In spite of our best intentions, sunburns happen. Unfortunately, fiery hot, beet red, tingly skin is the steep price you pay for forgetting the sunscreen and hats. Next time, you’ll be more careful. You’ll choose a sunscreen with a higher SPF, reapply often, and head indoors in the afternoon when the sun is hottest.
In the meantime, if you’re paying the price for too much sun exposure, follow these tips to soothe a sunburn.
8 Tips to Soothe a Sunburn
- Cool off your skin. To ease the pain and inflammation, take a cool shower or bath. Use a cool compress in areas where you need relief. Don’t make the water too cold. Avoid hot water, including hot tubs, which can make skin feel worse.
- Pat, don’t rub. When you get out of a pool or shower, gently pat your skin dry. Don’t rub sensitive skin.
- Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Sunburns dry out your skin. But, keeping skin moisturized helps ease tightness, itching, and peeling. The best time to moisturize is right after you get out of the shower, while your skin is still a little damp. Products with aloe vera may help, but are not necessary.
- Take pain relievers if necessary. If you are very uncomfortable, over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help ease pain and inflammation.
- Drink lots of water. Getting sunburned means you’ve spent too much time out in the sun, which can also cause you to be dehydrated. Rehydrate by drinking plenty of water (avoid sugary, caffeinated, or alcoholic drinks).
- Don’t break blisters. If you have any blisters, leave them alone. Opening them increases the chance of infection. If blisters open on their own, wash the area gently with soap and water, apply antibiotic cream, and cover with a non-stick gauze bandage.
- Stay out of the sun. If your skin is already burned, take extra precautions while it heals to not add insult to injury by exposing it to more sun.
- Watch for signs of severe sunburn. If you experience severe pain, chills, nausea, headache, fever, or large areas of blistering skin, or if your skin looks white or feels numb, call your doctor. In some cases, you may need medical treatment.
Had One Too Many Sunburns?
It may be time to get a skin cancer screening.
Vow to Be More Vigilant Next Time
Getting too much sun can cause lasting damage to your skin and increases your risk of skin cancer. "One bad sunburn with blistering — or 5 less severe sunburns — doubles your chance of getting melanoma," says UVA Health dermatologist Mark Russell, MD.
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