There’s no way around it, sunburns freaking suck. And unfortunately they can happen, even if you’re an avid SPF user.
For example, I slather sunscreen on like there’s no tomorrow, but yesterday before heading out to Central Park I accidentally missed covering my entire forearm. It was about 80 degrees, there was not a cloud in the sky, and I have to admit that I didn’t reapply in the four hours that I was outdoors. Shame on me, I know.
So, you can imagine that when I got home and saw my beet-red right arm that seemed to have acquired its own heartbeat, I was seriously annoyed that I got sunburned.
See, I told you it can happen to even the most diligent sunscreen wearers. But now what?
We called up Paul Friedman, M.D., a cosmetic dermatologist in Houston, Texas and author of Beautiful Skin Revealed: The Ultimate Guide to Better Skin, to find out just how to treat these unsightly (and uncomfortable) sun souvenirs. Here’s what he said.
“Symptomatic treatment is important, since there is no topical product that will block the sunburn reaction,” says Friedman, so heed this advice:
1. Cool the skin with cold compresses. This will help with pain relief and stinging, he says.
2. Take a cool bath sprinkling baking soda, oatmeal, or cornstarch into the tub. These three ingredients will help soothe the burnt skin.
3. Apply a topical anti-inflammatory solution. Look for calamine lotion, Aloe Vera, or hydrocortisone cream, as they’re help heal the sunburn quicker.
4. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen or aspirin.These inhibit prostaglandins, the mediators of sunburn, says Friedman, so they help calm any redness or pain associated with the burn.
5. Rehydrate the skin. Use a soothing emollient cream will help nourish parched skin. Sunburns draw moisture to the skin’s surface away from the rest of the body, he explains.
6. Avoid the sun. However sometimes it’s unavoidable, so if you have to be in it, apply a sunscreen that contains both a UVB and UVA filter (and remember to reapply!).
Note: If the aftermath of your burn proceeds to worsen, contact your doctor immediately. Otherwise, these tips above should do the trick!