Burn, Baby, Burn: Tips to Help You Soothe Your Skin After Too Much Sun Exposure

There’s still quite a bit of summertime left, and if you’re like many Americans, you’ll want to soak up your share of sunshine. But whether you’re exploring California’s 840 miles of coastline or spending time in your backyard pool, your skin might easily become damaged due to sun exposure. Of course, applying (and reapplying) sunscreen can help you to avoid this scenario. But If, by chance, you still get a nasty sunburn, there are some remedies that can help to soothe the pain.

According to a recent survey, more than two-thirds of U.S. adults believe that the sun can’t damage their skin when they’re inside. But since 15% of a home’s wall space is taken up by windows, there are plenty of opportunities for damaging UV rays to enter and cause damage. And even if you’re more prone to tanning than burning, you should still be adamant about wearing sun protection every single day. What’s more, you’ll want to reapply sunblock every couple of hours, as well as after swimming or sweating, especially if you’re like the 60 million people in the U.S. who visited beaches in 2010. Since 45% of millennials say they exercise regularly, that means you’re probably not diligent enough about how often you reapply — and you may not even be putting it on correctly in the first place.

You’re not alone, however. A recent report revealed that only one in 10 Americans actually wears sunscreen on a daily basis, with nearly half of all U.S. residents saying that they never wear sun protection products. That’s news that will undoubtedly aggravate dermatologists and physicians, given what we know about the harmful effects of sun exposure. But in reality, just about everyone has forgotten to apply sunscreen at one point or another. And if and when you do get a bad burn, what exactly should you do about it?

In the immediate aftermath of a sunburn, you should take a cool bath or shower. Alternatively, you can apply a cool, damp towel to the burned area for 15 minutes or so. If you opt for the former, be sure to pat yourself dry, leave some water on your skin, and apply a moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated. It’s important to note, about one out of every 10 kids will develop eczema early on. The best moisturizers for this purpose will contain aloe, oatmeal, soy, or ceramides, as these can all soothe sunburned skin. Do not use moisturizers that contain petroleum jelly, as this can worsen a sunburn. A hydrocortisone cream can also be applied to reduce inflammation.

After this initial period, you can continue to treat your sunburn by drinking plenty of fluids in an effort to rehydrate. Keep things as simple as possible with your skincare routine in subsequent days, as you’ll want to avoid anything that can cause irritation. You might also consider taking an anti-inflammatory medication (like ibuprofen) to reduce inflammation and speed up skin cell recovery. Some people swear by applying cold milk compresses, after-sun lotions, or black tea to sunburns, while many dermatologists say that once the burn is starting to heal and flake, coconut oil can relieve dryness. Just don’t pick at your peeling skin, as this can cause infection or make thee healing process take longer. Be sure to wear loose fitting clothing to ensure you won’t be in pain while your burn heals.

A couple of techniques to stay away from? Popping blisters and putting ice on sunburns. Blisters typically occur when someone has suffered a second-degree burn, which means you should probably see a doctor or skin specialist if the blisters don’t heal on their own within a week. Either way, you shouldn’t pop the pockets of fluid that form, as this can easily lead to infection. Putting ice directly onto a sunburn is a bad idea, too. This can cause more damage to your skin, so using a cold compress is a much better option. You should also refrain from using cologne, covering up your sunburn with makeup, and using scented aloe to avoid further irritation.

It’s important to note that any sun damage you sustain to your skin cannot be reversed — and experts say that just one bad sunburn can double your risk of developing melanoma later on. But when it’s too late for prevention and you just want some relief, these tips may very well soothe you.