Best Sunburn Treatments

If your defenses against the sun's harmful rays came up short and you're left with a red and painful sunburn, you need to know the best sunburn treatments.

If you have a first-degree sunburn, your skin will turn red, and you might have some peeling, but it'll heal within a few days. For quick relief, take a cool bath. Afterward, pat your skin dry and apply a non-irritating, preferably fragrance-free lotion to the affected area. Then continue to apply lotion to the area at least twice a day while it heals. If the sunburned area is relatively small, you can use cool, wet cloths as well. Hydrocortisone creams, aloe vera (straight from the plant or in a cream) and calamine lotion can also help to cool the skin, but beware of products containing benzocaine, which can cause irritation. If the sunburn is very painful, you might want to take ibuprofen or aspirin for relief. Avoid shaving, exfoliating or scrubbing your skin, don't take hot showers or baths and stay out of the sun until it heals. Also, sunburns cause dehydration, so drink lots of water.

A second-degree sunburn can cause blistering and can be very serious if a large area is involved. If the blisters are small and less than one inch in diameter, they'll generally heal by themselves. But resist the urge to pop them. Try to keep them clear of fabrics that would rub on them. If your clothing is irritating the sunburn, loosely wrap a bandage around the area. Again, stay out of the sun and avoid any activities that bother the blisters. Sometimes a severe burn like this can cause a fever, chills and headaches. If you have these symptoms, you should seek medical attention.

Most important, next time be sure to wear sunscreen, apply it often and find shade if needed. Since sunburns increase your risk for skin cancer and promote premature aging, the best sunburn treatment is prevention.

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