Summer is for time spent up north, family grilling, warm nights, bonfires and ... sunburn. Unfortunately, even when applying sunblock religiously, UV rays can penetrate through and leave you with a painful burn.
While sensible sun exposure is necessary to prevent vitamin D deficiency, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing and increase your risk of skin cancer, wrinkles, or just general discomfort.
A sunburn is defined as inflammation of the skin caused by overexposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight. This occurs when the sunlight hits your unexposed body which causes a release of melanin, the natural protective pigment in the skin. People with fairer skin have less melanin, while those with darker skin have more. As the sun rays damage the skin, the skin creates more and more melanin to try to combat this damage which causes the skin tone to change … to red. This redness can turn into a tan IF peeling of the skin is avoided. With that said, you should never get a sunburn in effort of achieving a tan!
Now how do we treat that itchy, burnt, red skin? Here are some conventional methods to try
· Take cool baths or showers to help with the inflammatory response. When you are drying off, leave a small amount of water to the skin and apply a moisturizer to trap water and increase your skin hydration. I prefer Aquaphor!
· Aloe vera has properties that help alleviate sunburn
· Conventional pain relievers such as ibuprofen can help decrease the sunburn inflammatory response and alleviate pain and discomfort
· Drink extra water! Dehydration can occur with any burn. Make sure you’re getting enough electrolytes!
· If your skin blisters, this means you have second degree burns. Leave the blisters alone. It may be worth seeking medical treatment at this point!
What about some more natural methods to try?
· Aloe Vera and Coconut oil are moisturizers that help to improve a sunburn. Aloe vera is sold by the bottle or you can use an aloe vera leaf, splitting it open, and applying the sap to the burn. (Keep the leaf or bottle in the refrigerator, you’ll be glad you did)
· Hydration! There is a reason this made the list twice. To heal sunburn quickly, you’ll need to hydrate from the inside and out. In addition to your water intake, try consuming foods with a high-water content such as oranges and watermelons. These fruits are also high in vitamin C to help promote healing. Coconut water is a great drink that is high in electrolytes. Avoid consuming anything inflammatory such as alcohol, sugary food, or refined carbs.
· Essential oils such as peppermint oil act as a natural analgesic (painkiller) and helps soothe the burnt skin by providing a cooling sensation
Prevention is key! None of the above will apply if you can stop the sunburn from occurring in the first place.
· Protection from rays. Spend time in the shade or if you’re in the sunlight, wear clothing or hats to protect the skin.
· Apply a natural mineral based sunblock. Be careful of some of the ingredients in sunscreen. Look for Zinc Oxide as the main ingredient! Avoid sunscreen with oxybenzone. Choose one with a SPF of 10 to 50. Sunblock should be reapplied every 60 minutes or sooner if you are swimming or sweating.
· Stay hydrated with water and avoid drinking alcohol
· Avoid foods that are pro-inflammatory such as refined carbohydrates, alcohol, sugar, or seed/vegetable oils.
· Decrease exposure. Spend short intervals in the sun rather than extended periods of time. This is a good thing to produce a melanin response and synthesize vitamin D while lowering the risk for burns
Sometimes no amount of the above can prevent a sunburn, especially when you’re having fun in the sun. If your sunburn is extensive, you have blisters covering more than 15% of your body, or you spike a fever or are dehydrated, it is time to seek medical care. Come in and see us, sometimes an IV is needed to get you feeling better!
No one likes sunburns but hopefully these tips can make the experience more bearable and even boost your skin health as well.
Your Health. Simple.
Matthew Bach PA-C