Fun in the sun loses a lot of its appeal when you come home from the beach or park with a sunburn. UV rays from the sun can damage your skin, and the most common form of damage is that itching, burning, painful red patch on your face or back. Obviously prevention is the key, but there are definitely some things you can do to help reduce discomfort while your body heals itself.
Get Out of the Sun
First, take immediate action if you notice any tingling or burning while you’re outside. Sunburn symptoms can take four to six hours to fully develop, which means in many cases the damage has already been done, but you should take steps right away to keep it from getting any worse. Get inside or find shade so that you’re out of the sun.
Be sure to stay hydrated. Sunburn draws the moisture to the surface of your skin, where it evaporates quickly—you can lose water much quicker than you think if you have a bad sunburn. Drink lots of water to keep yourself safe and promote faster healing. Taking a nice cold bath or shower isn’t a bad idea, either. The cold water will not only help hydrate you but cool down that awful burning feeling. (Don’t use soap—it dries out your skin.)
Ointments and Creams
You might want to treat your burned skin. At the most basic level, this just involves making sure that you apply lotion to help keep it moisturized. If your burn is a little more severe, however, then a specialized burn cream might be a good idea. Many companies make ointments for sunburn, with ingredients such as aloe vera or cortisone to help heal your skin and reduce itching. If you’re in a lot of pain, then a few ibuprofen tablets can help reduce inflammation.
Don’t irritate the skin further. Rubbing harshly (like when you towel off after a shower) won’t do you any good, and neither will wearing tight or scratchy clothing. Do not pop any blisters, or pick at your skin if it starts to peel.
Do You Need a Doctor?
In some extreme cases, you may need to seek medical help. Contact a doctor if a blistering burn covers 20% or more of the body (for example, your whole back). Anyone experiencing chills or fever after a sunburn should also get professional help.
Although there are definitely ways to treat sunburn, these remedies help the symptoms and won’t undo any permanent damage the sun did to your skin. One bad sunburn can increase your risk of skin cancer or cause wrinkles later in life. The best treatment is prevention, so be sure to cover up and pack that sunscreen!