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Beauty, Featured, Wellness

Red, Raw and Regretful: Remedies for Sunburn that Actually Work

When your skin succumbs to sunburn, here’s how to find relief.

There are plenty of excuses for getting a sunburn—you were having so much fun you didn’t think to reapply sunscreen; it was cloudy; you just fell asleep. Your body has one basic defense against the sun in melanin, a pigment that increases upon exposure, creating a tan. But melanin isn’t a superhero. It can only do so much.

When too much ultraviolet UV light from the sun hits our skin and damages cells, the UVA longer rays contribute to aging and wrinkling; the UVB shorter rays penetrate and burn the skin. Prolonged exposure to sun can result in wrinkles, dryness, freckles, discoloration, and in some instances, skin cancer. When we wear sunscreen, we need to calculate the time we’ll be in the sun with the SPF (sun protection factor) of the product to make sure we’re covered the entire time we’re exposed. If you’re fair-skinned and light-eyed, you are more likely to burn. Some drugs increase sensitivity to the sun, so be careful if you’re on antibiotics, antihistamines, painkillers, chemotherapy and statins, and always check to see if there’s an issue. Even perfumes and colognes can boost your vulnerability.

Instead of wallowing in pain and regret, spring into action immediately to mitigate the effects of those harmful UV rays on your skin.

Did It Burn?

The first telltale sign of a sunburn is redness in the exposed areas. You may feel hot and flushed, swell up and, if the burn is extreme, start forming blisters (the sign of a second-degree burn). Also expect headache, fever, nausea and exhaustion. The Mayo Clinic recommends seeing a doctor if it’s really bad and the pain increases, if there’s yellow drainage from the blisters or if you see red streaks around an open blister.

As soon as you can, follow these steps from the American Academy of Dermatology Association:

  • First, get out of the sun and into some cool, indoor shade if possible.
  • Take a cool bath or shower, and pat yourself dry, leaving your skin slightly wet, then moisturize.
  • Use aloe vera or soy gel or cream to help soothe the skin—but beware of any products that contain petroleum, benzocaine or lidocaine. They can trap the heat and irritate your skin. You can apply hydrocortisone cream for painful areas.
  • Ibuprofen may help temper pain.
  • Drink extra water, which will help rehydrate you.
  • Don’t pop blisters or peel your skin; have a doctor treat that if necessary.

You can also try these other remedies for relief:

  • If you’re burned in a small area, wet tea bags and place them on your burn. For larger areas, use a clean cloth soaked in tea, or take a bath with tea added to cool water. Any kind of tea will work—green, black, chamomile or peppermint.
  • Tomato juice or paste on the affected area can bring cooling and relief. (Also if you eat tomatoes, you’re getting extra sun protection from the inside.)
  • An oatmeal bath with milk and honey can moisturize skin and bring much-need vitamins. Check out PopSugar for detailed instructions.

Sorry you got burned—but the good news is that sunburn is 100% preventable, if you take the right steps to protect yourself while having fun in the sun.

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