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How To Treat Sunburns, According To Experts

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If you've ever had a bad sunburn, you know how painful the experience is. You probably swore to yourself it would never happen again, but sometimes even if you do lather of your highest SPF before a day in the sun, you might miss a spot. Or when you forget to reapply throughout the day, the product wears off and stops doing its job. So if you're in this predicament, don't panic, read on to learn how to treat sunburns to reduce the pain.

"As a general rule of thumb, sunburns happen when your skin has received too much UV exposure from the sun," Dr. Karen Kagha, MD., dermatologist and Harvard-trained cosmetic and laser fellow, tells TZR. The derm says that sunburns can increase the risk of skin cancers for an individual. "This includes an increased risk of the deadliest skin cancer, which is melanoma." She notes the importance of wearing sun protection and urges to avoid prolonged outdoor activities during peak sun hours. "Remember to wear sun protective clothing and take extra precautions to protect sunburned skin from the sun while it heals."

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Fortunately, dermatologists ensure that a sunburn can be treated at home. Below, find seven ways to reduce the pain and help your sunburn heal.

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How To Treat Sunburns: Reverse The Damage

Yes, it's possible to reserve a portion of the damage. "You can help to reverse some of the skin damage by applying a sunscreen with DNA repair enzymes, and taking a folic acid supplement boost DNA repair," a Dr. Jessie Cheung, board-certified dermatologist in New York City, tells TZR.

How To Treat Sunburns: Drink Lots Of Water

"As the sun heats your body up, you start to lose fluids to sweat, which cools down the external body in an attempt to lower your overall temperature," Dr. Nikhil Dhingra of Spring Street Dermatology in New York City, tells TZR. "You lose valuable water and electrolytes in the sweat, which can dehydrate you, including your skin. Without repleting your water stores, your heart has to pump harder to push less blood volume to your organs, which can even make you pass out if you’re dehydrated enough and blood doesn’t get to the brain."

How To Treat Sunburns: Minimize The Pain

Taking a pain reliever can help to sooth the stinging caused from sunburns. "Aspirin and other OTC anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen will ease your discomfort, and help reduce the redness by decreasing the inflammatory response," Dr. Cheung notes.

How To Treat Sunburns: Scalp Treatment

It's easy to forget about your scalp, but it's directly being exposed to the sun when you're outdoors. "If your scalp has been burned, shampoo with a sulfate-free shampoo using cool or tepid water," Hope Mitchell, MD, FAAD Founder & CEO of Mitchell Dermatology in Perrysburg, Ohio, tells TZR. "Avoid conditioners with dimethicone because they can clog pores, further trapping heat in the scalp." Due to their soothing and healing benefits, she says to follow with a moisturizer like aloe or lavender oil. "Avoid heat like hair dryers, stay well hydrated, and consider taking acetaminophen, aspirin or ibuprofen to help relieve any discomfort." You should also be drinking plenty of water and applying cool compresses to your scalp, Mitchell adds.

How To Treat Sunburns: Face Time

You might already have a product that treats face burns in your kitchen cabinet. "Soak a thin washcloth in cold green tea and apply to your skin for five to 10 minutes three times a day," Jessica Wu M.D., Los Angeles dermatologist and author of Feed Your Face, tells TZR. "Green tea contains antioxidants to help fight the UV radiation damage from the sun." If you're looking for skincare products, she says to opt for ones that contain calming ingredients like aloe, oatmeal, or chamomile. And steer clear of active ingredients such as retinoids or alpha/beta hydroxyacids until your burn is healed. Additionally, Dr. Wu says to avoid anything abrasive like scrubs and brushes.

How To Treat Sunburns: Aloe Vera

"Aloe provides immediate relief, reduces inflammation and supports the skin's ability to heal," Deanne Mraz Robinson, MD, FAAD, President and Co-Founder at Modern Dermatology of Connecticut, tells TZR. And she says pure aloe is well tolerated by most skin types.

How To Treat Sunburns: Take A Cold Shower

"Taking a cold shower after a sunburn can help ease the discomfort and pain," Kagha explains. She says immediately after the shower be sure to always moisturize. "This helps keep the skin hydrated while healing. I often recommend that my patients keep their moisturizer in the shower so that they can reach for it immediately after pat drying the skin."

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