SKINCARESUN FACTS • By Carole Aponte, MD
How to soothe and heal your SUNBURN.
Although I sincerely hope that you are all wearing your sunscreen every day and will never need the information posted here, I think it is important to know what to do in case you (or a friend) ever do get a sunburn.
The first symptoms of a sunburn (redness, pain, and swelling of sun-exposed skin) usually appear a few hours after significant exposure to the sun’s damaging UV rays. A sunburn can develop from as little as 15 to 30 minutes of mid-day sun exposure if your skin is very fair, but even those with darker skin will eventually burn if they are in the sun without protection for a prolonged period of time. If you notice a sunburn, it is important to act fast to prevent more damage and to start the healing process as quickly as possible.
If you are still out at the pool, beach, concert, ballgame or on the ski slopes when you notice the tell-tale signs of a sunburn, you need to get out of the sun as soon as possible to avoid any additional sun damage. The next thing you should do is take a cool bath or shower or apply cool, damp compresses to the sunburned areas. Then apply a gentle moisturizing cream or aloe-containing gel, but avoid products with petrolatum or petroleum jelly as they can actually hold in heat and make your skin feel worse!
Be sure to drink plenty of water for the next several days to keep your body and your skin well-hydrated and to promote the healing process. When headed outside after a sunburn, remember to wear clothing that covers the burned areas if possible, or use a mineral-based sunscreen with an SPF 30 or greater like P.R.E.P. SPF 30 face+body lotion to prevent further sun damage. Note that “chemical” and spray sunscreens may have ingredients that can irritate your sensitive skin while it is healing. Avoid wearing tight clothing or anything that may rub or irritate your burned skin. You should also take a break from using any acne treatments or exfoliating products on the burned areas until they have fully healed.
Tell your parents if you experience any significant skin discomfort and they may have you take an over-the-counter pain reliever containing acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If blisters develop, don’t try to pop or drain them as this can produce more pain and increase your risk of infection. Plus, the roof of the blister acts as a natural bandage to protect the tender, healing skin underneath.
If pain and redness worsen after the first 24 hours, if you develop headaches, nausea or fever, or if you develop many large or painful blisters you should see a dermatologist or family doctor right away.
And remember, the BEST way to treat a sunburn is to prevent it from happening in the first place! Read our articles on UVA + UVB = Sun Rays, the important 5 Sun Facts you want to know! and SKIN is your friend to get the scoop on all things sun related.