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Sunburn Relief: Treat Sunburn The Right Way

What do I do if I get a sunburn? That’s a common question we get, especially from people who live in climates that aren’t sunny year-round. Of course, we advocate daily and liberal use of a broad-spectrum SPF product to prevent getting a burn in the first place. But sometimes sunburns happen despite your best efforts. Below, we share some important information on how to make things better, and a list of things you shouldn’t do that could make the situation worse!

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Sunburn DOs

Sunburn DOsThe first sign of a sunburn for most people is a change of skin colour – usually to bright pink. After this happens, the burn will continue to develop for 12 to 24 hours, so it’s important to take the right steps as soon as possible. Here’s what to do if you realise you have a sunburn<:/p>

  • Remove yourself from direct sunlight immediately – ideally, go indoors or to a completely shaded area.
  • Cool the burn as soon as possible, using cold, damp compresses or bags of ice covered with a towel. Cooling dissipates the heat that’s simmering in the lower layers of the skin and reduces inflammation. Keep applying cold compresses for several hours.
  • If skin is not blistered, apply a lightweight, fragrance-free moisturiser that contains healing ingredients. Moisturiser is preferred to using plain aloe gel.
  • If skin is blistered, apply clean, cotton bandages to the area to protect the blisters from infection.
  • Consider taking an anti-inflammatory pain reliever, like ibuprofen or naproxen.
  • Sunburn can lead to dehydration, so be sure to stay hydrated by drinking water.

Sunburn DON’Ts

  • Don’t put ice directly on the skin – it’s too cold and can actually do further harm.
  • Don’t cover the burn with thick balms or ointments – and definitely not butter – because they trap heat, which causes the burn to continue to damage skin.
  • Don’t apply any overly fragrant moisturisers, as fragrance can lead to irritation, which sunburned skin does not need.
  • Don’t rely on aloe vera gel alone; it’s too one-note to provide the range of repairing and healing ingredients sunburned skin needs. Using a moisturiser with aloe or applying aloe gel with a moisturiser is fine.

When to See a Doctor

If your sunburn is bad enough, it requires a doctor’s care, sometimes urgently so. Here are the signs that it’s time to seek the help of a medical professional:

  • You feel faint or dizzy.
  • You have a rapid pulse or rapid breathing.
  • You have cold, clammy skin.
  • You experience nausea, fever, chills, or rash.
  • You have severe, painful, or infected blisters.
  • You’re sunburned and intoxicated, a combination that can lead to passing out.

The Bottom Line

Sunburns can certainly be a pain, but with proper, attentive treatment they don’t have to be a lingering issue. Now of course even if you follow all our treatment recommendations, the fact that you got a sunburn in the first place means your skin did receive some damage! The best treatment is not getting a sunburn in the first place, which is easier than it might seem!

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