What can I say? I wish I didn’t have to write this post at all. But even when you have the best intentions when it comes to sun protection sometimes you can still get a sunburn. Hopefully once you’ve had one sunburn you’ll remember to religiously use your sunscreen in order to prevent another one because sunburns are actually a very dangerous injury to the skin, a massive trauma. According to Allure “getting just six sunburns in your lifetime will increase your chances of developing melanoma by 50 percent”.
What is a Sunburn?
According to Dr. Ellen Marmur in her book Simple Skin Beauty (page 145):
The reason your skin is hot [after a sunburn] is that the sun is not only cooking you from the outside but also causing your blood vessels to dilate fully. That redness is 100 percent due to increased vasodilation, rushing all of your repair mechanisms to the skin through the circulatory system. When you blister, it’s because there’s a shift of fluid from where it should be, in the cells and blood vessels, to the skin tissue, making it bubble up. A sunburn also kills basal cells, which then lose their ability to grip on to the dermis, and the loosening of the epidermis from the dermis generates blisters too. … To make matters worse, sunburn continues to develop for twelve to twenty-four hours after the initial burn takes place. It’s no wonder that a sunburn (or a lot of them) can lead to skin cancer.
Signs You’re Getting a Sunburn
If you start to feel that your skin is stinging, feels sensitive, or tender you are getting a sunburn. Of course if your skin turns red you have a sunburn.
What to Do Once You’ve Burned
Getting a burn is actually an inflammatory response by the body so consider taking an aspirin (or two) or ibuprofen to help calm the inflammation.
Apply fresh aloe vera to the burn. Aloe has both anti-inflammatory and humectant properties which will help sooth the burn. Be sure to use pure aloe vera. Aloe vera creams and gels can contain alcohol which is drying.
Other anti-inflammatory ingredients that can soothe your burn: black tea (apply by soaking a washcloth in the tea), shea butter, olive oil, cucumber, and allantoin. You can even try hydrocortisone cream.
Drink lots of water since your body loses fluids when you burn.
Stay out of the sun for a free days after your get burned because you are at a risk to burn again.
What NOT to do After a Burn
- Avoid applying topical products with alcohol, witch hazel, menthol, peppermint, calamine, or benzocaine to your burn.
- Don’t apply milk to your burn since the lactic acid in milk can exfoliate the already injured epidermis.
- Don’t apply just plain water to the burn. Once the water evaporates it dehydrates the skin and makes the burn feel worse. Make sure your cold compresses are soaked in aloe or have a cream on them before applying to the burn.
- When you skin begins to peel do not pull on the peeling skin or use a body scrub on it.
Sources and Further Reading:
Simple Skin Beauty by Ellen Marmur, MD – pages 145-146