With summer fast approaching, there is no way of hiding tell tale signs of sun exposure and sunburn in our skin spot clinics! Despite slip, slop and slapping we have all been caught out at one time or another. Sunscreens wear off from both direct light and from oils produced on the skin, this is why it is very important to reapply sunscreen every hour and after swimming.
A sunburn is an actual radiation burn of your skin. The ultraviolet light from the sun damaged the DNA of your skin cells, triggering these cells to die . The dead cells trigger release of inflammatory signals called cytokines that lead to redness, swelling, and pain. The dead cells will slough off in a few days leading to peeling and often uncomfortable itching. The degree of sunburn depends on the amount of damage to the skin. There is no “cure” for a sunburn, it simply has to run its course. So although it is not fun (and can be a little scary) to see your skin turn the colour of an angry lobster, don’t despair there are ways to ease the pain and heal the damage which you can start doing at home.
Severe sunburn with extensive blistering and pain, headache, nausea/vomiting, dizziness, fever and chills are all warning signs and if you experience any of these you should contact your doctor immediately.
- seek shade as soon as you start to think you might be overdoing it
- apply cool compresses and moisturisers such as:
- Eucerin Calming Cream or Aloe Vera gel. Put them in the refrigerator for a few hours before applying to your burn. You can make compresses at home with ingredients that you may already have. Make sure they are cool, as this will help relieve the pain.
- Brewed and cooled black tea
- Cucumbers made into paste
- Oatmeal soaked in water and strained
- Mix 1 cup of fat-free milk with 4 cups of water
- Lay the cool compresses over the affected area for 20 – 30 minutes.
- take an anti-inflammatory such as Ibuprofen or Aspirin. These stop inflammation and reduce the amount of redness and pain
- try to lower your body temperature with cool baths and Aveeno Colloidal Oatmeal. The oatmeal is both a soothing anti-inflammatory and a moisturizer, which are the two things your skin needs most.
- stay hydrated
- take a hot shower or slather on petroleum as they will increase heat.
- use any products with synthetic ingredients or fragrances, your burned skin is fragile, so don’t irritate it.
- use any acids or peels, save those treatments for when your skin isn’t raw and super sensitive.
- pop blisters. They form a protectant seal on your skin; if they tear, the sensitive under layers of skin will be exposed. . Don’t peel off the dead skin either; rather let it slough off on its own in the shower
- use numbing sprays such as benzocaine. Although they can feel great when applied, they are notorious for causing allergic contact dermatitis.
And finally if your sunburn is blistered…
A blistered sunburn means that you’ve got a second degree burn. As tempting as it is to pick at or pop them, leave blisters alone.
- Clean the area without using soap.
- Apply cool, water-only compresses to the area
- If the blister pops, use an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment to keep the area from getting infected.
- Change dressings for blisters regularly, and keep the area clean.
- Wear loose, cotton clothing to reduce the risk of accidentally breaking open a blister.