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Skin Care

6 ways to treat and soothe sunburn

MoleMap Team
August 15, 2023
5 minutes

Did you know that your risk of get­ting melanoma dou­bles if you’ve been sun­burnt more than five times? Many of us would have been ​‘fried’ at least that often in our life­time, and unfor­tu­nate­ly, once you’ve been sun­burned, the dam­age is already done.

It can hap­pen so eas­i­ly. You’re out play­ing, swim­ming or work­ing in the sun – or you nod off — and before you know it, you’re bright red and feel­ing the pain. It can take sev­er­al hours for the full dam­age to show itself, so get out of the sun at the first sign of sun­burn – and fol­low these help­ful tips to try to help soothe the burn and swelling.

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Cool off — fast.

If you’re near a cold pool, lake or ocean, take a quick dip to cool your skin, but only for a few sec­onds so you don’t pro­long your expo­sure. Then cov­er up and get out of the sun imme­di­ate­ly. A cool show­er or bath also works well, but keep it short and keep away from harsh soaps, which could fur­ther irri­tate the skin.

Con­tin­ue to cool the sun­burn with cold or icy com­press­es (although remem­ber not to apply ice direct­ly to the sun­burn – ouch!).

cool the sun­burn with cold or icy com­press­es

Keep skin cool and moist

While your skin is still damp, use a gen­tle mois­tur­is­ing lotion or a sooth­ing after-sun spray or gel (aloe vera is known to soothe mild burns and is gen­er­al­ly con­sid­ered safe). Repeat the mois­turis­er reg­u­lar­ly so that burned or peel­ing skin stays cool and moist over the next few days. Have cool show­ers or baths; oat­meal may be sooth­ing and moisturising.

moisturising

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Reduce inflammation

At the first sign of sun­burn, tak­ing a non­s­teroidal, anti-inflam­ma­to­ry med­ica­tion such as ibupro­fen, naprox­en or aspirin, can help reduce dis­com­fort and inflam­ma­tion. You can con­tin­ue with the NSAIDs as direct­ed till the burn feels bet­ter. Ask your phar­ma­cy for an over-the-counter, 1% cor­ti­sone cream – and apply to the red areas sev­er­al times a day for a few days.

Wear loose, cool cloth­ing so that your skin can ​‘breathe’ (cot­ton, linen and silk are great for this) and the fab­rics don’t rub against the sun­burn. And hope­ful­ly it doesn’t need to be said – stay out of the sun!

stay out of the sun

Stay hydrated

Dehy­dra­tion is a com­mon side effect of sun­burn – as burns tend to draw flu­id to the skin’s sur­face and away from the rest of the body. That’s why it’s essen­tial to rehy­drate by drink­ing extra liq­uids imme­di­ate­ly and while your skin is heal­ing — includ­ing water and sports drinks that help to replen­ish electrolytes.

it’s essen­tial to rehy­drate by drink­ing extra liq­uids imme­di­ate­ly

Seek help if necessary

If you or a child has severe blis­ter­ing over a large por­tion of the body, has a fever and chills, or is woozy or con­fused, you should seek med­ical help. Remem­ber not to scratch or pop blis­ters, which can lead to infec­tion. If the sun­burn includes red streaks or is ooz­ing pus, get a skin check in case of infection.

get skin checked in case of infection
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Learn from the burn!

Your skin will heal even­tu­al­ly, but the real dam­age has already been done. So ​‘learn from the burn’ and com­mit to pro­tect­ing your skin from the sun every day – espe­cial­ly between 10am and 4pm dur­ing the day­light sav­ings months. See our handy sun pro­tec­tion tips.

And remem­ber, if you have been sun­burned at least five times in your life­time, you have a high­er risk of devel­op­ing melanoma and oth­er skin can­cers. So check your skin reg­u­lar­ly your­self (here’s how) and book a Full Body MoleMap as soon as pos­si­ble to detect any signs of melanoma ear­ly.For author­i­ta­tive infor­ma­tion about skin, vis­it DermNet NZ.

MoleMap Team

At MoleMap we check, detect and treat skin cancer. Find out how you can protect your skin at your nearest MoleMap skin cancer clinic.

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