- Summit Medical Group Web Site
- 1. Take a cool bath or shower.
- 2. Apply aloe.
- 3. Use an ice pack or compress.
- 4. Drink lots of water.
- 5. Don’t pop any blisters.
- 6. Protect against further damage.
- 7. Try over-the-counter medications.
- Shop Sunscreens
- Six simple steps to reduce sunburn pain
- 4 Ways to Treat a Painful Sunburn
- The best ways to prevent and treat a sunburn
- Drugstore sunburn remedies
- Sun Safety: What to Do Before, During & After Sun Exposure
- Before Sun Exposure
- During Sun Exposure
- Sunburn Care
Summit Medical Group Web Site
What is sunburn?
Sunburn is the redness, soreness, itching, and sometimes blistering that occurs after your skin has too much exposure to the ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun or a sunlamp.
What is the cause?
You may become sunburned when:
- You stay out in the sun too long without enough protection from sunscreen or clothing.
- You are in the sun when sunlight is most intense, usually between the hours of 10 AM to 4 PM.
- You take medicines that make your skin more sensitive to the sun.
- You live or travel in an area where sunlight is more intense, such as in the tropics or at high altitude, or you are exposed to reflection of sunlight from water or snow.
It doesn’t have to be hot or even sunny for you to become sunburned. You can get sunburned when it’s cloudy.
What are the symptoms?
One of the problems with sunburn is that you may not have any symptoms until a few hours after you have been burned. The symptoms are:
- A feeling of heat
- Mild to severe pain to the touch
- Blisters in severe cases
Within a couple of days, your skin may itch. In about a week the skin may peel.
There is a form of severe sunburn called sun poisoning. It appears to be a total body reaction to the sunburn. It can cause symptoms of fever and chills, nausea, headache, dehydration, and lightheadedness.
How is it treated?
It may help to:
- Soak in a cool bath. It may help to add bath products containing oatmeal to help decrease itching and the burned feeling.
- Put cool, moist cloths on the sunburned skin several times a day.
- Take an anti-inflammatory medicine, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen. It will help the sunburn be less painful. It may also lessen the damage to your skin, especially if you start taking it when you first suspect you are sunburned.
- Check with your healthcare provider before you give any medicine that contains aspirin or salicylates to a child or teen. This includes medicines like baby aspirin, some cold medicines, and Pepto-Bismol. Children and teens who take aspirin are at risk for a serious illness called Reye’s syndrome.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, do not take for more than 10 days for any reason.
- Put aloe vera lotion or another moisturizing lotion on your skin 3 times a day until your skin looks normal again.
- Put calamine lotion on your skin to lessen the itching.
- Take antihistamine tablets, such as Benadryl, for itching. Taking the tablets may make you drowsy. Do not drive or operate machinery or equipment while you are taking this medicine.
- Use hydrocortisone cream up to 4 times a day on the burned area to help relieve redness, burning, and itching.
If you have just a few shallow blisters, treat them like a minor household burn. You can apply some antibiotic ointment, such as bacitracin, and then cover the blistered area with a bandage.
Don’t try to open the blisters. Let them open on their own, when the underlying skin can better protect itself from infection.
If you are not sure about how severe your blisters are or whether they are becoming infected, check with your healthcare provider. Signs of infection are increased redness or pain, and yellow discharge from the blisters.
If you think you may have sun poisoning, you should follow the treatment for sunburn. Be sure to also drink plenty of fluids, such as water, juice, and tea. Don’t drink alcohol.
How long will the effects last?
The symptoms of sunburn usually worsen 24 to 48 hours after you are burned. The symptoms gradually go away over the next few days.
Sunburn causes long-term damage to the skin. Redness alone is the same as a first-degree burn. Redness with blistering is a second-degree burn. Both types of sunburn are harmful to the skin and over time increase the risk of skin cancer. Blistering burns increase the risk of malignant skin cancer (melanoma) by several times. This is especially true if you have severe sunburns 3 or more times when you are a teen or young adult.
