Tips for Treating Sunburn at Home this Summer

It’s summer and people are soaking up the sun.  However, this comes with something we have all experienced, a sunburn.  We try to use sunscreen but inevitably we miss a spot, forget to reapply, or just forget to use it all together. We stay out in the sun longer than expected or do not realize we are getting burned until it is too late.   

Sunburns come in varying degrees and some areas are more painful than other to burn.  The best treatment is to not get them as sunburns can lead to skin cancers.  SPF of 30 or higher is recommended. However, whatever your favorite, apply it and in a couple of hours, reapply it.

This is especially important if you are swimming or sweating a lot.  If you tend to get irritation or skin rashes from sunscreen, try sunscreens made for babies as they have less irritants in them.  

Alternatively, mineral sunscreens are less irritating but remember they are thicker. For sensitive areas, like face, ears, or neck, apply sunscreen and wear a hat, long sleeved sun shirt, or carry an umbrella to shade you. 

Once the sunburn is there, how can it be treated? 

To clean any sand or dirt off the skin a cool shower is a good first step.  Do not use warm or hot water.  

Next you can apply aloe vera gel. There are even formulations with lidocaine in it as a topical pain killer.  Another great option is to apply towels with a white vinegar/water solution (1/2 cup of water to a 1/2 gallon of cold water). Then apply the aloe vera gel.

If it is particularly painful, acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be taken for the pain.   Make sure if the sunburn is severe with blisters that you keep applying the cooling measures throughout the day.  Do not pop or pick at the blisters. If the blisters are where you need to apply a dressing, make sure you apply a nonstick dressing and change often.

If at any time you see that the area looks infected, you develop a fever, or have concerns, contact your provider.  

Lastly stay hydrated.   Burns harm the part of the skin that holds moisture in so with a sunburn you are prone to dehydration. 

As the burn heals, take good care of the new skin. 

It will likely peel the old burnt skin off and you should let it peel on its own. Do not try to peel the skin yourself.  The skin underneath should be cared for with very mild soaps, non-perfumed lotions (Aveeno, Eucerin, Lubriderm, Cetaphil), and do not scratch or pull at the peeling skin. 

Wear loose clothing that is breathable to keep skin irritation down.  You can also take diphenhydramine (Benadryl) at night to help with the itch or use topical creams with oatmeal in them. Aloe vera gel can continue to be helpful at this stage as well.  The discoloration from the peeling will not be permanent as long as you do not get a second sunburn on the new skin.

The best way to treat a sunburn is not to get one.  Skin protection is a great idea and can prevent many skin cancers. However, if you do get sunburn, the above treatments should help soothe it and heal it up. If you are concerned or something seems wrong, contact your Amaze provider for further evaluation.