Got too much sun this summer? Here’s the ultimate sunburn skincare guide to finding some relief and getting your skin back on the road to post-burn recovery! From the best at-home remedies to when you should seek outside help, we’ve got you covered. Sunburns happen to the best of us, so the next time you spend a little too much time exposed to the sun and not enough time applying sunscreen keep these tips in mind so you can get your skincare back on the right track.
Let’s be honest, when the summer sun is out, most of us spend as much time as we can outdoors soaking up the Vitamin D. With longer days at our disposal and so much to do, it can be easy to forget the sun care essentials - leading to the dreaded sunburn. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to eliminate all the damage that comes with a burn, and we never recommend exposing your skin to the sun without SPF protection, but we also understand that life (and accidents!) happen. So, we’ve got you covered with the top tips you’ll need to get your skin back on the road to recovery after a sunburn.
Suffering from the after-effects of too much sun? You’ll known soon enough! Appearing as red, painful skin that feels hot to the touch, a sunburn typically shows up within hours of too much UV exposure, along with some additional, unpleasant symptoms that we’ll discuss in more detail below.1 Studies suggest that an increase in melanoma – or skin cancer –, as well as other skin diseases, are linked to repeated sun exposure that results in sunburn, so it’s best to prevent burns from happening in the first place whenever possible.2 This summer, if you find yourself the victim of a sunburn, read on for what to look for and what you can do to reverse at least some of the damage to your skin.
So what symptoms can you expect when it comes to sunburned skin?
- Colour changes: As we briefly mentioned, the most obvious first sign of a sunburn is a change in skin colour. Redness of the skin usually occurs, with peak redness appearing within 12-24 hours after the burn takes place.3 Minor sunburns will usually result in some tenderness and redness, while in more serious cases, blistering could also occur.
- Feverish If your body temperature is at 100.4°F or 38°C or higher after a day out in the sun, consider it a fever!4 Get comfortable while the burn passes by taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen for discomfort, but be sure to follow the instructions on the container so you don’t overdo it.5
- Itching Burnt skin = itchy skin. Relieve the itch with regular topical applications of Aloe Vera gel to keep your skin moisturized as it heals.6 Fresh fluid directly from a plant is best, but if that’s not possible, any after-sun creams or gels that contain it will help as well. In addition, take cool showers and protect the sunburned area from more sun exposure to avoid irritating your skin any further.
- Thirst Dehydration and sunburn go hand-in-hand more often than not. If you’re feeling thirstier than normal, don’t stress – just stay hydrated to avoid the dehydration from getting worse and to speed up your healing process.7
- Nausea Getting a sunburn is no fun, but it might be the perfect excuse to take a sick day …especially if you’re feeling nauseous or chilled. These symptoms usually accompany a fever, so keep an eye on it and rest up if you’re starting to feel a little under the weather.
- Peeling: As your skin heals, you might be tempted to peel your flaking skin off. However, “it’s not a great idea,” says Dr. Rivers. “Peeling off dead skin prematurely exposes skin cells that weren’t ready to be exposed yet, increasing your risk of infection and slowing down the overall healing process.” Instead, you can try gently exfoliating and of course, moisturizing to keep the skin hydrated as it heals.
Sometimes (and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that this never happens to you!), a sunburn may be so severe that treating the symptoms at home just doesn’t offer enough pain relief. If your skin starts to blister, the burn covers a large portion of your body, or your fever symptoms are extreme and cause you severe pain and headaches, it might be time to consult some medical help to aid in the healing process.8 The last thing you’d want to develop is a skin infection, so trust your body and seek help from a doctor if needed!
At the end of the day, sunburns do happen and they’re no fun, so be sun safe and do what you can to prevent it from happening to you in the first place. Repeated sunburns can cause premature aging and wrinkling, and in severe cases, skin cancer, so it’s always worth protecting your skin more than you think is necessary.
Always apply a minimum of broad spectrum SPF 30 to any skin that will be exposed to the sun, and re-apply regularly throughout the day.
- Mayo Clinic. Sunburn Symptoms & Causes. 29 June 2018. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sunburn/symptoms-causes/syc-20355922
- Marks, R. and Whiteman, D. 8 January 1994. Sunburn and melanoma: how strong is the evidence? US National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2539182/?page=2
- Kraft, S. 26 June 2017. Sunburn: Treatments, home remedies, and prevention. Medical News Today. Retrieved from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/176441.php
- Harvard Health Publishing. 30 April 2018. Fever in adults. Harvard Medical School. Retrieved from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/fever-in-adults2
- John Hopkins Medicine. Sunburn. John Hopkins Medicine Health Library. Retrieved from: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/sunburn
- Qadir, I.M. 23 December 2009. Medicinal and Cosmetological Importance of Aloe Vera. International Journal of Natural Therapy. Retrieved from: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/M_Qadir/publication/233818204_Medicinal_and_cosmetological_importance_of_Aloe_vera/links/02e7e526e1457f2af9000000.pdf
- Government of Canada. 07 November 2017. First aid advice for sunburn and heat illness. Government of Canada. Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/sun-safety/first-aid-advice-sunburn-heat-illness.html
- Gibson, L.E. 2008. Sunburn treatment: Do I need medical attention? Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sunburn/expert-answers/sunburn-treatment/faq-20057815