What To Do If You Get A Sunburn


With the summer in full swing and temperatures rising, we’re enjoying spending a bit more time outside. In an ideal world, we would apply (and re-apply!) sunscreen, wear protective clothing, and seek shade during the hottest hours of the day. But when you’re outside having fun, sometimes you forget. Prevention is best, of course. But if you do end up with a sunburn, here’s a few steps that you can take to minimize damage and help your skin to heal.*

1. Get out of the sun…now!

Common sense? Maybe, but not everyone does so. If you see redness or feel your skin starting to burn, the damage to your skin is already happening. Protect your skin from further damage and seek shade or go inside right away.

2. Cool down your skin

Use cool compresses (towels soaked in cool water) or take a cool bath to reduce the heat in the skin. Try a gentle non-soap cleanser or powdered oatmeal to Skip the soap as that may dry the skin out more. Opt for a gentle non-soap cleanser or add oatmeal to soothe the skin (spoon oatmeal onto the center of a coffee filter, cheese cloth or muslin cloth, tie with a ribbon or string, and throw bag in bathtub). If cool compresses or bathing is not an option at the time, try aloe vera gel to cool the skin and reduce inflammation.

3. Moisturize

Apply a cream to moisturize and soothe the skin after cooling it down. At Skinstyle, we love simple and pure products which contain ceramides, glycerin or oatmeal. For sensitive, uncomfortable skin, try using a small amount of OTC hydrocortisone cream on it for a few days. Your dermatologist can prescribe a stronger medicated cream if needed. Avoid petrolatum (Vaseline) based products as petrolatum traps heat in your skin. Allow blisters if present to heal on their own (the roof of the blister acts as a natural biologic dressing). Peeling skin and popping blisters can lead to permanent scarring.

4. Oral pain relief

Sunburned skin is often tender and swollen, so taking ibuprofen or another OTC anti-inflammatory medicine can help reduce redness, swelling, and discomfort.

5. Hydrate

When you get a sunburn, your blood vessels dilate and you lose water from your skin. It is important to drink lots of water to ensure that you don’t get dehydrated. Coconut water and waters with added electrolytes are also good options.

 

* Remember sunburns can be serious so if you have blisters covering over 10% of your body or internal symptoms such as nausea, fevers, or chills, seek professional medical care immediately.

Author
Shanthi Colaço, MD

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