According to dermatologists, stopping the irritation and damage requires more than just a little aloe.
Sunscreen is one thing we’re ready to get repetitive about here at Allure. On days when you’re outside, you should apply sunscreen from head to toe every two hours. But we understand that wearing your SPF religiously won’t make you completely immune to the sun’s harmful rays.
According to Shari Marchbein, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, a sunburn occurs when your skin is exposed to too much damaging ultraviolet rays, particularly the deadly UVB rays from the sun. “Sunburns may appear to be transitory, but they can cause long-term skin harm by raising the risk of skin cancer and sunspots.
Because sunburns are so prevalent, it’s tempting to believe that getting burned isn’t so awful. However, evidence suggests that even a single serious burn might increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Dr. Marchbein continues, “Having five severe sunburns can increase your risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer, by 80%.”
Sunburns can cause illness, dehydration (since sunburn draws fluid to the skin’s surface and away from the rest of the body), and accelerated ageing, according to Sejal Shah, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of SmarterSkin Dermatology in New York City.
In an ideal world, you’d be so covered in SPF that you’d avoid sunburns entirely (and even tans). But, since the sun does shine, here’s how to treat a sunburn.
1. Keep your skin moisturised by applying lotion.
“UV light induces inflammation in the skin comparable to a thermal burn from the oven when you get a sunburn,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and director of cosmetic and clinical dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “That’s why it’s critical to hydrate the skin and assist in the rapid restoration of the skin barrier.”
The most straightforward approach to do it is from the outside in. Look for a moisturiser that contains aloe, such as Vaseline Intensive Care Aloe Soothe Lotion, to help cool burned skin.
2. Use tablets and topicals to reduce inflammation in your skin.
According to Dr. Zeichner, you can also treat a sunburn by lowering inflammation from the inside out. An Advil or other over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication can help reduce swelling and redness, as well as relieve pain.
Dr. Neda Mehr, a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Pure Dermatology Cosmetic & Hair Center in Newport Beach, also suggests using an over-the-counter cortisone lotion to help with inflammation reduction. “UV light causes inflammation and damage to the melanocytes and keratinocytes, which are the top layer skin cells,” she explains. “A cortisone cream calms down that inflammation.”
3. Do not attempt to scrape off your sunburn.
Leave those sheets of peeling skin alone, just as you should never pop a pimple, according to dermatologists. (It’s a tie between which no-no is more appealing.)
“Our skin is continually shedding dead cells,” explains Loretta Ciraldo, MD, a Miami-based board-certified dermatologist and founder of the skin care line Dr. Loretta. “However, when we are exposed to UVB, it prematurely kills off the top layers of skin cells, causing these damaged cells to die and shed away in more enormous, apparent volumes, resulting in skin peeling.”
Living skin might come with prematurely removed dead skin cells, according to Dr. Ciraldo. “[Peeling your skin] can lead to delayed or poor healing, increased irritation and inflammation, and even infection,” she warns. Sit on your hands, apply extra aloe, do whatever you need to keep from peeling.
4. Relax with an oatmeal bath.
For a reason, colloidal oatmeal is a classic. Consumers have been using the substance for decades, according to Dr. Ciraldo. “While colloidal oatmeal is not an active ingredient in sunscreens, one study found that it is effective in lowering the redness and itching associated with UV exposure and sunburns,” she explains.
She recommends a cool oatmeal bath to soothe your skin; avoid hot water, which will exacerbate redness and swelling. If you don’t have access to a tub, she recommends applying a cool compress to the skin and finishing with an oatmeal-infused cream like Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Body Lotion.
5. Don’t touch your blisters.
It’s critical to protect any blisters from popping if your burn blisters (making it a second-degree burn). Dr. Marchbein warns, “Leave them intact and do not rupture or peel them.”
Not only will the burn heal faster, but it will also reduce your chances of infection. “See a board-certified dermatologist if the burn is serious,” she says. “Prescription steroid creams can help speed up healing in some cases.”
6. For long-term free-radical defence, apply a vitamin C serum.
While a burn heals in a few days, UV rays cause free radical damage that lasts a lifetime. “UV light increases the development of free radicals, which damage collagen and elastin as well as your skin cells’ DNA,” says Dr. Zeichner. He says that this damage is what causes early ageing effects and increases your chance of skin cancer.
Vitamin C serum can be beneficial. “You can’t remove your exposure,” Dr. Zeichner says, “but antioxidants can help lessen the adverse effects.” Dermatologists and editors love SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic, which has received many Allure awards.
7. Remember to keep your skin protected in the future.
The best treatment, as usual, is prevention. It’s especially vital to shield your damaged skin from further sun exposure as it heals. Keep your distance from the sun and, of course, apply sunscreen. Dr. Shah advises that when you’re outside, you wear clothes that covers your skin (even better if it’s UPF, sun-protective gear).
Dr. Marchbein claims that most people do not apply enough sunscreen to achieve the recommended SPF. She suggests putting at least SPF 30 in a shot glass-sized quantity and reapplying every two hours. Regardless of whether you favour mineral or chemical sunscreens, don’t leave the house without an SPF.