Too much sun exposure, even without sunburn, also causes the skin to age faster. Wrinkles, sagging, and brown sunspots develop at an earlier age.
When should I call my healthcare provider?
Call your provider if you have any of the following symptoms:
- You have a headache and fever that are not getting better with acetaminophen or an anti-inflammatory medicine.
- Most of your skin is covered with blisters.
- You have pain that is getting worse 1 to 2 days after the sunburn.
- You have yellow or green pus draining from the blisters.
- You have red streaking from blisters toward the center of your body (a sign of worsening infection).
- Your face is swollen.
- You have confusion or disorientation.
- You are not making much urine or your urine is dark colored.
How can I help prevent sunburn?
There are many ways and many products to prevent sunburn. To prevent sunburn:
- Don’t stay out in the sun for a long time, especially if you are fair skinned and burn easily. Remember that you can become sunburned even on cloudy days and even if you are a brown-skinned person.
- Try to stay out of the sun during the times of most intense rays, usually 10 AM to 4 PM.
- Use sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 or greater. The lighter your skin, the higher the SPF you need. Healthcare providers recommend an SPF of at least 30 if you are very fair skinned. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. It’s best to put the sunscreen on your skin 30 to 60 minutes before you go out into the sun. Put sunscreen on your skin every 3 to 4 hours while you are in the sun. If you are playing in water or sweating a lot, put more sunscreen on every hour or two.
- Protect the lips with a product that contains PABA.
- You may want to use zinc oxide ointment on a sunburned nose to completely block the sun’s rays.
- Wear protective clothing: hat, sleeved shirt, and long pants.
- Be especially careful if you are at high altitude or vacationing in the tropics, or if the sun’s rays are being reflected by water, sand, snow, or concrete.
- Do not use sunlamps or tanning booths. They are promoted as using mostly ultraviolet A (UVA), but both UVA and ultraviolet B (UVB) cause skin damage. UVA actually penetrates more deeply into the skin than UVB. Both UVA and UVB cause sunburn, aging of the skin, and skin cancer. A tanning booth “pre-tan” does not protect against sunburn if you are traveling to an area of intense sun (which can include high-altitude mountains as well as tropical beaches).
Sunlight also damages the eyes and increases your risk for certain types of vision loss or blindness when you get older. Wear sunglasses that provide 100% UV ray protection.
Letting down your guard and going in the sun is like being on a blind date: Things seem fine enough until—oh God, it’s so painful. Relieve a sunburn, prevent it from happening again, and as for that guy going on about his ex? You’re on your own with that one (sorry).
Make the stinging stop. Sunburned skin is inflamed, and cold brings down inflammation—that means a cold shower is one of the fastest ways to soothe a sunburn. It’s even better if you cool off as soon as you notice the sunburn. If you’re out, move into the shade (obviously), grab an ice cube from a drink, and run it over areas that are red.
Pop a pill. Another way to reduce swelling and ease the pain? Ibuprofen, which dermatologists recommend taking ASAP after a burn.
Use the minibar. Don’t know about you, but sunburns make us want a stiff drink. JK (kinda). We’re talking about chilling a travel-size after-sun lotion or gel, which work best when they’re cold. Look for one with skin-soothing aloe, like Sun Bum Cool Down.
Hydrate, and then hydrate some more. We mean that two ways. One: Drink up, since you lose more fluids when you’re recovering from a burn. Two: Moisturize twice a day to minimize peeling and discoloration. But if you’ve ever made the mistake of using a scented lotion on sunburned skin, you already know it stings. Stick with fragrance-free lotions for sensitive or even eczema-prone skin (they often contain ingredients like ceramides that replenish your skin’s natural oils, which are literally peeling away). We like SkinFix Body Repair Balm for the body, Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisture for Sensitive Skin for the face, and good old Aquaphor.
Put anti-aging formulas on pause. Using them risks irritation. Resume when your skin returns to normal.
