We’ve all done it. We’ve all stayed out for too long during Britain’s brief summer, or forgotten to reapply sunscreen because we were having too much fun at the beach. If you’re prone to burning rather than tanning, you’ll know how painful (and embarrassing) sunburn can be. You’re destined to spend weeks with itchy, peeling skin, and perhaps even months with a reddened complexion!
Although prevention is preferable to cure when it comes to sunburn, there are still some measures you can take to make sunburn a little more bearable – and perhaps even accelerate the healing process.
#1 Act fast
Whenever you burn yourself in the kitchen, you know that running the burnt area under a cold tap straight away reduces the damage and takes away the first wave of pain. You should do the same with sunburn. Take a quick dip in a cool swimming pool or the sea to cool your skin and reduce the extent of the burn. Then, immediately cover-up and get out of the sun. This step is tricky because we don’t often realise the extent of sunburn until several hours after exposure – but it can significantly help, so do your best to stay aware.
#2 Keep it cool
Now you’re out of the sun, you should try and take additional steps to cool your skin. If possible, take a cold bath or shower – but avoid using soaps as they may provoke further skin irritation. You could also use a cold compress such as a cold towel or flannel if the burn is isolated to a particular area.
It’s also wise to drink plenty of liquids at this stage to avoid dehydration and better regulate your body temperature.
#3 Reduce irritation
Your next step should be to apply moisturiser or a water-based ointment to the affected areas to lock in moisture and keep skin as cool as possible. Products containing aloe vera are thought to be particularly beneficial.
However, opt for a fragrance-free moisturiser or ointment – some ingredients in your standard moisturiser may irritate your skin further.
This step should also reduce itchiness. If you scratch the affected area, you’ll only cause more damage to your already suffering skin – and will increase the chance of infection.
#4 Stay out of the sun
This one may seem obvious, but if you burn on the first day of your beach holiday, you’ll struggle to stay out of the sun! Think of it this way: your skin is already damaged, so it’s more vulnerable to further damage – from the sun and other sources.
#5 Watch out for infection
If you pick at blisters or scratch severely sunburnt skin, you risk infection. Look out for any oozing pus (ew!) or bright red streaks, as these suggest an infection. Visit the doctor if you’re at all concerned, and be on the look out for any symptoms of heat exhaustion, too.
Soothing sunburn is a difficult task. Sadly, there’s no miracle cure that’ll return your skin to full health in 24 hours, but you can take action to reduce pain and irritation and limit the intensity of the burn.