Health Tips

How to Treat a Sunburn Before it Hurts

treating sunburn

There’s nothing good about sunburn – it hurts, it does not look great, and most of all it accelerates the aging of your skin. Sunburn is a leading cause for developing skin cancer, which despite being very prevalent among types of cancer, is actually very preventable.

More than 33,000 emergency room visits occur each year in America due to sunburns. While some sunburn will no doubt require a visit to a medical professional, there are steps you can take at home to help improve the situation. Not to mention pre-cautions you can take in the future to prevent your next sunburn.

Why is sun-burned skin red and painful?

Melanin is part of the outer layer of your skin and helps defend against the sun’s rays by darkening or tanning your skin. However the amount of melanin your body produces is based on genetics, so if your body has a shortage of melanin you will find your skin becomes sunburned more quickly.

While this does depend on how long you are out in the sun, pale skin tends to burn the fastest.

Your skin peels as your body tries to rid itself of the damaged cells. If your sunburn is mild, it may only take 3 to 5 days for the skin to have healed. In more severe cases it may take a couple of weeks.

How can I reduce the painful burning feeling?

Get out of the sun as soon as possible. Even if it has become overcast or your skin is only pink (not red), you are still at risk of furthering your burn. Sunscreen and clothing to cover your body are best if you can not yet go inside out of the sun.

Once you are out of the sun, take some of the following precautions as soon as you can:

  • Get lots of sleep – doing so will help your body better manage the inflammation that takes place.
  • Use aloe vera – the substance found inside this plant can help moisturize skin and reduce peeling.
  • Take a cool bath to soothe your skin
  • Use cool towels on your skin to keep the most affected areas of skin cooled
  • Drink water to prevent dehydration
  • Consider Hydrocortisone (over the counter) to decrease itching if needed

Keep in mind that while sunburn may seem like a temporary condition, it can have long-term effects particularly if you get burned frequently. If you have more than 5 sunburns in your lifetime, the Skin Cancer Foundation says you double your chances of developing melanoma.