No matter how often Mom told us “wear sunscreen and don’t forget to reapply”, we sometime mess up and get burnt; which often results in people asking, “Why are you imitating a cooked lobster?”. Plus, a week full of painful days at work. In another post we discussed how ultraviolet light works to causes sunburn. Granted it is best to avoid getting sunburned period, but life happens, and the needed to take care of a burn arises. Here we’ve rounded up the best tips and tricks on what to do if you get sunburned.
1. Get Inside and Hide
This might seem obvious, but people often wait too long to find shade or go indoors after realizing they are sunburned. It is crucial that you get out of the sun the moment you know you’re sunburned. The more prolonged your time in the sun the more severe the damage to your skin. In short you just keep burning. It’s like you are an over baked cookie! Staying the in the oven isn’t the solution. To prevent further damage and to allow your skin the opportunity to begin healing as fast as possible you must get out of the sun.
And not just for a day, the important thing to remember is you should avoid unnecessary sun exposure for the next week. Not the most fun thing to do when on vacation but avoiding additional sun exposure is essential for your health.
2. Cool down quickly
Although you are out of the sun your skin is still sizzling like bacon it a pan! It needs to be cooled down quickly. Take a very cold shower or bath for at least ten minutes. The amount of time is important because, after you have been burned the heat transfers through the lop layer into the lower ones, causing an internal inflammation. This inflammation is why your skin is red and even swollen. It is well established that sunburns cause cellular damage; and this is important step to reduce the damage. So, by taking a longer cold shower you’re not simply cooling the outer layer but also the inner layers of skin as well.
After you’ve taken your cool dip, be sure to only pat the water off of your skin and leave it slightly damp. Any rubbing will severely irritate the cause making the burn more painful and lengthen the healing process.
3. Drink Heavily
Water! Not pop, not coffee, not beer. Drink water and lots of it. You probably didn’t drink enough water during the day anyway so drink even more now. Anything besides water or a small number of sports drinks dehydrates you. The heat from a sunburn is evaporating water from your body. This causes extreme dehydration, which results in drowsiness and a slower healing process. So, drink water, it’ll help your cells react, and in turn reduce the damage caused by the burn.
4. Use Moisturizer and Aloe
After your shower or bath, and drinking copious amounts of water, you’ll want to slather on quite a bit of moisturizer. Moisturizer creams and Aloe will help trap moister in the skin allowing your body to heal quicker. It would be best if you found a hydrating lotion with real Aloe Vera in it. If it has antioxidants such as vitamin E that’s even better.
If a good moisturizer cream is not immediately available in some countries along the eastern Mediterranean, they use yogurt to help heal sunburns since it is full of natural antioxidants. Or if you have an Aloe plant you can split a leaf open and use the juice for the plant as a moisturizer. It may not be fun to feel sticky but when trying to heal from a sunburn you don’t want your skin to get dry. Maybe it’s better to plan ahead and include a moisturizer cream in your bag along with the sunscreen and some UV detection dots/wristbands.
5. Be Careful which Products you use
If you choose to use medical cream or take an anti-inflammatory, avoid things that end with “caine” like benzocaine and lidocaine, or anything else that ends in “caine” because they will irritate the sunburn. Also, avoid using alcohol-based products and products that contain artificial scents. All of these can cause more issues for your body and skin slowing down the healing process. So read the label and be cautious when selecting a moisturizer for your sunburn.
6. Fight Long Lasting Free-Radical Damage
Although most sunburns heal in a week or so the free-radical damage done by UV is permanent. In our previous blog post we discussed how UVA1 causes issues with your body’s collagen, elastin, and fibers. While you can’t undo the effects of the sun damage, antioxidants can aid in minimizing the harmful effects. Therefore, using a vitamin C serum to cover the sunburn areas can be beneficial.
7. See a Dermatologist (or your doctor)
Depending on how badly you got sunburned this step may not be needed. However, if your sunburn has caused the skin to blister it would behoove you to seek medical attention. These blisters can easily get infected if they are scratched or popped and should not be touched. Additionally, if the pain is severe, you feel sick, or chilled; medical attention is needed. Frankly, even if you are not severely burned it is recommended by most medical professionals to see a dermatologist about once a year to ensure there are no growths or abnormalities on your skin. Kind of like your annual dentist visit or eye appointment.
8. Remember Prevention is the #1 Skincare Strategy
Of course, all this pain worries and suffering could have been prevented, but we do want to have our fun in the sun. So, what to do? Just like Mom told us, using sunscreen is great and reapplying is just as important. Perhaps you could set an alarm on your phone to remind you to reapply every hour or you will probably find it easier to use a UV indicator available through Smartsun. This clever device can be worn as a wristband or a dot which adheres to the skin (great for kids), and changes colors to show how much UV you have been exposed to throughout the day. If your using sunscreen, put it on the indicator as well. The UV indicator works as a great reminder letting you know when it is time to take a break and cool off – before you get burned. After all an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
We really hope you don’t need to use any of these tips the next time you are out in the sun. However, if you do get over exposed now you know what to do! Also, if you use the Smartsun UV indicators you can help avoid the burn to begin with. That way if anybody asks if you’ve ever been burned, you can say “yes, but I’m over him now” instead of having to tell them about your last week of pealing skin.
AAD, 2019. “How to treat a sunburn” The America Academy of Dermatology Association. [Online] Available at: [LINK]
Brenner, J., 2019. “What You Should Know to Protect Your Skin” Summit Medical Group. [Online] Available at: [LINK]
Friedman, R. M.D., 2019. “10 Tips For Treating A Bad Sunburn” The Huffington Post. [Online] Available at: [LINK]
Gibson, L. M.D., 2019. “Sunburn treatment: Do I need medical attention?” Mayo Clinic. [Online] Available at: [LINK]
Nguyen, L. & Hwang, E., 2016. “Quality Characteristics and Antioxidant Activity of Yogurt Supplemented with Aronia (Aronia melanocarpa) Juice” Journal of Nutrition and Food Science. [Online] Available at: [LINK]
The Skin Cancer Foundation, 2019. “UVA &UVB” The Skin Cancer Foundation. [Online] Available at: [LINK]
The Skin Cancer Foundation, 2019. “Five Ways to Treat a Sunburn” The Skin Cancer Foundation. [Online] Available at: [LINK]