Everyone’s been there—splashing in the waves, sand between your toes and, a few hours later, sore, throbbing, crimson-colored skin. Sunburns are the worst! Not only do they cause physical pain and irritation, but the long-term effects can be very damaging. Sunburn is evidence that UV radiation has damaged your skin’s DNA and cells. Continued damage can lead to aging skin, weakened cells and in severe cases over time, skin cancer.
How does sunburn happen?
The red, burned appearance of skin occurs when capillary walls open, allowing white blood cells to rush in and remove damaged cells. Increased blood flow and capillary stimulation causes skin to feel hot. And that stinging pain? It’s the result of damaged cells releasing chemicals that activate your body’s pain receptors. Nerve endings send signals to your brain.
Once you’re sunburned, there’s no going back. The only thing you can do is to focus on healing, recovery and soothing the pain. Here are five ways to feel better:
Create a cooling wrap
Fill a bowl with 1 cup of water and 1 cup of witch hazel. Dip a cloth rag or some gauze in the mixture, and place it on the affected areas of your skin. Leave the wrap on your skin for 10 to 20 minutes and repeat as often as needed for relief. This cooling combo will reduce heat within the skin and provide anti-inflammatory relief.
Look in the fridge
Several ordinary (and unexpected!) items in your kitchen can help relieve the irritation and pain of sunburn. Plain yogurt or milk is loaded with enzymes and probiotics and can be applied directly to a burn to help your skin recover. Cucumbers can be cut up and applied directly to reduce swelling, redness and inflammation. Oatmeal is another excellent source for relief; the polysaccharides from the oats will soothe and repair your skin, while cooling you down and keeping your skin hydrated.
Slather on aloe
Aloe vera is the go-to for sunburn pain, and that’s because it works! Aloe is excellent for relieving many types of skin irritations, from sunburn to bug bites to rashes. In addition, aloe can provide moisturizing benefits, helping prevent that horrid peeling that accompanies sun damage. It also relieves itching and stinging. I recommend applying aloe directly from an aloe plant. Just cut a few leaves down the middle (don’t cut all the way through), then spread them flat and place over your burn. You can also squeeze out the gel from the leaf and spread over the affected area.
Hydrate inside and out
Any time skin is sunburned, fluid is pulled to the skin’s top layer and away from the rest of your body, so dehydration can be an issue. Increase your water intake for a few days, and watch for signs of dehydration such as dry mouth, extreme thirst, headaches and dizziness.
After hydrating within, moisturize topically as well. Apply a body lotion or coconut oil all over, and reapply often to keep skin moist and to prevent peeling. Use a restorative moisturizer for the face, like MyChelle’s Apple Brightening Cream, which is powered by apple plant stem cells and daisy flower extract that work to deliver a luminous and even-toned complexion while antioxidants help restore skin to a healthy, happy state.
Keep an eye out for blisters and infections
If you’ve ever suffered through a severe sunburn, you know the seriousness of treating it. Most sunburns, even those that cause only a few small blisters, can usually be addressed at home over the course of a few days. Most doctors recommend taking ibuprofen as soon as you see or feel signs of sunburn to help reduce swelling and inflammation. But if a blistering burn covers more than 20 percent of the body and/or you experience fevers and chills, contact your doctor or seek medical attention.
Last but not least, learn from your mistakes and don’t repeat bad habits! A wicked burn can take up to six months to heal and for your skin to return to normal. Even though the evidence is gone, the damage remains. You should always use a broad spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher—every day.
For all of your fun outdoor activity, use a broad spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Wear protective clothing, including a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses. Also, seek out the shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. This is when the UV index is at its highest and you are more susceptible to the damaging effects of UVA/UVB rays.