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    Dermatologists weigh in with tips on how to soothe a painful sunburn

    By Chaffin Mitchell, AccuWeather staff writer

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    At the first sign of redness after being out in the sun's harmful rays, it's crucial to follow these tips that could help soothe your sunburn and help you heal faster.

    Dr. Marian McEnvoy, dermatologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, said if you are red when coming indoors, apply moisturizer right away.

    If you have a sunburn, stay indoors and out of the sun as much as possible, and follow the expert tips below.

    1. Cooling relief

    "You can apply a cool washcloth to the skin for 10-15 minutes a few times a day or take a cool bath or shower to relieve the pain. Moisturizing right after bathing is helpful," Dr. Shari Lipner, assistant professor in the Department of Dermatology of the Weill Cornell Medicine College, said.

    Sunburned at the beach

    Sunburned woman's back at the beach. (jcarillet/iStockphoto/Getty Images)


    Experts said aloe vera either at room temperature or chilled can be soothing. It is best to apply aloe and moisturizers right after a bath or shower when the skin is still moist.

    Lipner said moisturizers may slow peeling and expedite healing of the skin. A cool shower will also help to soothe the skin.

    A lesser known tip to ease a painful burn is to mix cornstarch or baking soda with water. Once it turns into a paste, apply the mixture to sunburned skin.

    2. Avoid irritants that may cause pain, slow healing

    A hot shower will further irritate the skin, can be painful and should be avoided. Avoiding irritants allows the skin to heal faster.

    According to McEvoy, a cool shower may be more comfortable but it will not speed up recovery time.

    "Petroleum should be avoided because it traps heat and can make the skin more painful," Lipner said.

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    Lipner recommends that people avoid applying anything that irritates the skin, including Benzocaine and lidocaine, or can cause an infection. These include hot baths, showers, saunas and steam rooms.

    "The epidermis, the outer layer of skin, normally protects against invading microorganisms. When you get a sunburn, the epidermis is damaged. This makes it prone to invasion of microorganisms, leading to infection," Lipner said.

    3. Drink plenty of water

    Doctors said it is important to stay hydrated after sustaining a sunburn, so make sure to drink water. Dehydration can occur because you lose water from your skin very quickly. That can lead to not only dehydration, but also fatigue and heat stroke in some cases.

    4. Avoid peeling and popping blisters

    "Over the counter hydrocortisone can be helpful if the skin is very irritated. It is best to leave blisters alone so that they can heal," Lipner said.

    Once your skin starts to peel, it is best not to scrub the dead skin off or exfoliate. Sunburned skin is very sensitive, so wear loose clothing that doesn't irritate the skin.

    Skin Peeling off, Strong Sunburn (XXXL)

    Peeling off skin after a strong sunburn. (4FR/Getty Images)


    "Don’t pull off loose skin or remove skin from areas too early in the healing phase," McEvoy said.

    The best way to avoid peeling is by not getting burned; McEvoy said once your skin is burned, the damage is done and it will run its course.

    In order to avoid a sunburn, avoid the sun when possible, apply a broad spectrum sunscreen, cover up with UV Protection Factor clothing and wear a hat with a wide brim and sunglasses.

    A sunburn can strike even if you are in the water, shade or wearing thin clothes, so it is best to avoid being in the sun or stay in a shaded area if you must be outside. Sun rays are able to reflect off surfaces.

    "Reflected rays from water and concrete increase risk," McEvoy said.

    Experts recommend if you have or develop a severe sunburn reaction, including blisters, rash or fever, seek medical attention.


    For more safety and preparedness tips, visit AccuWeather.com/Ready.

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