Yes, you can get sunburned in the shade. The American Cancer Society estimates that over 99,000 new melanomas are diagnosed each year. To protect against melanomas, people take umbrellas and sit underneath the shade in hopes of protection against ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Sadly, shading yourself can still leave you sunburnt. The reason why you can get UV rays in the shade is due to the way UV light reflects off of other surfaces. You still keep the sun from shining directly on you if you sit underneath a beach umbrella, but the sand on the beach will still reflect UV radiation. The same thing goes for concrete, glass and other bright and shiny surfaces. You’re getting exposed to UV radiation, which will still give you a bad sunburn if you’re not careful.
Can You Get Sunburned in Water?
You can get sunburned in water. The water reflects the sun’s rays on your skin and this exposure increases your chances of sunburn. Here are a few other scenarios where you might wonder about sunburns:
- Can you get sunburned in cloudy weather? While fewer rays break through on cloudy and cool days, these rays can still cause burns if you’re not careful.
- Can you get sunburned through clothes? While clothes offer some level of protection, it’s still possible to get burnt. Seek clothes with UVA and UVB protection to stay safe.
How to Prevent Getting Sunburn
You can do a few things to protect your skin from sunburn, including:
- Seek shade: An enclosed patio or retractable awning is a great way to enjoy time outside without fear of getting burnt. This solution limits UV exposure significantly.
- Wear protective clothing: Wear long sleeves, hats and sunglasses when you expect to spend long periods in direct sunlight.
- Put on sunscreen: Wear sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or above for protection from the sun’s rays.
How To Prevent Sunburns in the Shade
While seeking shade is an effective way to prevent sunburn, it does not entirely block the sun’s rays. So if you’re wondering whether you can still get sunburned under an umbrella or awning, the answer is yes.
For the most part, avoiding a sunburn in the shade is not that different from avoiding a sunburn anywhere else. You should be wearing sunscreen if you’re going to spend any amount of time outdoors, even if you stick to the shade. A sunscreen with an SPF of 15 will be sufficient for most people, but you should speak with your doctor to find a sunscreen that works best for you. If you need an easier gauge of how much UV radiation you’re getting exposed to, simply look up. The amount of open sky you see is proportional to how much UV radiation you are getting.
How to Treat a Sunburn
Whether you’ve received a sunburn in the shade or while enjoying time out in the water, here are the best ways to treat it:
- Cool your skin: Cold baths or a cold compress can reduce pain and cool your skin.
- Decrease inflammation: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and aspirin can reduce inflammation. Aloe can also provide soothing relief.
- Keep your skin and body hydrated: Burns can make your skin dry and flaky and cause dehydration. Use lotion to moisturize your skin and drink plenty of water to replenish fluids.
Windburn vs. Sunburn — How to Tell the Difference
If you were sitting under shade but now you’re experiencing irritated skin, you might wonder about the cause. Both sunburn and windburn have similar symptoms of red and irritated skin, but windburn most often occurs on the face. Wind’s damaging effects on the skin can also reduce natural skin protection, leading to sunburn.
Learn More About Our Shading Options
A retractable awning is a great way to protect you from direct sunlight. If you’re underneath a retractable awning with no sun coming through, you are receiving only indirect UV rays. Similarly, if you’re in an open field, you are absorbing all of the sun’s UV rays. Urban areas with lots of tall buildings provide safer shade than a beach umbrella since more of the sun is blocked out. You can also avoid getting sunburned if you stay away from the edge of a shaded area. As a rule, larger shaded areas will be safer than smaller areas.