How to Treat a Painful Sunburn

Ahh, Summer. Time to break out the bikinis and sunscreen (hopefully y’all are remembering to slather that stuff on- at least 2 shot glass-full amounts all over the body, paying special attention to the face, particularly the nose and ears) and soak up some SUN. Time for picnics, water sports, hiking, and lounging by the pool, enjoying the outdoors as much as possible.

UH OH! Unbeknownst to you, you’ve acquired a nasty burn out of nowhere all over your shoulders and neck (it only takes about a half hour of sun exposure for fair-skinned people to get a lobster burn) and now it hurts like HELL and you don’t know what to do about it.

To ease the pain of a sunburn and go about your day the best thing to do it to draw the heat out of the burn. Milk works on the skin the same way it works in the mouth (remember the last jalapeno you scarfed and caught your mouth on fire? Milk was your best friend then…) If you soak a cloth in cool milk and apply it as a compress to the scorching parts on your body, it will help draw out the heat and subside the burning pain.

Keep abrasive clothing off the burn site. This just irritates the skin and traps more of that heat in, making the burn even worse.

DO NOT apply lotion to the burn- lotion has oil in it, even sunscreen, and it will act as a nice cover to just set that burn deep into the skin and make the pain even worse. If applying anything, ice-cold aloe vera (the purest form, the better) will be your best friend in easing your burn. When being outdoors for long periods of time, keep a bottle of aloe vera handy (right next to the sunscreen you wish you had put on)- better yet, keep the aloe vera cold in the ice box or keep it in the fridge so when you DO have to apply it you get that nice AHH coolness.

Once you’ve tempered down the burn, APPLY sunscreen all over your body and take this as a lesson learned. If the skin is still heated, mix the sunscreen with aloe vera and apply gently to the burn. Even if it stings like crazy, sunscreen WILL prevent the burn from getting worse.

Keep in mind- there is no way to prevent the burn from blistering and/or peeling. Once you get a burn, your skin will react in these ways, and the only thing you can do about it is just LET IT. Don’t scratch the blisters, don’t rub off the dead skin, don’t pick at it at all. Just let it peel on its own and continue to apply your sunscreen.

Above all, remember that the only way to prevent getting a sunburn is to limit sun exposure and to wear and reapply sunscreen often. Wear a hat and protective clothing, and when in water the sun reflects off the water’s surface and puts the sun damage risks even higher. Check your skin often for burning signs, and keep the burn aides handy just in case.

Sunburns are more than just burning annoyances. Sunburns are sun damage, and prevention is a simple way to keep from destroying your skin. Remember, the best way to avoid a painful sunburn is to not get one in the first place.

AN IMPORTANT REMINDER FOR EVERYONE- SUN DAMAGE CAN CAUSE SKIN CANCER! CHECK YOUR SKIN FOR ABNORMALITIES SUCH AS MOLES, SPOTS, ODD FRECKLES, ETC. IF YOU NOTICE ABNORMAL SPOTS ON YOUR SKIN, SEE YOUR DERMATOLOGIST/DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY. SKIN CANCER MOVES SWIFTLY AND PREVENTION IS KEY, SO KEEP WATCH OF YOUR SKIN AND TAKE MEASURES TO AVOID SUN DAMAGE/BURNS.

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