Next time, play it safe. “Sunscreen builds up in your stratum corneum, so if you apply it daily for three weeks before a beach vacation, you’ll be less likely to burn,” says Jeannette Graf, a dermatologist in Great Neck, New York. When you’re out in the sun, wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 50 or higher and reapply it every two or three hours or after you swim or sweat (whichever comes first). Skip face and body oils—just like tanning oil, “they reflect light,” says Graf.
Ditch the aviators. Metal frames reflect enough light onto your cheeks to make them burn (weird, right?). Wear plastic frames on the beach, and reapply sunscreen frequently to your cheeks if sunglasses make you sweaty (sunscreen breaks down fastest on oily skin, says Graf). Other areas that need frequent reapplication (meaning more often than every two hours): Your chest, preexisting sun spots, and the highest points of your face, like your cheekbones and nose. “The nose is especially vulnerable and one of the most common areas for nonmelanoma skin cancers,” says Graf.
Get covered. When you apply sunscreen, make sure to slather it on the spots most people miss: around the nostrils, above your lip, next to your armpits, and on the tops of the toes. And keep in mind that spray sunscreens don’t cover as evenly as lotions (which are your best bet). But if you’re not willing to give up sprays, mist your entire body twice and you’ll be more likely to get even coverage.
Don’t fall for base tans. Your sun-worshipping friend is wrong. Sun damage is sun damage, and a light tan 100 percent cannot protect you from the sun. In fact, base tans may even increase the risk of sunburn, according to a survey of 165 college students conducted by researchers at the University of Arizona.
Don’t underestimate the importance of sunscreen. We know you’re well aware of the importance of sunscreen. But it’s so critical, this bears repeating: The sun is responsible for up to 90 percent of lines and wrinkles. And even though skin cancer is largely preventable, it’s still the most common form of cancer in the U.S.
Your Sunburn Gets Worse Even After You’ve Left the Sun
Allure Editors’ Favorite Sunscreens
6 Sunscreen Solutions…for Those Who Hate Sunscreen
We get it: Everyone can be a little careless with the SPF from time to time, yet no one wants to walk around with a bright-red sunburn, peeling skin, or icky-looking blisters. Those awkward tan lines alone provide enough incentive to reduce inflammation ASAP.
The bad news: While the color may eventually fade, a sunburn causes lasting damage that’s impossible to “get rid” of. Repeated exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun’s rays increases your risk of skin cancer, not to mention premature aging, the Mayo Clinic states. Even one blistering sunburn during childhood or adolescence can nearly double a person’s chance of developing melanoma, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).
The good news: Plenty of home remedies can help promote healing and reduce discomfort in the short term. Here’s how you can make that redness go away faster, plus some of top-tested sunscreens from the Good Housekeeping Institute that will save your skin the next time around.
1. Take a cool bath or shower.
Keep the temp low and then lather on moisturizer as soon as you get out, the AAD advises. The cool H20 may help relieve the pain and reduce inflammation, and the lotion will help trap moisture in and ease dryness.
2. Apply aloe.
There’s a reason why it’s the go-to after-sun product. Pure aloe vera gel — whether out of a bottle or straight from the plant — contains cooling and soothing properties. It can also potentially promote wound healing, according to the Mayo Clinic.
3. Use an ice pack or compress.
Wrap ice in a cloth before applying it directly to your skin, or soak a washcloth in cold water or milk and place that on the burn. The vitamins and antioxidants in milk can help your skin heal, says dermatologist Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, M.D., medical director of Mudgil Dermatology in Manhattan and Long Island, New York.
MORE TIPS FOR SUNBURN RELIEF
4. Drink lots of water.
A sunburn draws fluid to the skin and away from the rest of the body, according to the AAD. Rehydrate by downing plenty of H20. (That doesn’t include margaritas though; alcohol can make the problem worse.)
5. Don’t pop any blisters.
Severe and widespread blisters require a doctor’s attention, but if you get a few, leave ’em be. Opening them up makes them vulnerable to infection, the AAD says. If they pop naturally, the Mayo Clinic advises cleaning the open wound with mild soap and water and covering it with antibiotic ointment and a bandage.
