There’s nothing quite as enjoyable as spending a day at the beach with friends and family, swimming and relaxing in the sun, listening to the waves crashing up onto the shore. Unfortunately, a red painful sunburn can often result from these all-to-seldom retreats to the beach – but don’t worry, your sunburn doesn’t have to ruin your vacation. Read on and learn how to get rid of it.
1. What is Sunburn?
Sunburn is literally a “burn” to the skin that is caused by overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. The energy contained in the UV rays is absorbed by the skin and slowly builds up over the course of exposure. A short exposure can cause tanning, longer exposure can cause burns. This means that all you need to do to prevent sunburn is limit your UV exposure – and there’s lots of ways to do that.
2. Sunburn Prevention
Chances are if you’re reading this article that you’ve already gotten burned and are looking for pain relief and healing advice. Nevertheless, the information in this section is still golden if you plan on venturing back outside while you’re still licking your wounds. You don’t want to worsen your burn, but you don’t want to miss out on fun in the sun either, right?
In 1992, three Canadians developed a standardized method of measuring the strength of UV radiation from the sun at any particular time and place. Since then this system, called the UV index, has become used throughout most of the world. It ranges from 1; the weakest – to 11; the strongest. Listen to your local weather forecast to see how intense the sun is supposed to be on the days you intend to tan and prepare accordingly.
If you normally don’t spend much time in the sun, don’t expect to be able to spend all day long tanning at the beach without burning because you’ll be in for a painful surprise! Use high-SPF sunscreen and start small with 15 minutes to an hour in the sun and then see how you feel a few hours later. You can then build up from there based on your level of sensitivity.
If you want to make the most of a vacation at the beach, consider visiting a tanning salon for a week or so prior to the actual vacation to prepare your skin for the sun. Most tanning salons will create a schedule for you to gently ease your maximum time exposure up. Don’t let your first day of vacation be your last!
If you are taking any regular medication, consult your doctor before leaving on vacation as some meds can increase sensitivity to the sun’s rays. Your doctor may be able to swap you over to medication that doesn’t have that side effect for the time that you are on vacation.
Warning: Babies under 6 months should not be exposed to direct sunlight for extended periods of time! Keep them cool and in the shade. Sunscreen should never be used on children this young either.
Following are some tips that you can use when you go suntanning that can help prevent sunburn:
- Use a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of no less than 8. Rub it thoroughly into your skin paying special attention to sensitive areas that don’t normally get much sun (under your arms, the insides of your knees, and the bottoms of your feet)
- Re-apply your sunscreen every 30-45 minutes while you’re skin is still acclimating to the sun. Once you’re used to it you can re-apply every 2-3 hours. If you venture into the water or start sweating you should re-apply your sunscreen more often.
- Protecting your eyes is important, but sunglasses can leave some funny tan-lines.
- If you think you’re in danger of burning but don’t want to pack it up, move into the shade and put on some light, loose clothing. A wide-brimmed hat will protect your face and neck.
- Use skin moisteners and after-sun lotions generously. Those containing aloe are the most popular. For an extra-soothing feel you can store the bottle in the fridge to keep it cool.
- When bathing, use a loofah or other exfoliant to remove dead and peeling skin.
- Cocoa butter applied directly is claimed to help preserve your tan while moisturizing your skin.
3. Sunburn Pain Relief
Unfortunately, once you’ve been sunburned – much like any other type of burn, all you can do is baby your skin and wait for it to heal. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to relieve the pain. It’s important to stay out of the sun until your burn has healed as you can make it much worse! Refer to the previous section for tips on protecting yourself from worsened burns.
Topical Sunburn Remedies
A general rule of thumb when selecting or making a topical sunburn remedy is this: If it promotes moist and healthy skin, it’s good. Give the body what it needs to promote healthy skin and then give nature the time to work her magic. The only exception to this is blistering sunburn. Blistering sunburn should not be covered in any lotions, creams, or balms as it can cause the wound to become infected. Do not attempt to pop the blisters – wait for them to subside on their own.
Following are some commonly used topical treatments, make sure you give your skin some time to breathe between applications; otherwise you can lengthen the time needed to properly heal. If you know if any remedies that are not listed below please use the form at the bottom of the page to share them with other sunburned surfers who make it here in search of relief.
Sunburn pain relief:
- Reach for a product that contains lidocaine – Lidocaine is an anesthetic that will dull the pain.
- Cooled whole, plain yogurt applied topically can help soothe sunburned skin.Sunburn pain can also be eased through the use of over-the-counter analgesics such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Follow the usage instructions printed on the bottle.
- Use a washcloth soaked in cool milk to gently dab the sunburned areas periodically.
- Cold compresses and cool baths will help temporarily ease the pain – but it will likely return soon after the skin warms back up.
Sunburn treatment (Many of these will also help soothe the pain):
- Some skin-friendly ingredients to look for in store-bought products are aloe vera, cocoa butter, vitamin E, lavender oil, and tea.
- White or apple cider vinegars can be used to hasten healing, soothe your pain, and prevent blistering and peeling. Dampen a wash cloth with the vinegar and periodically dab the liquid onto the burns. Vinegar can also be added to bath water.
- Pretend you’re a hot dog! Slather some mustard onto those sunburns.
- Crush a raw tomato and apply it to the burned areas. This will be painful, but you will find that it speeds healing.
If you develop a fever or become dizzy or disoriented, see your doctor immediately!
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