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Center for Plastic Surgery
5550 Friendship Blvd, Suite 130
Chevy Chase, MD 20815
Phone: (301) 652-7700
Monday - Friday: 8 a.m.–5 p.m.

How to Treat a Bad Sunburn (+ a Few Tips for Avoiding it in the First Place!)


Pool dates, sun dresses, longer days—there are many things to love about summer. Unfortunately, all that time spent having fun outdoors often comes with a nasty side effect: sunburn.

It’s 2017, and most of us know how important it is to protect our skin and limit sun exposure to reduce the risk of skin cancer. But sometimes sunburns happen anyway. If a day at the beach has resulted in an uncomfortable burn, check out these great tips from PureWow on how to treat sunburn at home.

How to Treat a Sunburn at Home

Soothe your skin with these topical solutions

Most store-bought sunburn gels are not only pricey, they can also contain drying or irritating ingredients, such as alcohol. Fortunately, there are a number of easy-to-acquire ingredients that will help ease your discomfort and aid your skin in healing.

  • Run a cool bath and add a few drops of chamomile essential oil
  • Grab yogurt from the fridge and gently smooth it over your burn
  • Make aloe extra soothing by freezing the gel in an ice cube tray

Start healing from within

Topical treatments can provide some temporary relief, but did you know you can also support your body’s healing process by eating the right foods or taking your vitamins?

  • Drink lots of water!
  • Antioxidants, like vitamin E, will help reduce inflammation
  • Ibuprofen can help tame sunburn side effects
  • Whip up a snack including naturally anti-inflammatory foods, like blueberries, leafy greens, and celery

Avoid these sunburn don’ts

Bad sunburn habits not only prolong your discomfort, they can also have a lasting impact on your skin appearance.

  • Avoid scented lotions or serums, which can further irritate the skin
  • Don’t pick, peel, or poke (even if it is tempting to do so)
  • Stay away from petroleum jelly or other oil-based products, which can increase risk of infection
  • Avoid popping blisters if they develop
  • Don’t think spreading on a new coat of SPF means you can handle more exposure—avoid all direct sun until your skin heals completely

Back to Basics: 5 Easy Ways to Avoid Sunburn

If you’re like us, you’ve been in a situation where you followed all the rules but still ended up with a red nose or itchy, peeling shoulders. Here are a few tips for keeping your skin happy, health, and burn-free.

1. Apply sunscreen properly

Slathering on your go-to sunscreen sounds pretty simple, right? Unfortunately, not all products are created equally. Make sure you’ve chosen sunscreen with a broad spectrum SPF of 30+ and be sure to follow directions; different products have different application methods. Be sure to apply enough product: most adults need around a palmful of sunscreen to fully cover exposed areas of the body.

2. Reapply frequently!

Many products claim to be waterproof or sweat resistant for hours, but make sure to apply more every time you get out of the water or feel that telltale “baking” of the sun on your skin.

3. Cover all exposed areas

Have you ever burned the tips of your ears or hair part? No fun! Make sure you’re covering all bare areas with sunscreen, including ears, neck, and the top of your feet.

4. Consider UV-blocking clothes

If you’re an athlete, avid outdoorsman, gardener, or anyone who spends lots of time in the sun, it may be time to invest in UV-blocking clothing—especially if your activities lead to quickly sweating off your sunscreen.

5. Plan your activities around peak sun time

Sun intensity peaks between 10 am – 3 pm standard time. If you consider that prime outdoor activity time, try changing up your schedule. Plan your beach outing, hike, or bike ride for morning or leading into sunset, and it’ll be less hot and more beautiful to boot. During peak hours, get indoors or park yourself under a UV protective beach umbrella. Having lunch, reading, playing games, or taking a siesta are all great ways to enjoy yourself while the sun is hottest.

We hope you stay safe and have fun!

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