6. Protect against further damage.
If you need to go outside again, wear clothing that covers your skin and stay in the shade. Don’t forget to apply lots of sunscreen as well — at least a shot glass-full for the body, a nickel-size dollop for the face, says GH Beauty Lab Director Birnur Aral, Ph.D.
7. Try over-the-counter medications.
The pharmacy aisles can also help with the healing process, if you reach for the right stuff:
- Take aspirin or ibuprofen: An OTC pain reliever like Advil can help reduce swelling and discomfort, the AAD says.
- Rub on a hydrocortisone cream: A mild topical steroid like Cortizone-10 may speed up healing, according to the Mayo Clinic.
- Don’t apply “-caine” products: Topical anesthetics like benzocaine may further irritate the skin and even trap heat in. No good.
While you’re letting your aloe soak in, shop these favorite sunscreens and stash a bottle in your beach bag, car, purse, and other key spots. Then don’t forget to apply a lot of it, often!
Kiehl’s Activated Sun Protector™ Water-Light Lotion SPF 50 kiehls.com $29.00 Australian Gold X-treme Sport SPF 50 Spray Gel Sunscreen amazon.com Neutrogena CoolDry Sport Sunscreen Lotion SPF 70 amazon.com $8.99 Banana Boat SunComfort Sunscreen SPF 50 amazon.com $10.59 Caroline Picard Health Editor Caroline is the Health Editor at GoodHousekeeping.com covering nutrition, fitness, wellness, and other lifestyle news.
Six simple steps to reduce sunburn pain
As heat waves begin to sweep across Britain, the British Skin Foundation (BSF) has issued further advice on what to do if you get sunburnt.
Consultant dermatologist and BSF spokesperson, Dr Anjali Mahto explained: “Sunburn causes direct damage to DNA resulting in inflammation and death of skin cells. The risk is higher at altitude, and sunburn in childhood or adolescence can double the risk of developing melanoma in later life.”
Here are Dr Mahto’s six simple steps to reduce the pain from sunburn.
1. Keep it covered
Cover up the affected areas and stay in the shade until your sunburn has healed. Wear loose cotton clothing that allows your skin to “breathe” over the sunburnt areas.
2 Take over-the-counter pain relief
Analgesia or painkillers can help relieve the pain and reduce inflammation caused by sunburn. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen are ideal and should be continued for a period of at least 48 hours if there are no contraindications. Paracetamol will help with the pain but has little effect on inflammation.
3 Cool the skin
Apply a cool compress to the skin e.g. a towel dampened with cool water for 15 minutes, or take a cool bath or shower. Aim to keep the temperature just below lukewarm. Make sure the shower has a gentle flow of water rather than being on full power. If blisters are starting to develop, then a bath is preferable. Do not rub your skin with a towel, but gently pat it dry when you get out.
4 Reduce peeling
After a bath or shower, use an un-perfumed cream or lotion to soothe the skin. Repeated applications of this are necessary, possibly for several weeks. Aloe vera or soy-containing gels or lotions can be beneficial in soothing the skin. Using a weak steroid cream such as 0.5-1% hydrocortisone for 48 hours may decrease pain and swelling, but this is best avoided for small children. Be wary of using creams or lotions that contain petroleum, benzocaine, or lidocaine. These can either trap heat in the skin or cause local skin irritation.
5 Leave blisters alone
Try not to pop blisters as this can lead to infection and scarring. They will settle by themselves after a few days. In the meantime, treat the skin gently.
Sunburn can encourage fluid loss through the skin. Drinking plenty of water will prevent dehydration and help your body recover. Alcohol should ideally be avoided during this time as it will make dehydration worse.
4 Ways to Treat a Painful Sunburn
In a perfect world, you would not need to use the sunburn treatment information listed in this article, because you would never get burned. But the reality is you’ll likely get sunburned at some point, so it’s important you know how to treat it to limit damage and discomfort to your skin.
It goes without saying that repeatedly burning your skin will damage it beyond the temporary redness, swelling, and peeling sunburn causes. Too much exposure to ultraviolet light can cause long-term damage to your skin and increase your chance of getting skin cancer – the most common form of cancer in the U.S.
