Caring for Sunburned Skin- Here in San Diego we get a lot of sun… beautiful, glorious life giving sunshine. We have to love it! There is just one problem. Too much of a good thing can be bad – really bad and painful in this case. Now we know the best defiance is a good offense. That’s especially true for sun damage. It’s not easy to reverse. Once the damage is done it’s done. I won’t bore you with all the ways to prevent sunburns- that’s a post in and of itself. This post is about what do to if you forget everything you know about sunscreen and end up with a burn.
First determine how sever your burn is. Most sunburns fall under the first degree burn category, This means that the burn has damaged the first layer of skin, and has not moved into the lower layer of the dermis. The skin will be red, painful and maybe even a bit swollen, but there won’t be any blisters. If your skin begins to blister you have a second degree burn. Many times even a second degree sunburn can be treated at home just as you would a first degree burn. Special care will need to be taken with the blisters to avoid infection. If you are treating a person who is very young, very old, or has an immune deficiency you should consult a doctor because there could be dangerous complications. Watch out for chills, confusion, loss of consciousness as this can be life threatening.
For normal sunburns at home treatment can be administered to minimize pain and speed healing. Here are 5 tips for caring for your skin and to help avoid peeling.
1.) Hydrate. That sun burn has caused you to loose a lot of water. You need to take care in the next few hours to rehydrate your body. This will help blood flow to the area speeding healing, and will reduce headache and other dehydration symptoms that you may be feeling. Sunburns can also cause you to loose a lot of heat, so hot tea may help keep your body at the right temperature. Avoid caffeine, sugary drinks, and alcohol because they will only dehydrate your more.
3.) Cool it down- You may feel very cold but your skin is still burning and can continue to burn for hours after exposure. To limit this take a luke warm or cool bath or shower. You can drink warm liquids to stay warm on the inside while cooling the skin. You may also find that cooling gels such as Aloe gel make your skin feel better. Avoid greasy moisturizers in the first 24 hours because they will trap heat. Also watch out for skin cooling gels that contain chemicals that may irritate your skin, and move into your blood stream
2.) Keep Skin Moisturized- For the first 24 hours moisturize with Aloe gel after that you can use more oily moisturizers. My favorite is coconut oil. Its extremely moisturizing, its all natural, and has antibacterial properties. Keep the skin from drying out in the next 7 days to avoid peeling.
3.) Avoid friction – You will certainly know this if you try to wear basically anything while you are burned, but friction is not good for your damaged skin. Wear Loose clothing – even underwear can cause pain and irritation to sunburned skin. The more you can reduce friction the lower your chances of peeling, as friction is just more irritation for your already irritated skin.
4.) Keep it clean- Keep your sunburned skin clean but avoid harsh cleansers. You can even just use coconut or olive oil while in the bath or shower to cleanse and sooth the skin while cleansing it. Sunburned skin is at an extra risk for infection so take care.
5.) Avoid re-exposure- When your skin is sunburned its especially susceptible to further burns. A secondary burn can turn a manageable first degree burn into a severe second degree burn in a matter of minutes. Its best to use hats, clothing and shade to limit the sun exposure. If you use a sunscreen avoid those with chemicals that may irritate skin. Instead go for zinc sunscreens that can actually help your skin heal.
6.) Once skin is healed gently exfoliate the dead skin, and don’t let it happen again!
By following these steps you can ensure that your skin heals itself without scaring. All sun exposure, even if there is no “burn”, causes damage. Watch marks and moles for signs of melanoma. Laser treatments such as IPL can help remove discolorations and sun spots caused by sun damage. To help remove peeling skin on the face and neck contact me about a Microdermabrasion. If the skin has healed enough it could be a good way to get back to normal.