Whether it’s a small patch or large bubbling blisters, getting sunburn hurts, and it’s certainly no fun for anyone. It can make your skin red and tender, occasionally causing uncomfortably large patches of dead skin to peel up. And even though sunburns are common, many don’t know how to treat them and often wait for them to heal on their own. To help you avoid any more unnecessary pain, here are the dos and don’ts of treating sunburn.
Do: Use Cool Water
While your first instinct may be to put ice or an ice pack on the burn, don’t! When you use ice, the blood vessels constrict, deepening the burn and causing further tissue damage. Instead, use cool water, as it is cold enough to ease inflammation without being too cold and causing more issues. If it’s a small burn, use a cool compress, or step in a cool shower for larger burns.
And on the topic of water, it’s important for you to stay hydrated. Not just because you’re likely dehydrated from being in the sun, but water is a critical component your body needs to produce new and healthy skin cells.
Don’t: Stay in the Sun
This may go without saying, but once you notice a sunburn, you need to get inside as quickly as possible to prevent further damage. If you can’t get inside, cover yourself with light clothing or a towel, as you’ll want to avoid any coarse material rubbing against the burn. You can even drape a cool towel over your body for some relief.
Do: Take OTC Pain Medication
Over-the-counter pain medications can help reduce the tenderness and inflammation that comes with a sunburn. Medications with ibuprofen or acetaminophen will work best. Avoid taking more than the recommended dose, as this can put other parts of the body at risk, such as the kidney or liver.
Don’t: Use Numbing Creams
Because pain relief will likely be your first goal, you may want to reach for medicated numbing creams that contain active ingredients such as benzocaine. However, benzocaine and other numbing agents can cause more irritation and, in some, allergic reactions.
Do: Use Healing and Protective Ointments
With any wound, you want to give your skin the best chance at repairing its cells while protecting the damaged area from bacteria and dirt. Aloe vera has many skincare benefits and is the most common treatment used for sunburns because of its high water and lipid content. The water helps hydrate the skin, while the lipids help new, healthier skin cells to form and repair bonds. It also comes in thicker, gelatinous forms that act as a barrier to keep bacteria out of the wound.
It’s important to note that these are just some of the dos and don’ts of treating sunburn. The most important “don’t” you have to look out for is not paying attention to serious symptoms. Seek medical attention if blistering is covering large portions of the body, you can’t find any relief, or you’re experiencing any symptoms of heat exhaustion, such as nausea and dizziness.