Close this search box.

Can Turtles Get Sunburned? Exploring the Risks and Remedies


As the summer months approach, many of us eagerly await the chance to bask in the warmth of the sun. But for our shelled friends, such as turtles, the sun can pose a potential risk. In this article, we will explore the question: can turtles get sunburned?

Understanding Turtle Skin

To answer this question, it is important to understand the anatomy of turtle skin. Turtles have a protective shell, which is made up of two parts: the carapace (upper shell) and the plastron (lower shell). While this shell offers great protection against predators, it does not provide adequate protection against harmful UV rays from the sun.

The Risks of Sunburn in Turtles


Turtles that are exposed to prolonged periods of direct sunlight can suffer from sunburn, just like humans. Sunburn can cause the skin to become red, swollen, and painful. In severe cases, sunburn can even lead to skin peeling and infection.

Factors That Affect Sunburn Risk in Turtles

Several factors can affect a turtle’s risk of sunburn, including:


Different species of turtles have different levels of tolerance to the sun. Some species, such as the red-eared slider, are more prone to sunburn than others.

Age and Health

Young and sick turtles are more vulnerable to sunburn than healthy adult turtles.

Time of Day and Season

Turtles are most at risk of sunburn during the hottest part of the day, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and during the summer months when the sun is strongest.


Turtles that live in areas with little shade or shelter from the sun are at a higher risk of sunburn.

Preventing Sunburn in Turtles

There are several steps that turtle owners can take to prevent sunburn in their pets, including:

Providing Shade

It is important to provide ample shade for turtles, both in their outdoor enclosure and in their indoor living space. This can be achieved through the use of plants, shade cloths, or a turtle house.

Limiting Sun Exposure

Turtles should be allowed to bask in the sun for short periods of time, preferably in the early morning or late afternoon when the sun is less intense. It is also important to monitor the temperature of the basking area to ensure that it does not become too hot.

Using Sunscreen

A specially formulated sunscreen can be applied to a turtle’s shell to provide protection against harmful UV rays. However, it is important to use a sunscreen that is specifically designed for turtles, as human sunscreen can be harmful to them.

Keeping Turtles Hydrated

Bleach to Clean My Turtle's Habitat

Turtles should have access to fresh water at all times, as dehydration can increase their risk of sunburn.

Treating Sunburn in Turtles

If a turtle does suffer from sunburn, there are several steps that can be taken to help alleviate their discomfort, including:

Providing Shelter

Turtles that have been sunburned should be moved to a shaded area to allow their skin to heal.

Applying Aloe Vera

Aloe vera gel can be applied to the sunburned area to help soothe the skin and promote healing.

Administering Pain Relief

If a turtle is in pain, pain relief medication may be prescribed by a veterinarian.


In conclusion, turtles can indeed get sunburned, and it is important for turtle owners to take steps to prevent this from happening. Providing ample shade, limiting sun exposure, using sunscreen, and keeping turtles hydrated can all help reduce the risk of sunburn. If a turtle does suffer from sunburn, providing shelter applying aloe vera, and administering pain relief can help alleviate their discomfort and promote healing. By taking these steps, turtle owners can help ensure their pets stay healthy and happy, even in the summer sun.


  1. How long does it take for a turtle to get sunburned?
    • It depends on various factors such as the species of the turtle, the time of day, and the temperature. However, prolonged exposure to direct sunlight can cause sunburn in as little as a few hours.
  2. Can I use human sunscreen on my turtle?
    • No, human sunscreen can be harmful to turtles. It is recommended to use a specially formulated sunscreen that is designed for turtles.
  3. Can a turtle die from sunburn?
    • While it is rare, severe sunburn can lead to infection and other health complications that can be life-threatening for turtles.
  4. Can indoor turtles get sunburned?
    • Yes, even indoor turtles can get sunburned if they are exposed to UV rays from windows or artificial lighting. It is important to provide shade and limit exposure to UV rays.
  5. Can sunburned turtle skin peel?
    • Yes, severe sunburn can cause the skin to peel and increase the risk of infection. It is important to provide proper care and treatment to promote healing.