Treating a Sunburn
When you first notice your skin is burned, get out of the sun. It sounds obvious but many people stay in the sun and let their skin continue to burn. If you don’t want to go indoors, find shade, sit underneath an umbrella, or put on protective clothing such as a hat or long sleeves.
Once you’re indoors, treat your sunburn right away to limit the pain. Depending how severe your burn is, you may or may not need to use all of the treatment options below.
1. Place a cool, damp cloth on the burn or take a cool bath or shower. Cooling down your skin can pull some of the heat out of it. After a bath or shower, let your skin air dry or gently pat it down – avoid rubbing it. Immediately apply a moisturizer. Continue to cool your skin a few times daily for 15-20 minutes until it feels better.
2. Apply a soothing and moisturizing cream or lotion. Products with aloe vera or soy are good options. Continue applying it until the sunburn fully heals. The American Academy of Dermatology offers these tips about using creams and lotions:
- Avoid petroleum jelly or other ointments that completely block the skin from getting air and that trap heat in.
- Skip products with benzocaine or lidocaine that can irritate the skin – especially in children.
- Use over-the-counter hydrocortisone ointments to reduce pain and itching on bothersome areas if needed.
3. Take an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever. OTC pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil), aspirin, and naproxen can give you relief from pain, redness, and swelling. Whichever medication you choose, follow the instructions.
4. Stay hydrated. As burns heal, they may pull fluid from the rest of your body. Because of this, it’s important to drink extra water. Be especially careful if your child gets sunburned. They’re even more likely to get dehydrated after a sunburn.
As your skin starts to heal, take extra care of it. This means staying out of the sun until the redness and pain goes away, wearing loose, protective clothing, and avoiding heavily scented skin products or sprays. And despite the urge you get, don’t pick, peel, or rub the burned area, especially if it’s blistered.
Most of the time a sunburn will not require medical attention. But if you develop symptoms like chills, extreme fatigue, fever, nausea, skin discoloration, or blistering from a burn that covers a large part of your body, such as your back or arm, seek medical attention.
The best ways to prevent and treat a sunburn
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Drugstore sunburn remedies
Examples of Drugstore remedies: Solarcaine Medicated First Aid Lotion; Advil Tablets; Cortoderm Hydrocortisone Ointment 0.5%; Tylenol Regular Strength; Vaseline Original Petroleum Jelly
How they work: “Tylenol or Advil can help with the pain of a sunburn,” says Bonertz, “but Advil may be more effective because it also helps reduce inflammation.” It contains ibuprofen, an NSAID that prevents cells from releasing the prostaglandin compounds that cause pain and inflammation; Tylenol features acetaminophen, which lowers the brain’s perception of pain. “I also encourage the use of a bland, soothing ointment such as Vaseline petroleum jelly after the skin has cooled down, which helps the skin heal with less chance of scarring,” adds Kalia. Topical hydrocortisone, available over the counter in up to a 0.5 percent concentration, is a steroid that may reduce swelling, pain and itching (which occurs as the skin heals). The menthol and camphor in Solarcaine can also be soothing and relieve itchiness; the lotion also contains lidocaine, a local anesthetic that can be effective at temporarily reducing pain if applied over a small area (but some people may be allergic to it).
Need to know: Follow package directions when taking Advil and Tylenol, which will start to reduce pain (and in the case of Advil, inflammation) after about 30 minutes. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking them if you are pregnant or breastfeeding; are taking another medication; or have high blood pressure, a stomach issue such as ulcers, or a heart, liver or kidney condition. Apply a thin layer of topical ointments such as Cortiderm or Solarcaine three or four times daily, but never on broken skin.
July 6, 2011 — Sunburn is one of the summer’s most enduring stings, leaving a sore, red, peeling patch long after the day’s rays give way to cooler nights. Ointments and Aspirin can help soothe the sear. But the pain, part of the body’s plea for shade and sunscreen, is inevitable.
That could change.
