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You spent too much time enjoying the sun, and either forgot to apply sunscreen or didn’t reapply a layer after hitting the lake or pool. Either way, you’re feeling the effects of the powerful UV rays now. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Thousands of people go to the emergency room every year for a painful sunburn. Here are a few dermatologist tips to get you through the next few days while your skin heals.
Do Stay Out of the Sun
Once you notice your skin is burning, it’s time to get out of the sun. The damage from sunburn is more than skin deep, and the danger goes deeper than a few days of lobster jokes from friends and family members. If you’re on vacation, out-and-about, and can’t just take refuge inside during the sun’s peak hours, which are daily from 10 am to 4 pm, cover-up. Your skin will reject anything tight, so avoid heavy layers and stick to shady areas next to buildings, under trees, or on the beach with a sun umbrella. Drape a towel over your head. If possible, lightly cover your head and body with a damp cotton material that’s light and cool on the skin. For tips on how to avoid the sun, speak with your dermatologist.
Do Protect Any Blisters
When your skin starts to blister, it’s not a good situation. Blisters mean you have a second-degree burn and it will take longer to heal and you have to be more careful to reduce the chances of developing an infection. Protect these areas, try not to let them rupture, and avoid picking at the skin. If you think you’ve developed an infection, contact your dermatologist.
The sun zaps the moisture out of your skin. After spending time in the sun, whether or not your skin is burning, you’ll need to rehydrate it to restore that moisture. Additionally, hydrating will reduce your skin’s healing time. Avoid gels or creams with a “cooling” effect, such as menthol that will dry out your skin more. Although it feels great at first, these will make it take longer for your skin to heal. The easiest way to quickly increase moisture is by drinking more water. For the first day or two after the sunburn, double your daily water intake to help your body recover from the trauma.
Do Apply an Aftercare Lotion
Apply a thin layer of lotion or cream intended to repair skin. Look for products that contain a broad spectrum of vitamins and minerals that help your skin heal. Although aloe vera is an excellent ingredient, your dermatologist will agree that after a sunburn, your skin needs extra help to get healthy again. Another tip to consider, don’t apply thick balms. These are ideal for protecting your skin from further damage, but they don’t allow it to breathe and can clog pores, increasing healing time. Blocking pores can also lead to other problems, such as acne outbreaks and skin infections. In addition, hydrocortisone creams are available over the counter and can help reduce swelling and pain.
Don’t Ice a Sunburn Directly
You can calm the inflammation by using a cool compress, but make sure to wrap it in a cloth. Applying ice directly to the burn can increase damage, pain, and healing time. In addition to a cool compress, you can also take a cool or room temperature bath or shower to help with the discomfort. You don’t need to limit bathing to once daily. If it’s helping reduce pain and inflammation, take a few. However, avoid water that’s too hot. This includes staying out of heated pools and hot tubs while your skin is healing. Hot water will increase the pain, inflammation, and possibly cause further damage to your skin. If hot showers are still a problem a week or more after your sunburn, contact your dermatologist.
Don’t Skip the Anti-inflammatory Meds
It’s okay to take anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen to reduce inflammation and pain following a sunburn. Continue to do this for a day or two following the burn. But don’t take more than recommended. For questions or concerns with swelling or pain, speak with your dermatologist.
Don’t Smother a Sunburn
The day of and for a few days after your sunburn, wear light, loose clothing. Restrictive shirts, pants, and other items can further irritate your skin. If you must be out in the sun while your skin is still healing, use an SPF 30 or higher sunscreen to avoid further damage. Like aftercare products, avoid thick and heavy sunscreens after a sunburn. Your Southlake, TX dermatologist can also recommend a brand or suggest SPF-blocking clothing to wear, such as hats, shirts, and activewear that will help protect you during your morning run or for an afternoon in the sun with friends.
Don’t Avoid Your Dermatologist
If you have blisters covering a large area or you’re experiencing extreme pain, nausea, chills, headaches, or a fever, contact a medical professional. Additionally, if the symptoms don’t improve after a week or increase, seek immediate medical attention. Other signs of infection include swelling, red streaks, and yellow pus draining from any blisters.
While sunburns are common, practitioners know that the more often they occur, the greater your chances of developing deadly skin cancers. Even with regular checkups and proactive skin care methods, 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by age 70. Experts have determined that having five or more sunburns in your lifetime doubles your risk of developing melanoma. If you have concerns or haven’t had an annual screening, contact Compassion Dermatology your Southlake, TX dermatologist for the next available appointment.