NEW YORK — A sunburn is your skin cells’ reaction to damage from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about the long-term harm a sunburn inflicts on your skin cells’ DNA, but there are remedies to soothe your skin in the short-term.
KEEP YOUR SKIN (AND YOURSELF) HYDRATED. It’s important to drink lots of water when you have a sunburn because “the increased blood flow to your skin” can cause you to lose fluids, said Dr Jennifer Holman, a dermatologist at United States Dermatology Partners in Texas.
For the skin itself, keep the burn cool and moisturised. Take a cool shower or bath or use chilled compresses on the area. But skip the ice packs.
NEXT, APPLY A GENTLE MOISTURISER TO THE BURN. Experts are divided on whether you should opt for a thick or thin lotion. Some recommend creams that contain ingredients like ceramides or petrolatum, which trap in moisture.
However, Dr Jesse Lewin, an associate professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, cautioned that thicker lotions could also trap in heat, and advised using a thinner, water-based option instead.
BE GENTLE WITH PEELING SKIN AND BLISTERS. If you have blistering, keep the area clean with soap and water. If blisters are causing a lot of discomfort, experts say it’s OK to drain fluid with a sterilised needle, but do not rip the blister off.
Your skin is your first line of defense against bacteria and other pathogens, and exposing the tissue underneath can make you vulnerable to infection.
DON’T MAKE IT WORSE, AND DON’T WORRY TOO MUCH. The vast majority of sunburns aren’t acutely dangerous. The only times you might need to see a doctor are if you have a fever (it could indicate heat stroke), or if a young child gets a severe sunburn (they’re at greater risk for dehydration).
As your skin heals, make preventing another sunburn a high priority. Try not to worry, though.
A sunburn does increase your risk of skin cancer, “but it doesn’t mean destiny,” said Dr Adewole Adamson, a dermatologist and assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School.
Fear of sunburns shouldn’t “prevent people from doing healthy activities, like being outside.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.