo Clinic, some risk factors for getting sunburns include:
  • Having blond hair and being light skinned
  • Vacationing at high altitude
  • Working outdoors
  • Having a history of sunburn
  • Regular exposure to UV light
  • Mixing outdoor recreation with drinking alcohol
  • Taking photosynthetizing medication

Sunburned Scalp Flaking

Days after you have experienced direct exposure to sunlight, you may experience the sunburned scalp flaking. But why does skin peel after sunburn and for how long does skin peel after sunburn?

Normally, ultra violet radiation results in damage of the exposed skin cells. In order to heal, the sun damaged area begins to produce a layer of new skin cells so as to replace the sun damaged one. This takes about four to seven days. The dead skin cells remain intact to shield the new skin cells that form are delicate. Once the new skin cells are mature and resilient enough, the dead skin cells on the outer side start peeling off, and may be seen as the sunburned scalp flaking. 

Given this healing cycle, it is important to allow the skin to flake and peel off naturally so as not to subject the new skin to damage. Premature peeling could result in bleeding, tenderness and even infections on the sunburn.

Sunburned Scalp Yellow Crust and Oozing

Sunburns may at times result in blistering. These start to peel within a few days and the normal healing process takes place. However, at times it is possible for sunburn blisters on scalp to get infected. According to Dr. Santos on medhelp.org, signs of infection include redness, pain and a thick yellow discharge coming from the blisters. As such, yellow sunburn blisters may result in yellow crust after scalp sunburn. These will then develop into yellow sunburn blister scabs on scalp seen as a hard yellow crust on the skin. 

In addition, impetigo, a skin infection resulting from bacteria and characterized by formation of small blisters, could form some yellow scabs after rupturing and oozing. These could be the cause of the sunburned scalp yellow crust. The infections ought to be treated appropriately to clear up.

Sunburned Scalp Hair Loss

There are a number of hair related question occurring following a sunburned scalp.
They include:
  • Does Sunburn cause hair loss or can sun damage cause hair loss?
  • Does sunburn stop hair growth?
  • Will hair grow back after sunburn?
While sunburns on scalp will result to an itchy scalp as the healing process proceeds leading to hair loss, it doesn’t result in hair loss. In the same way, sunburns do not interfere in hair growth or cause hair thinning. On the other hand, natural loss of hair through baldness and hair thinning exposes more of your scalp resulting in more severe scalp sunburns.

How Long Does Scalp Sunburn Last?

How long your sunburned scalp lasts will depend on a number of things. The intensity of the sun, type of skin, whether you have hair or your sunburned scalp is bald as well as the degree of burn incurred. A mild sunburn could last three to four days after which flaking as a result of skin peeling may be seen. 

Moderate sunburns could stay for a week while severe scalp sunburns could take several weeks before they are completely healed. Where the sunburned scalp exceeds the given time range and doesn’t seem to heal, see your doctor.

Home Remedies for Sunburned Scalp

Apple Cider Vinegar

This is not only great as a hair rinse but will also aid in healing the sun damaged scalp skin. Apple cider vinegar helps in balancing the pH levels on the skin and promote healing. It will also reduce the likelihood of sunburn blisters forming on the scalp.

There are different ways to use it in a diluted solution. Use it as a final rinse after washing your hair. You could also add it to a spray bottle and use it as a daily spritz until the burns heal. For a bald head, soak a wash cloth in a vinegar solution and place it on your head so it can soak in the remedy.

1. Milk Rinse

Milk contains fats and proteins that have anti-inflammatory agents. They will help in soothing the sunburns in addition to regulating the pH on the scalp. Used when cold, it can help to constrict blood vessels which in turn diminishes pain and swelling. Soak a wash cloth in a bowl of milk with ice cubes and place it on the burns.

2. Aloe Vera

This is an age old known remedy for many skin problems. Its anti-inflammatory properties will help to soother the burns and work its magic in promoting skin healing. Slather some on the skin to treat sunburned scalp.

4. Green Tea

Green tea is another home remedy containing healing agents beneficial to the skin. It will help with the stinging pain associated with the burns. Maximum benefits are reaped by using it within 24 hours after exposure to ultra violet rays. You can steep tea and use it as a rinse or hold some tea bag dipped in water on the wounded skin.

How to Repair a Sun Damaged Scalp

Whether you are nursing sunburns on a bald head or one full of hair, the aim is to hasten the healing process. In addition to using the above natural remedies for sunburns, aid the repair of your sun damaged scalp by doing the following.

1. Use Cold Compresses

Cold compresses  on the scalp will help to cool off the skin as well as soothe the accompanying irritation.

2. Moisturize the scalp

Moisturizers will help in protecting the sun damaged skin and prevent further irritation. Opt for moisturizers containing aloe vera gel. Since some moisturizers may not work on scalp sunburns with hair, opt for coconut oil or hair products fortified with vitamins C or E.

3. Do not Scratch

More often than not sunburns are accompanied by itch, which may at times become severe. Scratching your scalp to satisfy the itch will only worsen the burns. It could also cause infections. Try an keep your hands off the head.

4. Use Cool Water on Scalp

This may not be something you anticipated but using hot water on the already sunburned scalp will cause further discomfort. Immediately you notice scalp sunburns, run cool water on it or use a wet wash cloth to help relieve accompanying discomfort.

5. Avoid Shampoos Containing Sulfates and Conditioners with Dimethicone

A sunburned scalp requires efficient moisturizing. Using shampoos with sulfate only serves to dry the skin further. It is also advisable to avoid dimethicone containing conditioners as they could lead to pore blockage.

6.Stay away From the Blow Dryer

During the healing period, you will have to go slow on the styling methods you use to allow for quick healing. Straightening irons and blowdryers should be kept away from the sunburned scalp.

7. Avoid the Sun

Do not venture outdoors and expose your scalp to further sunburns before healing. Even after the sunburns have healed, keep your scalp protected by applying sunscreen and wearing protective hats.
With the above, your scalp sunburns should heal with time. However, see your doctor over sunburned scalp that is accompanied by infections, scalp bleeding, extreme thirst and clammy skin.

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