It happens to everyone: You doze off at the beach or spend too much time in the water; unbeknownst to you, that SPF 5,000 sunblock you applied in the morning has lost its nerve. You're baked, burnt and dreading bedtime, when even lying down can be torturous.
Anticipating your next summer sizzle, Van Winkle's asked two dermatologists for their advice on treating a nasty sunburn.
Apply Aloe ASAP
As soon as a burn shows up, start calming it down. Ideally, you want to slather unscented aloe on any lobster-tinted areas. “You can speed healing two-fold,” says New York City dermatologist Alexiades Macrene, “by applying aloe vera gel the night of the sunburn multiple times.”
If pure aloe isn’t available, Macrene recommends products containing other active ingredients that reverse the damage done by UV exposure, such as green tea and coffee extracts.
Debra Jaliman, another New York dermatologist, recommends over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream as a second-choice to aloe. For additional anti-inflammation, she suggests taking aspirin or ibuprofen on a full stomach.
When your skin is burning, and burned, sweating only increases irritation. In fact, profuse sweaters who doze off in the heat can develop a second bacterial infection. The ideal temperature, according to Jaliman, is 68 to 70 degrees. Don't have A.C.? Surround yourself with fans, assuming the moving air doesn't hurt your sensitive skin too much.
As anyone who's been burnt knows — having anything touch your toasted skin can be agonizing. But there's more at work. To quiet down and begin to heal, your skin must breathe. Both Jaliman and Macrene recommend wearing loose-fitting cotton clothing and sleeping on cotton sheets.
Just Add Water
According to Macrene, sunburned skin loses fluids more quickly than healthy epidermis. Additionally, keeping sunburned skin moist will help it heal faster. So stay hydrating. And, no, frozen margaritas don't count.
No Popping, No Picking
“Blisters, contrary to popular opinion, heal faster when left intact,” says Macrene, “and they're less likely to scar." By removing that fragile flap of blistered skin, you're essentially creating an open wound. And guess what? Open wounds heal more slowly.
Slather It On
The healing process doesn't end when your pain does. To aid full recovery and reduce scarring, Macrene advises green tea extract cream or silver gel applied before going to bed.