Preventing and Treating a Sunburn: The Right Way!

Sep. 28, 2020
With summer nearing an end in the U.S., many of us are soaking up some of our last full days outdoors before hunkering down for colder weather. We are squeezing in amusement park trips, camping, road trips, and in my case, a final kayaking trip! You may have noticed that by spending this extra time in the sun, you are getting a final sunburn too. Or, depending on where you live in the world, you may be approaching the thick of summer now!
Sunburn occurs when prolonged exposure of UVA and UVB rays rapidly damage skin cells in the epidermal layer. Inflammation occurs, causing pain and redness which gradually darkens into a tan for most. We develop a tan as a defense mechanism against the sun, as melanin-rich skin is naturally more resistant to sun damage. Fair skin tones are more susceptible due to the lack of natural melanin. Understand though, darker skin tones still need to wear sun protection. No one is immune to skin cancer. Many people will get what is referred to as a “base tan” from a tanning bed before a vacation in an attempt to prevent a burn. You will likely still get burnt from a tanning bed, and it’s just as damaging, if not more, to your skin. I don’t recommend it in the slightest. Prevention is key!
Ideally, you wouldn’t get burnt in the first place. Here are some tips to help prevent it.
1. Sunscreen
Almost all of us know the importance of wearing broad-spectrum sunscreen every day, but some of us don’t follow through as much as we should. Always wear sunscreen on exposed skin. If you will be in direct sunlight, getting wet, or sweating, make sure you reapply generously every 2 hours. Here's a useful chart to help you figure out how much SPF to apply for different areas. You can always follow the 2 finger rule for your face and neck as well!

Helpful tool: How Much SPF to Apply to Your Body.

Biore UV Aqua Rich ~$14.47 USD and Neutrogena SheerZinc ~$10.97 USD

*Pro Tip:  Wear SPF even on cloudy, rainy, cold, or snowy days. Sun damage doesn’t cease just because you can’t see the sun. Although it may seem excessive, I preach (and practice!) wearing SPF every day, all year round. It’s the best way to prevent skin cancer and early aging.
*Pro Tip:  Make sure to apply to your chest, neck, eyelids, ears, top of hands, and back of the neck, as these places are delicate and get forgotten about often when applying SPF.
2. Sun Protection Clothing
If you are especially prone to burning, even when wearing sunscreen religiously, you may want to invest in sun protection clothing. Of course, you’ll want to apply regular sunscreen as usual first. Sun protection clothing will just give you an extra layer of defense. You can find almost every article of sun protection clothing you could need. Short and long sleeve shirts, pants, gloves, hats, and even masks now!
*Pro Tip: Some women I know like to keep a pair of gloves in their car and wear them while driving (which I find genius). This prevents sun exposure while your hands are on the wheel!
3. Hats
Hats are one of the easiest ways to give extra cover to the delicate skin on your face. Wide-brimmed hats are not only stylish but can prevent a burn altogether! Combined with sunglasses, a good hat can prevent you from squinting your eyes, which causes crow’s feet and lines between the eyebrows.
Once you’ve gotten a sunburn, it can be hard to ignore. Here are some of the best ways to assist in the healing process.
1. Cool the Affected Areas
Just like with a typical burn, cool temperatures can give you some relief from the initial pain that accompanies sunburn. Take cooler showers as to not irritate the skin further. Alternatively, you can run a washcloth under cold water and gently hold it on burnt areas. It will also feel amazing on your sensitive, inflamed skin.
2. Aloe Vera
The popularity of aloe for sunburnt skin isn’t just marketing. Aloe is a natural antioxidant and is abundant in vitamins, amino acids, fatty acids, and enzymes, all of which help reduce inflammation in the skin. This means it will soothe pain, reduce redness, and hydrate to promote the healing process. I like this one from Amazon because the ingredients are straightforward, and it's a huge bottle for a fair price.
*Pro Tip: Vitamin C is also a great antioxidant, one that can help heal damaged skin faster. Layer a Vitamin C serum or another antioxidant-rich serum under your SPF to help your sunscreen work to its full potential! 
3. Don't Pick at Your Skin
Severe sunburns usually come with peeling or flaking skin, blisters, and itchiness. If you do experience these side effects remember that touching your skin excessively will just make the burnt areas more irritated. Don’t pick off flaky skin- let it fall off on its own. And keep the area moisturized. Blisters may burst, just be sure to clean the area and if possible, apply an antibiotic ointment and cover. Itchiness can be resolved by taking an antihistamine, like Benadryl. 
4. Stay Out of The Sun
After a burn, one of the worst things you can do is get more sun damage! The sunburn will deepen in its severity and linger. It can be hard to avoid the sun completely, especially on vacation, so I’m not saying to miss out on activities. Just be sure to pay extra attention to your sun care routine, and double up on some methods of prevention if you can!
5. Change Up Your Skincare Routine
In the days leading up to sun exposure, you will want to limit the use of exfoliants, acids, and products that perpetuate cell turnover. Things like Retin-A or glycolic acid make your skin so much more sensitive to the sun. Cut these out of your routine a couple of days (a week or more would be ideal) before spending extra time outside. Introduce them again only after your sunburn is fully gone. Adding them back in too soon will really aggravate your already vulnerable skin. Hydrate internally and topically to strengthen the skin before and after sun exposure. This moisturizer from Mazi Miami combines antioxidants, squalene, peptides, hyaluronic acid, and Vitamin C making it perfect for post-sunburn or any other irritations.

Mazi Nutritious Multi-Effect Moisturizer ~$58 USD

Use this link ~ for a discount!
Final Thoughts
Good old-fashioned Vitamin D is an essential contributor to our well-being and serotonin levels. Even though us estheticians and dermatologists preach heavily on the dangers of the sun, I truly believe in its role in my happiness. Enjoy the sun, enjoy the outdoors, and enjoy your vacations to the fullest. Just remember to always take the extra steps to protect your skin so a sunburn doesn’t slow you down! 
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