The recent UK heatwave has arrived with many of us heading out into the sun to finally enjoy a much-needed summer.
With temperatures sitting in the mid-to-high twenties, it can be easy to burn in this weather, especially when our bodies aren’t quite used to the summer rays beaming down on us.
We’ve all been there – heading indoors after a long day in the sun – only to look in the mirror and discover you’ve burnt yourself badly.
Whether you’ve burnt a little or a lot, we’ve put together the best ways to treat sunburn.
We’ve also collected some dermatologist’s big ‘things to avoid’ when treating sunburn – so you don’t end up causing yourself more damage and discomfort.
Best ways to treat sunburn
Cool down the skin
Cooling the skin down is the first step to recovering from sunburn, not only does it provide pain relief it also helps bring the body’s temperature down.
The best way to do this is to use a cold compress, using a flannel soaked in cold water, a bag of frozen peas from the freezer or some ice packs in a towel to hold against the skin.
Another way is to take a cool shower and then add a cold compress afterwards – you could even try using a wet towel to cover more of the body.
Cooling the body down helps to reduce inflammation and relieve pain.
Once the body has cooled down the skin needs to repair and recover, which is the time to moisturise the skin.
An aloe vera aftersun or moisturiser has proven to be the best soothing remedy to help cool and moisturise the skin when it needs it most.
Some people use pure aloe vera gel directly from a plant – this has been shown to be the best course of action as it provides 100% aloe vera – whereas some moisturisers have a smaller percentage in the ingredients.
Moisturising the body will prevent the skin from peeling or cracking.
After suffering from sunburn it is important to rehydrate your body.
According to research, dehydration is the main affect of sunburn, as the skin has decreased moisture after long exposure in the sun.
To hydrate, drink plenty of water, have a cold drink with ice or carry a water bottle around with you to ensure you continue to drink.
Experts also encourage you to avoid alcohol as this actually dehydrates you more – so step away from that tempting glass of Pimms!
If you’re really struggling with the pain and need some more relief, take some painkillers. This will also help to reduce the swelling.
According to experts anti-inflammatory painkillers such as ibuprofen are the best painkillers to help reduce swelling and pain from sunburn.
Paracetamol can also be used to help ease the pain.
Make sure you keep your sunburn covered from any direct sunlight if you’re heading outdoors again.
Stay in the shade where possible and avoid sunbathing anytime soon – or until your sunburn has fully recovered.
Wearing a hat can also help keep your head cool in the sun as well as providing some shade on your face.
What not to do to treat sunburn
Do not use viral remedies
Dermatologists are warning people to avoid viral TikTok remedies on how to treat sunburn.
Home remedies such as bathing in a tub of vinegar to help recovery are just some of the viral hacks people believe to help with sunburn.
Dr Catherine Borysiewicz, consultant dermatologist at the Cadogan Clinic said “this is a dangerous treatment for sunburn and should be avoided at all costs.
“Not only will it cause drying of the skin but it can also damage the skin’s barrier, creating further pain and inflammation and hence delaying skin repair.
“Undiluted vinegar can also cause further burning.”
Avoid products that dry out the skin
Another viral home remedy included is the mouthwash Listerine.
It seems that people are spraying the lurid mouthwash onto the body from a bottle in a bid to reduce burn stinging.
Experts state that the ingredient used in mouthwash such as alcohol and benzoic acid can lead to the skin drying out and could also result in further redness and itching.
Health expert Steph said “While the menthol or eucalyptol in the mint flavours may have cooling properties, it’s the 26.9 per cent alcohol content in the original flavour, plus ingredients such as benzoic acid, that are problematic.
“That’s because repeated or prolonged exposure to either product can result in drying or cracking of the skin as well as redness and itching.
“You’d end up back at square one.”
Avoid the sun
Whilst some of us may shrug off the after effect of our sunburn, not paying too much attention to it and wanting to head back out in the sun, Dermatologist experts say this is the last thing we should do.
Dr Catherine explains that this could cause further damage to the skin and could lead to sunburn blisters which happen after severe burning.
“Blistering is a serious stage of sunburn and may require medical treatment.”
Also adding “If venturing outdoors with sunburn, ensure the affected areas are adequately covered.
“It can take weeks for the skin to properly heal and re-exposure will only cause further damage and delay cell repair.”
Do not pick peeling skin
However tempting it may be to pick away at that peeling skin that occurs after the aftermath of sunburn, Dermatologists urge people to avoid this, as its the natural way our bodies remove the damaged skin cells.
Explaining Dr Catherine said “Let the skin heal – don’t peel!
“Resist the urge to peel away the flaking layers of dead skin after sunburn as this will expose raw, fragile skin which could become infected.
“Instead, let the skin heal and regenerate and continue to moisturise regularly to ease any itching.”
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