Skin Cancer, Wellbeing

6 ways to treat and soothe sunburn

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Team MoleMap Creator
Posted 19/12/18
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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.

1. 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!).

Sunburn Treat

2. 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.

3. 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!

Sun Damage

4. 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.

5. 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 it checked in case of infection.

Sunburn Soothe

6. 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.

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For authoritative information about skin, visit DermNet NZ.