If there’s one thing we’re willing to get redundant about here at Allure, it’s sunscreen. But we get it — even a religious devotion to your SPF doesn’t make you totally immune to the sun’s harmful rays. So, we asked the experts how to treat (and prevent) a sunburn on the off chance you get burned.
A sunburn is the result of your skin getting too much exposure to damaging ultraviolet rays — especially the dangerous UVB rays from the sun, Shari Marchbein, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, tells Allure. “Sunburns may seem temporary but can cause long-lasting damage to the skin by significantly increasing the risk of skin cancers, wrinkles, and sunspots,” she says.
Since sunburns are relatively commonplace, it’s easy to think getting scorched isn’t really that bad. But research shows that even one bad burn has a significant impact on your risk for developing skin cancer.
“Having five blistering sunburns can increase your risk of developing melanoma, which is the deadliest form of skin cancer, by 80 percent,” says Marchbein.
In a perfect world, you’d be so slathered in SPF you’d prevent 100 percent of sunburns (and even tans), Marchbein says. But since sun happens, here’s how to treat a sunburn if you get one.
When you get a sunburn, UV light causes inflammation in the skin similar to what you might get from a thermal burn from the oven,” Joshua Zeichner, the director of cosmetic and clinical dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital and a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, tells Allure.
“That’s why it’s important to hydrate the skin and help repair the skin barrier as quickly as possible,” he says. The easiest way to do that is from the outside-in. For the most skin-soothing effects, look for a moisturizer containing aloe, like Vaseline Intensive Care Aloe Soothe Lotion, which helps calm burned skin.
Hydrating from the inside-out can also help treat a sunburn. “A sunburn draws fluids to the skin’s surface away from the rest of the body,” Marchbein explains. To compensate, drink plenty of H2O.
2. Decrease swelling
You can also treat a sunburn by reducing inflammation from the inside-out, Zeichner explains. Popping an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pill (like Advil) can help reduce swelling and redness, plus help you deal with any pain.
3. Protect any blisters
If your burn blisters (which makes it a second-degree burn) it’s important to keep any blisters from popping. “Leave them intact and do not rupture or peel them,” Marchbein cautions.