How does sunburn accumulate?

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Like if I were to be outside for 20 minutes, vs being outside for 5 minutes every hour for 4 hours, would that cause sunburn?

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It’s skin damage which your body starts to heal right away. Spreading out that exposure would lessen the amount of burning you’d receive. But some people burn quite easy while others don’t. That matters too.

In short, yes being out in the sun for 4 hrs. Will cause a pretty good sunburn. It’s basically like the sun is slow cooking your skin so overtime it gathers up at the very top layer of your skin.

It will depend on how strong the sun is where you are (generally strongest between 10am-4pm).
Going for 5 minutes an hour over 4 hours is roughly the same as a single 20 minute exposure, given the sun strength is the same.
You’re more likely to burn with longer exposures, that’s true. But sun damage occurs even without a burn. So while a sunBURN won’t really build up with a few 5 minute exposures, the underlying sun damage will. Does that make sense?
The sun’s dangerous rays come through windows, and can be reflected as well.
Best advice, use that sunscreen daily, even for short exposures.