British researchers have discovered a molecule responsible for the persistent pain caused by sunburn, offering hope for a treatment that could one day block it.
“It wasn’t known before that this protein was implicated in any kind of pain,” said Stephen McMahon, professor of physiology at Guy’s Medical School in London. “If you wanted a cure for sunburn pain, we may have found that.”
The protein, called CXCL5, was elevated in painful sunburns. And blocking the protein’s effects in a rat model of sunburn relieved the pain. The study was published today in Science Translational Medicine.
But McMahon, a long time pain researcher, thinks blocking sunburn pain is a bad idea.
“Pain plays a protective role,” he said, explaining how the sensation alerts its victim to looming danger. “Stopping pain is not necessarily a good thing.”
Sunburns are the body’s response to ultraviolet radiation, which kills some skin cells and permanently damages the DNA of others, sometimes leading to skin cancer later on. In an attempt to save the damaged cells with oxygen and nutrients, the body pumps more blood to the skin, turning it red. And the swollen blood vessels ooze plasma, causing blisters.
“By the time you see your skin turning pink, it’s almost too late,” said Dr. Darrell Rigel, dermatologist at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. “The damage has already happened.”
That damage, Rigel said, is impossible to undo.
“The best thing you can do is protect yourself from the sun,” he said. “Wear a broad-brimmed hat, avoid being outside when the sun is at its strongest, and use sunscreen. We know those three things together lower sunburn risk and subsequently lower the risk of skin cancer.”
But the sun is sneaky. And even those who protect themselves fall victim to the odd pink shoulders or red feet. Rigel shared these tips for beating the pain and protecting the tender skin after a getting burned:
Take an Aspirin
Aspirin is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory that acts directly on chemicals known to play a role in sunburn pain. It will work better than acetaminophen.
Keep It Cool
The burn will release heat because of the increased blood flow. Sunburn creams that contain menthol will cool the skin.
Stay Hydrated, Moisturized
Damaged skin loses its ability to retain water. Drink lots of water, and use a heavy moisturizer like Vaseline. Avoid using topical anesthetics or antihistamines, which can lead to reactions on the newly exposed, immature skin.
Resist the Urge to Peel
Normally it takes about 28 days for the cells at the base of the skin to work their way to the surface, where they die and are shed as individual cells. But when that process is packed into fewer days by a burn, the cells have less time to separate from their neighbors, and tend to come off in sheets. Let this happen naturally. Peeling the skin can leave a scar, and can even lead to an infection.
Stay Under Cover
If you have a blistering sunburn, you should stay out of sun for a week. The skin is already damaged and more sun will make it worse. If you have to go out, wear a hat and protective clothing. The best protection comes from fabric that is wooly, dark and a tight weave — not ideal for 90 degree heat. But new synthetic fabrics are light weight, quick to dry and offer up to 50 SPF.
The tops of the feet, shoulders, nose and ears are the body parts most often missed during sunscreen slathering.
You can be more on top of your sunscreen game than a Kardashian is with contouring, and yet somehow, some way, the sun will find you—always at the most inconvenient time and in a way that’s so brutal you swear you’re never going to step outside again.
So even though we’ve already armed you with our best sunscreen recommendations and warned you that (like these poor souls) you’re probably putting your sunscreen on wrong, accidents obviously happen. It’s a long summer ahead. Prepare yourself for the worst by knowing how to treat a bad sunburn—and cover up the damage.
How to treat sunburn:
Stepping into the shower after a sun-filled day can feel like setting fire to your skin, but this is actually the perfect time to fast-track the healing process. Before you do anything else, recommends dermatologist Francesca Fusco, pop an aspirin or Tylenol to immediately reduce inflammation and help with pain management. Then take a cool shower and wash the burn with an aloe-vera-based cleanser like Naturopathica Aloe Cleansing Gel to remove grime and any sunscreen residue on your skin.
Once the area has been cleaned, apply a cold compress soaked in a mixture of milk and ice cubes to topically ease sore skin. “The cold temperature, the protein in milk, and the pH level will have a soothing and drawing-out-the-heat effect on skin,” Fusco explains. Try to do this immediately after a shower to combat pain before it really gets bad.
