How to Soothe a Sunburn
- Skin Care
- September 9, 2015
No matter how careful you are and how often you reapply your sunscreen, sometimes you still end up with a sunburn. The stinging and burning make you miserable and the bright red, sensitive skin leaves you self-conscious. Taking steps to ease the discomfort and limit the inflammation can help you feel and look better.
As soon as you notice the first sign of a sunburn, the first thing you should do is take an over the counter anti-inflammatory, such as ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin). This will help to stop inflammation and ease the pain. Continue taking it for 48 hours to help keep the swelling and pain at bay. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be taken to help with the pain, but it will not help with inflammation. The quicker you act, the less pain and redness will develop. Cool compresses can also help to take the sting out of your burn and reduce inflammation
Before you start applying any topical treatments to your sunburn, clean your skin first. Jumping into a steaming hot shower does not sound appealing when you are feeling like your skin is on fire, but a cool shower or bath will help to remove any salt or chlorine on your skin and relieve some of the burning sensation. Salt and chlorine can irritate the sun damaged skin, causing itchiness and more redness. Avoid soaps while bathing, however, using a gentle cleanser instead. Soap can strip your skin of moisture and you want to leave as much moisture in your skin as possible.
Not only do you not want to strip your skin of any moisture it already has, you want to add more. Grab a healing lotion and slather it on your skin. Lotion cannot reverse the damage already done but it can help to minimize the itching and peeling that accompany it. Aloe Vera also works quite well to moisturize sunburned skin. Research has shown that aloe is good for healing skin and has an anti-inflammatory effect. Aloe can be found in lotion, gel, and even spray formulations. Store your lotion or aloe in the fridge between uses to help increase its soothing power.
Hydrating from within is just as important as moisturizing from the outside. Your skin will be pulling water from your body to help with its healing, so it’s important to make sure you are drinking enough fluids. Drink extra water and eat foods with high water content, such as watermelons or grapes, to maintain proper levels of hydration and prevent dehydration. Dehydration is signaled by dry mouth, headache, dizziness, and reduced urination.
While following these steps to treat and soothe a sunburn, avoid further sun exposure. More sun will aggravate the already damaged skin and make your symptoms worse. In the future, remember to apply your sunscreen at least 30 minutes before sun exposure, wear a hat and light colored clothing to limit the amount of the sun’s rays that can damage your skin, and avoid the sun between 10 am and 4 pm when it is most intense so that you don’t need to use these tips again!