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How to Care for Sunburn

Despite the risk of sun damage, most Americans still don’t protect themselves from the sun. Because of this, sunburns are continually common year after year. If you’ve ever had a sunburn, then you know they can be painful and frustrating. They’re difficult to get rid of, and nobody likes peeling skin. Mild sunburns are common, and you can usually find relief with some at-home remedies. Learn how to care for sunburn with these tips. 

What is sunburn? 

A sunburn is your skin’s reaction to sun damage from ultraviolet (UV) rays. Specifically, UVB rays cause the skin to burn. In contrast, UVA rays penetrate deeper and cause other problems like premature aging and wrinkles. Even one sunburn may increase your overall risk of cancer.

Whether you burn or how severe your sunburn is depends on the amount of melanin in your skin. Melanin is a pigment in the skin that controls skin tone. Those with more melanin tend to not burn as easily and have deeper skin tones. The physical side effects of a sunburn are red, swollen and tender skin. Your skin may peel after a sunburn, too. This is a reaction from the skin attempting to shed damaged cells.

Why should you care? 

Sunburns seem common, and they are. Even though they’re common doesn’t mean they’re not serious. Your skin may heal from a sunburn, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t experienced lasting damage. Sunburns increase lifetime cancer risk, and sun damage builds up over time. Even if you don’t sunburn easily, you should still practice caution in the sun. UVA rays could still be doing damage at deeper skin levels. This may manifest as premature aging, sunspots and winkles.

So, what can you do? Knowing how to care for sunburn is important. But prevention is the best treatment for sunburns. If you find yourself with a sunburn, there are some common at-home remedies that may help.

Take over-the-counter pain relievers

One of the main complaints from sunburns is the pain. Painful or inflamed skin may be tender to the touch and can make it difficult to stay comfortable. If you experience pain with a sunburn, try taking over-the-counter pain relievers. NSAIDs like aspirin and ibuprofen may help temporarily relieve pain. Always check with your doctor if you’re unsure whether over-the-counter pain relievers are safe for you. 

Use aloe vera and moisturize

When you have a sunburn, it’s important to keep your skin moisturized. Dry skin can become irritated, which can inflate pain and irritation from sunburns. The skin needs to keep proper moisture to heal. Try a moisturizer with aloe vera. Aloe vera can help reduce inflammation for mild burns. It is generally deemed safe and has been used for centuries to treat cuts and infections.  

Stay hydrated

When you have a sunburn, it’s important to stay hydrated. First, if you’ve sunburned, you were likely outside. Heat and sweating will cause your body to need more fluids. Another important factor is your skin’s ability to draw water. When you burn, skin can draw water out of the body to the skin. Because of this, it’s important to drink plenty of water when recuperating from sunburn.  

Protect sunburned skin

When you have a sunburn, it’s important to take extra precautions to protect your skin. Burned skin may be more sensitive to sun damage. Try wearing protective clothing and always wear sunscreen. Even if it’s overcast, you can still be burned by ultraviolet light.

Watch your shower temperature

Be sure not to take hot showers when you have a sunburn. Not only may this be uncomfortable, it can also dry your skin out. Try taking cooler showers or baths. But don’t overexpose your skin to too much water, no matter the temperature, because it can still dry out. You can also try a cold compress or icepack to help cool the skin. Remember not to apply ice directly to the skin, though.

When to see a doctor for sunburn 

Sometimes, a severe burn may blister. If this happens, don’t try to pop the blisters. If you have blisters that don’t heal or severe blistering that covers a large part of your body, you should call your doctor. Likewise, if you develop fever or chills or if you become disoriented, you should seek medical help. These may be signs of sun poisoning or even heatstroke.  

How to care for sunburn 

Prevention is the best method for sunburns. Remember that one blistering sunburn increases your overall risk of skin cancer. You should always wear sunscreen and keep your skin protected. For tips on sunscreen usage, check out our ultimate sunscreen guide. If you do find yourself with a sunburn, try to keep the skin protected and promote healing. Remember to stay moisturized, keep hydrated, take cooler showers and try over-the-counter pain relievers. If you have a severe or blistering burn or experience any symptoms such as fever, chills or lethargy, seek medical attention.  

At Loven Dermatology, we are passionate about providing our patients with high-quality, individualized dermatological care and treatment. Our providers offer advanced, personalized care for a wide range of hair, skin and nail conditions. Please call us at 615.2859.7546 for more information or to schedule your appointment. 


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