How to prevent sunburn from peeling:
Now that you’ve treated the area, your skin needs moisture—stat. To stop skin from flaking and peeling, slather on lotions that contain ceramides and antioxidants like vitamins C and E. For burns that need deep moisture, celebrity makeup artist Pati Dubroff, who works with Margot Robbie, recommends applying a thick moisturizer like Weleda Skin Food Cream before putting any makeup on your skin. If this feels too rich for you or you have oily skin, try Excipial 10% Urea Hydrating Healing Lotion instead to soothe and soften the damage before it gets a chance to peel.
How to color-correct the redness:
If you’re not about that tomato look, it is possible to keep a sunburn under wraps—you just need the right products. But perhaps to your surprise, foundation isn’t one of them. Even if it’s hard to do so, fight the urge to put it on, and instead begin with a light application of green-tinted color-correcting primer. Because green neutralizes redness on your skin, dab it onto the places that burned the most (most likely the bridge of your nose and under your eyes). Just don’t layer it on too thick. Sheer is the way to go; otherwise it’ll look caked-on.
How to conceal sunburn and tan lines:
First, step back and take a look at where your burn is the most noticeable. That’s where you’ll be applying a light layer of tinted moisturizer to further help tone down redness. Dubroff says to stick with cream-based makeup instead of powders, since powders are mattifying and could draw more attention to the areas you’re hoping to hide. “A sheer tinted moisturizer with luminosity properties that’s one shade darker than your original skin color, presunburn, works much better than any full-coverage foundations,” she says.
If your sunburn is less of an allover situation and more of a spot-treatment job, dab concealer onto only the reddest parts of your face. “Use a concealer with a yellow undertone on parts that are super-burned to help blend it in,” Dubroff says. Translation: If you fell asleep with sunglasses on at the beach, dab concealer around the red ring surrounding your eyes to blend it into the rest of your skin color.
Big skin-care news: A study has found that UV damage to the skin continues for hours after you’ve left the sun and that melanin—the pigment that gives skin its color—may be contributing to this damage.
The study, conducted by researchers at Yale University and published in the journal Science, is groundbreaking for a few reasons. A breakdown of the most noteworthy findings: “When you go to the beach and sunlight hits your arm, it makes the kind of DNA damage that causes melanoma mutations within a second,” explains Douglas E. Brash, a senior research scientist in therapeutic radiology and dermatology at Yale School of Medicine (and the lead author of the study). “This is so fast that about all you can do is prevent it with sunscreen or a hat, or hope that your body repairs the damage afterward. We discovered that in addition to this instantaneous damage, the cells continue to make DNA damage for hours afterward. What’s really exciting is that this happens through a kind of chemistry seen before in fireflies but not in mammals. UV rays trigger free-radical chemistry that excites an electron in a fragment of melanin to a very high energy. The energy goes into DNA and causes damage.”
It’s been commonly understood that fair-skinned people—those of us with less melanin—are more sensitive to sunlight (and more prone to sunburns and skin cancer), which made sense since melanin has long been known to block harmful UV light. But if melanin is also responsible for damaging DNA, as the study suggests, does that imply that those with darker skin tones are more prone to sun damage? Not exactly. “The melanin does indeed block UV light, as we always thought. But it is also doing something harmful. This is evidently the best compromise that evolution could come up with; on balance it is better than doing nothing. Second, yellow melanin, which is present in those with blonde or red hair, is worse at blocking UV light and better at making delayed DNA damage. So the trade-off is poorer for yellow melanin,” says Brash.
