Anyone who’s ever suffered sunburn (whether mild or severe) knows that the fiery feeling of inflamed skin is one we’d all rather avoid. Your skin is irritated and itchy, it hurts to take a hot shower and wearing clothes feels like a curse.
And aside from the pain, another (hugely) negative side effect (that we hardly ever think about) is the irreversible, permanent damage done to our skin.
“You can’t reverse the skin DNA damage that resulted from excessive sun exposure,” says Dr. Cynthia Bailey, a board-certified dermatologist and the President and CEO of Advanced Skin Care and Dermatology Physicians. “Sunburns increase your risk of getting melanoma, the potentially deadly type of skin cancer.”
Bailey says that even just one “blistering” sunburn before the age of 18 can double your risk for melanoma, which is why her top treatment tips always first emphasize prevention.
“Prevention is really important,” she says. “The best treatment is prevention.”
Of course, sometimes even your best efforts at protecting your skin from the sun fall short; maybe you missed a few hard-to-reach spots, forgot to reapply or simply dismissed the need for sunscreen altogether (which you should never do, because everyone always needs sunscreen).
When the uncomfortable effects of these slip ups start to show up in the form of red, irritated skin there’s almost nothing you wouldn’t do to make it go away immediately.
Unfortunately, there’s no quick “cure” for sunburn. There are things you can do (and habits you can avoid) to help soothe the pain, but for the most part, you just have to grin and bear it until your skin heals itself.
However, while you’re slathering up with aloe on an hourly basis and waiting for the redness to dull down, you can use the following tips to help aid the healing process and soothe the pain.
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AspirinAccording to Bailey, sunburn is the result of inflammation, which is why she first and foremost recommends using aspirin to help reduce redness and ease some of the pain. “It will help fight some forms of inflammation, but it needs to be taken prior to or immediately after the sun exposure before the redness has gotten really bad,” she says.
This requires supervision and a prescription from your personal doctor, but Bailey says that when applied within six hours of the sunburn, prescription topical cortisone creams (which she notes are only to be used on certain areas of your skin) can help provide some relief.
Pure Aloe Vera Gel
If you’ve ever suffered a sunburn before, chances are you’ve used aloe vera to help cool down your skin and subdue some of the pain. Bailey says that it can reduce inflammation and help to relieve some of the discomfort but that you should never use an aloe product made with topical anesthetic ingredients like benzocaine or lidocaine. “They can cause an allergic skin rash that will make your skin both hurt and itch at the same time,” she says.
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