Sunburn SOS: What to do when your skin is inflamed as hell
If you regularly read PV, you already know how important sun protection is, whether you're frolicking at the beach or just walking around the metro. You probably also know that you have to apply enough sunscreen to get the intended benefits but what if you still end up with a sunburn anyway? How do you deal?
What is sunburn?
While it conjures images of reddened or extremely pink skin that is hot to touch, the golden tan that shows off your bikini lines is also sunburn. Our bodies naturally produce a pigment called melanin to absorb ultraviolet light from the sun, but there is only so much UV that our skin can absorb. When sunlight exposure becomes too much for the melanin in our skin to absorb, it causes damage to the skin that even affects our very DNA. Sensing the damage and in an effort to protects us, our bodies then pump the damaged area with blood over the course of a few hours to help with the healing. The additional blood then causes inflammation as well.
Sunburn can also be accompanied by pain, tenderness, itching, swelling, as well as small blisters. It's not pretty and can cause a great deal of discomfort but there are five things you can do to help manage it!
Bathe with a mild soap
Even if being out in the sun all day turns you several shades darker, resist using any whitening products immediately because your skin needs to heal first before returning to its actual color. Take cool showers or baths (cool compresses help as well) and be sure to use a mild soap to avoid causing further irritation or drying skin out.
Physiogel Hypoallergenic Cleanser (P333 at leading department stores) is a great option because of its soap-free formula, but if you want to use something else, we have a mild cleanser checklist you should check out.
Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize
Regularly slather a gentle moisturizing lotion on your skin. Moisturizers with aloe vera are also popular for soothing mild burns, so it is often included in after sun gels. New ones to try are Belo SunExpert After Sun Gel (P259 at Watsons) and Kojie-san After Sun Spray Aloe Vera (P455 at Watsons). Avoid petroleum jelly as well as other petroleum-based moisturizers as these are occlusive agents that form a barrier on your skin and add to that hot sensation.
After several days, the skin may start to peel as the body’s way of shedding off damaged skin. Moisturizing also helps speed up this process and nourishes the newly-exposed layer of skin.
Having a sunburn can make you feel dehydrated because burns tend to draw water to the skin’s surface. Make sure to drink lots of water to replenish lost fluids and also help your skin start its repair process.
Don’t ditch the sunscreen
Being already dark and burned does not mean it's pointless for you to still wear sunscreen! It will take three to six months before sunburnt skin makes a full recovery so it's imperative to apply broad spectrum protection to keep it from worsening. Oh yes, you absolutely can get sunburnt again if you're not careful!
Don’t pick on your skin
While it might be so tempting to pick on your skin once it starts to peel, it’s best to leave it alone and allow it to come off on its own time. Don't try to hasten it with scrubs or other exfoliators, and never attempt to pop any blisters, as they might get infected. If more than 20% of your skin is blistered, seek a doctor’s help. Other symptoms that need a doctor’s attention include fever and chills.
Stay comfy by wearing light, loose clothing to avoid further irritation of the skin. If the pain is uncomfortable, it’s okay to take over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen or aspirin.
Remember, though, that even though a sunburn heals, the skin has already been damaged from deep within. Let’s make this a lesson to always protect ourselves from the sun and make this sunburn our very last one!