But it’s not all bad news. In fact, these new findings suggest that it’s possible to fight sun damage after exposure—meaning if you accidentally overdid it at the beach or missed a spot with your sunscreen, you’re not completely helpless. It might be possible to prevent sun damage even after sun exposure through the use of post-sun sunscreens. “Because there’s continued DNA damage in the evening, the study suggests that perhaps antioxidants should be used at night,” says Joshua Zeichner, the director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “Traditionally we recommend antioxidants in the morning and daytime to prevent damage, but perhaps given this data we should be incorporating them in the evening as well.” Zeichner recommends looking for antioxidant ingredients, like vitamin C, ferulic acid, vitamin E, resveratrol, and phloretin, which help combat free-radical damage and could therefore theoretically help with this type of post-sun-exposure damage. (A few of our favorite antioxidant-rich picks: SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF and DermaDoctor Kakadu C 20% Vitamin C Serum with Ferulic Acid & Vitamin E.)
For more on protecting skin from the sun, watch:
Sun Safety: What to Do Before, During & After Sun Exposure
The American Cancer Society reports that skin cancer is the most common type of cancer and that more than 3.5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed yearly, more than all other cancer types combined.
Not only are most skin cancers preventable, but the sun also damages more than just the skin. Fortunately, many options exist for enjoying the sun and being protected from its harmful rays. Apply these tips to help you enjoy the sun, be safe from harmful UV rays, and recover from sun damage.
Before Sun Exposure
- Avoid Sunburn – Sunburn and tanning are both just short-term effects of sun damage. Long-term effects include premature skin aging, loss of skin elasticity, dark patches, pre-cancer, and cancer. Avoid sunburn and tanning whenever possible.
- Apply Sunscreen – While sunscreen does provide protection from the sun, it does not provide 100% protection against UV rays. To get the full benefit of sunscreen, first, read labels before buying to ensure choosing the best protection possible. Second, understand what the numbers on the bottle mean. Third, note the expiration date on the sunscreen and act accordingly. Finally, apply sunscreen liberally. Approximately a palmful provides adequate protection, and follow product directions for reapplication.
- Check Medications – Many medications increase sun sensitivity and burning rate. A doctor or pharmacist can tell you if your medicine makes you more susceptible to sun damage, but know that antibiotics and acne medications are common culprits.
Understanding what the SPF numbers mean will help ensure choosing the best protection possible
During Sun Exposure
- Wear Protective Clothing
Cover as much skin as possible, especially the longer you are in the sun. Some clothing now comes with sun protection factor, but any clothing you can’t see the sun through blocks at least some of the harmful rays. There are even products you can buy that are used in washing machines to add UV protection to clothing.
- Wear a Hat
Hats with 2-3″ brims all the way around provide sun protection to the head and neck. While most people wear either a baseball cap or a straw hat, keep their limitations in mind. A baseball cap, for instance, does not protect the neck and ears, and straw hats tend to have loose weaves that let sunlight through to the skin.
- Wear Sunglasses
Sunglasses that block UV rays not only protect eyes from sun damage, they also protect areas around the eyes. Ideal sunglasses should block 99-100% of UV rays. Dark sunglasses aren’t naturally better because the sun protection comes from an invisible coating applied to lenses, and large-framed and wrap-around sunglasses provide the most comprehensive protection. Finally, realize that a sunglasses price doesn’t predict its ability to protect eyes. In fact, a wide range of sunglasses in various prices and features all protect eyes from the sun. Always make sure sunglasses are labeled as blocking 99-100% of UV rays.
- Seek Shade
When the sun’s rays are at their strongest, no amount of sunscreen or clothing provides total protection against sun damage. At times, the best protection is seeking shade. Remember that when you can’t see your shadow, the sun is at its strongest.
Applying aloe vera gel can help alleviate the discomfort and aid healing
Sometimes, even though we do our best to prevent sunburn something gets missed or forgotten. The result: painful sunburn. When this happens, take action to alleviate the discomfort and aid healing. Standard methods include taking a cool bath, applying aloe vera gel, taking anti-inflammatory medication and applying moisturizing cream. If the sunburn is severe enough for blisters to develop, see your doctor.
Taking the proper precautions goes a long way in preventing sunburn as well as its short and long-term effects. The post “Sun Safety: Special Considerations & Additional Thoughts“ will bring this discussion of sun safety full circle by discussing some unique situations and elements that need to be considered to truly be safe in the sun.