People at the beach

Sunburn blisters: How to treat and prevent them

1 min read
Show more

If your sunburn is severe it may blister because the skin tissue is damaged. Blistering from sunburn is painful and can look unsightly. Learn more about what sunburn blisters are, how to treat them and how to stay safe in the sun.

What are sunburn blisters?

Blisters from sunburn are technically considered a second-degree burn, as the skin is damaged deeper than a first-degree burn. These blisters take longer to heal and are a sign that the sunburn is serious.

Blistering sunburn is usually characterised by:

  • small, white or transparent bumps filled with fluid (made up of blood, pus, lymph or serum)
  • red and potentially swollen surrounding skin
  • pain and itchiness (though this will lessen as the blisters begin to heal)

Sunburn blisters may not be visible right away and can appear hours after a sunburn. 

Sunburn blisters are a sign that significant sun damage has occurred. They can increase the risk of developing skin cancer and melanoma later in life.

Contact your doctor if symptoms are accompanied by a fever, nausea, severe pain or vomiting.

How to treat sunburn blisters

Woman suffering from sunburn
It is important to moisturise sunburnt skin and drink lots of water.

In most cases, sunburn blister treatment can be carried out at home without the need for a doctor:

  • Stay hydrated: Drink enough water to combat the dehydration from the sunburn, which in turn can prevent the blisters from healing.
  • Cool the blisters: Apply a cold compress on and off and avoid hot showers (opt for cold baths ideally).
  • Moisturise: Moisturing will help the blisters to heal. Gently apply the Eucerin Sensitive Relief After Sun, or the Aquaphor Soothing Skin Balm, which creates the ideal protective barrier to support skin regeneration. Avoid using products on an open blister.
  • Cover the blister: Depending on the size, use a plaster, loose dressing or gauze pad.
  • Avoid sun exposure: While your blistering sunburn is healing you should protect your skin from UV rays. If you need to go outside, wear loose clothing that covers the blisters.
  • Take ibuprofen: If your sunburn is particularly painful, ibuprofen can reduce discomfort and swelling.

If your symptoms are severe your doctor may choose to open the sunburn blisters professionally. This would enable the burned skin to heal faster. They may prescribe a corticosteroid to treat the itching and swelling.

Should you pop sunburn blisters?

As these fluid-filled bubbles are uncomfortable and can look unsightly you may be tempted to pop your blistering sunburn, but this is not recommended. 

Do not pick at or pop your sunburn blisters, because this can lead to infection and even scarring if the skin is damaged.

Blistering sunburn acts as protection for the raw skin underneath, reducing the chance of it getting infected, so popping these blisters will delay healing. If protected, sunburn blisters should drain and burst by themselves eventually.

What to do if your sunburn blisters bursts

While you shouldn't pop your sunburn blister, it may burst accidentally or catch on something that causes it to open.

Apply a wound healing ointment before covering the area with a loose gauze pad or plaster. Keeping the blistered area covered will promote faster healing. Use cool water to clean the area and a gentle antibacterial cleanser, carefully removing any drainage. Avoid using cotton wool because its small fibres can stick to the skin.

How long do sunburn blisters last?

Generally, sunburn blisters will heal after a week or so. As long as you don't peel or pop these blisters and they don't become infected, they should fade away over time.

Blistering sunburn may leave scars though. Blister scars can appear as dark or light spots (post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation), remaining visible for 6-12 months.

How to prevent sunburn blisters

Exposure to UV rays can lead to long-term problems such as actinic keratosis and premature ageing. Your chance of developing skin cancer also increases each time you suffer from blistering sunburn, especially for children and teenagers.

Sunburn can be avoided by wearing sunscreen throughout the year and reapplying regularly when sunbathing or perspiring.

Related Articles

Our brand values

Pioneers in skincare

We deliver a holistic dermo-cosmetic approach to protect your skin, keep it healthy and radiant.

Recommended by dermatologists

We work together with leading dermatologist and pharmacist partners around the world to create innovative and effective skincare products they can trust and recommend.

Committed to innovation

For over 100 years, we have dedicated ourselves to researching and innovating in the field of skin science. We believe in creating active ingredients and soothing formulas with high tolerability that work to help you live your life better each day.

Find your nearest Eucerin pharmacy