This Is What You Should Always Do If You Get a Sunburn Gallery

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Sunburns can happen when you least expect them - even if you remembered to put on sunscreen. Depending on the day, UV rays might be stronger than your skin is used to. Maybe you nodded off at the pool and forgot to seek refuge in the shade in time. Maybe it's just not your lucky day.

Whatever might have happened, you're burnt. Your skin is anywhere from a light shade of pink to a deep lobster red - and you're in pain. What do you do?

There's not much you can do to make the burn disappear, but you can expedite the healing process. And you can avoid making mistakes that could worsen the pain caused by your burn. The American Academy of Dermatology and the Skin Cancer Foundation both provide their science-backed advice for how to most effectively treat a sunburn. This can help to reduce the damage caused to your skin and avoid pain and discomfort. These are the things you should always do if you have a sunburn.


Stay Out of the Sun

No matter what you heard, a sunburn - even if it's only a mild one - should never be used as a base tan. Exposing your skin to additional UV rays after it's already suffered damage could make things much worse. Protect your skin as it heals and stay out of direct sunlight, even if you're wearing sunscreen. You should probably be wearing sunscreen indoors, anyway!

Put a Cold, Damp Towel on Your Skin

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, you should apply a cool, damp towel to your skin for 10 to 15 minutes a few times every day. They say it helps to remove some of the heat from your skin. While it might not help you heal faster, it will ease some of the discomfort.

Wear Loose Clothing

Have you ever tried squeezing on a tight pair of pants when you're suffering from a sunburn? It's really painful, and ill-advised for a couple of reasons. First, there's a reason your pants feel tighter today: They are. Your sunburn is likely causing some inflammation. Additionally, the constant rubbing and tension could irritate the area, slowing down the healing process. Wear loose-fitting clothing for maximum comfort until your sunburn heals.

Wear Tightly-Woven Fabric

Thin fabric might be more comfortable on a hot summer day, but you should opt for tightly-woven fabrics that won't allow sunlight to shine through onto your skin. You can test which of your clothes would work best by holding the fabric up to a light and seeing which is the most opaque.


If your skin doesn't get enough moisture, your sunburn can actually be more painful and take longer to heal. Use a moisturizer without irritants such as chemical additives for the best results. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends avoiding moisturizers with petroleum, benzocaine, or lidocaine, as well. These ingredients can trap heat within your skin and irritate the sunburn.

Use Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is a good natural moisturizer to use whether you have a sunburn or not, but it's especially soothing if you do. Choose a source of aloe vera that doesn't have many chemical additives to avoid any irritation these ingredients may cause.


Stay Hydrated

Sunburns draw fluid towards the surface of your skin and away from the rest of your body. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, this can cause dehydration. Watch out for these telltale signs of dehydration and replenish your fluids often. Drink lots of water and consider adding a few electrolyte-filled beverages to your day.


Don't Pick at Blisters

Picking at or popping blisters can make your sunburn worse. A blister is already indicative of a more serious burn. Leave these areas of your skin alone while they heal to reduce discomfort and avoid scarring.


Look Out for Serious Symptoms

Are you starting to feel nauseous or lightheaded? Don't ignore it. These symptoms could be signs that you're getting sun poisoning and need to see a doctor. Other signs you need medical attention are severe blistering, confusion, or fever.


Take Cold Showers

Cold showers or baths can help ease the pain of a sunburn. After you're nice and clean, pat yourself dry with a towel. Avoid rubbing your skin in a way that could irritate the sunburn. After your shower, make sure to moisturize your skin to avoid dryness. Whatever you do, don't take a piping-hot shower. It's going to make the pain much worse - and so could these other unfortunate sunburn mistakes.
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