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Dr. DIY: Sunburn Remedies – What Really Works?

It’s best to avoid sunburn, but what should be done when it happens (despite good intentions to prevent it)? Sunburns are painful, hot, and it seems that anything touches them amplifies the “ouch.” On those days when you end up with too much sun and not enough protection, what works to cool the irritation and calm that sea of red skin?

Take Something for Pain

Any treatment for your sunburn is going to hurt a bit, so start your first-aid with some pain reliever. This will allow you to really focus on treating the skin injury. An over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen or naproxen is a good option for sunburn irritation. The pain reliever may help prevent inflammation, as well as control the pain.

Cool Your Skin

A sunburn is not all that different from the burn you get when you bump up against the oven door – the skin remains hot and burning until you cool it down. Once you manage the pain, apply a cool compress to the affected skin. This will stop the burning and also help relieve the pain. Make sure to keep the water temperature cool, as hot water will just irritate the burn more.

Moisturize the Skin

You have several options for moistening your skin that will also help cool it at the same time. Your basic skin lotion might be too heavy, so look for a gel product instead – preferably one that contains aloe and/or vitamin E.

When shopping for a cream, avoid products that have “caine” anywhere in the name (or on the label), such as benzocaine. They tend to irritate the skin and may cause a rare but very serious reaction called methemoglobinemia.

Tips for Managing Sunburn

Once you get past the initial first-aid, there are ways to manage your sunburn and prevent further damage.

  • If blisters form, don’t pop them. The blisters contain serum designed to help protect your healing skin. If you break them, you open the skin up to infection.
  • Peeling is the body’s way of getting rid of the damaged area. Don’t pick at the peeling areas; just let the skin come off naturally. Apply lots of moisturizer to the new skin.
  • Drink plenty of water as you heal. Drinking water helps keep your skin moisturized and supple so it can heal properly.
  • Stay out of the sun while the burn heals, or cover that area if you do go out.

Excessive sunburns will increase your risk of the skin damage that leads to premature aging and certain types of cancer, according to the Mayo ClinicThis is true even if you are tanning using a sunlight or a tanning bed. Over time, your skin will wrinkle, develop dark spots and possibly even melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer. Prevention is not only readily available, but it is the best way to keep your skin healthy, youthful, and burn free!