DiscoverHealth

Man with sunburn relaxing in a pool

Burn out

“You’re sunburned!”

Anyone who spent a little too long out in the sun and didn’t wear or reapply sunburn. You feel five degrees warmer than usual and your soft cotton shirt resting on your shoulders causes your skin to screen.

And on top of all that, you are apt to have strangers approaching you and stating the obvious that your skin is lobster red.  

While you deal with this annoyance, here are some ways you should and should not ease the pain of your burning, painful skin.

Do:

  • Take an anti-inflammatory medication such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
  • Drink lots of water so you aren’t dehydrated and to cool down your body temperature.
  • Rub in a topical anti-inflammatory like 1 percent hydrocortisone cream to curtail the inflammatory.
  • Apply cool compresses of water or water plus milk to soothe and further decrease inflammation.
  • Apply a bland, over the counter moisturizer to keep the skin hydrated. This will help keep your skin from drying out, peeling and being itchy during the healing process. Aloe is also good for sunburns but avoid alcohol-filled gels that will dry out the skin.
  • Take a cool oatmeal bath.

Don’t:

  • Pick at blisters or peeling skin. This could lead to infections or scars.
  • Put sunscreen on your burn the day that you burned. Some believe this will stop your skin from “cooking” further. However, chemicals in sunscreen, such as zinc oxide, may prove to be more damaging.
  • Put butter on your burn. This will make symptoms worse. If you’re dead set on using a home remedy, dabbing cool water, witch hazel, cool milk, tea bags, or oatmeal on your skin can be soothing.
  • Go out in the sun. Stay out of the sun and wear sunscreen until your sunburn heals.
  • Try for a “healthy tan.” When the sun changes the color of your skin, that is an injury to your skin—regardless if it’s red or tan.