You wake up early on a sunny 64-degree morning and decide to start your day by going outside. After throwing on your favorite tank top, you head out to do some yard work. By the time you’re done pulling weeds from your flower beds, you’re sweaty, tired, and red all over. You got sunburned. Although minor sunburns don’t seem that harmful, it is important to treat them to prevent more severe burns in the future. Here’s the scoop on how to treat your sunburn as you navigate through life this summer.
Take a Cool Shower
Hot water will worsen your burn by making it go deeper. Help treat your sunburn by taking a cool shower instead. This will soothe your skin and wash away any salt or chemicals from your sunscreen that could worsen your burn. Cool water will also remove heat from your skin, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).
Apply Aloe Gel
Although there is limited scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of treating sunburns with aloe, the gel-like substance found in the leaves of aloe vera plants has been used for hundreds of years to treat sunburns. The AAD says you should treat your sunburn with lotions that contain aloe vera. However, the AAD website warns against lotions that contain petroleum, benzocaine, or lidocaine because “things with petroleum trap the heat in your skin… and benzocaine and lidocaine can bother and irritate your skin.”
For best results, use plain aloe vera gel. You can put the bottle in the refrigerator and chill it for a little extra relief.
Use Sunscreen & Cover-Up
Of course, an easy way to avoid having to treat your sunburn is to prevent yourself from getting one in the first place. Next time you go outside, make sure to apply sunscreen over your burned areas so that they don’t continue to burn. According to the American Cancer Society, you should use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. If you’re going swimming, wait 10 minutes after applying sunscreen before getting wet. Otherwise, the water will just wash off the sunscreen.
In addition to applying SPF, staying covered is one of the best ways to protect yourself from the sun. When you’re not in the pool, wear a light-weight swimsuit cover or drape a towel over your shoulders. When you’re working outside or out doing errands, keep a light long-sleeved shirt tied around your waist so that you can slip it on if you feel like you need some added protection from the sun.
Take an Oatmeal Soak
Oatmeal works well as an anti-inflammatory and can be added to a cool or lukewarm bath to help soothe and soften your irritated skin (there’s a reason why oatmeal is a popular skincare ingredient). To prepare your bath, pulverize about a cup of dry oats in a food processor or blender to create a fine powder. You may also be able to find pre-ground, colloidal oatmeal at your local drugstore. Next, add the oatmeal powder to your bath water and take a nice soak in it for about 20 minutes. Be sure to towel yourself off gently when you’re done, patting yourself dry rather than rubbing.
By applying sunscreen and staying covered in the sun you can prevent sunburn and protect current burns from getting worse. If you are burnt enough that your skin starts peeling, don’t mess with it. Just keep the area clean and moisturized so that the new skin underneath is healthy. By taking these steps to treat and prevent sunburn this summer, you can reduce your chance of getting skin cancer.