Monday, July 1, 2013

When You Don’t Want to “Feel the Burn”

Knowing how to treat sunburns can make them a lot less painful.
Knowing how to treat sunburns can make them a lot
less painful.
Image: Shutterstock

There are some burns that feel good—like when you’ve just done a really great workout and you can tell that your body is changing. But other burns, like sunburns, don’t feel so great. And as much as I would love to think that if I were more careful, they would never happen, I know it’s not true.

It’s not that I don’t think getting burned can’t be avoided, it’s more that I realize that I’m a human being and am, therefore, imperfect. I make mistakes. We all do. Sometimes the sun comes out unexpectedly and I’m miles from any sunscreen. Sometimes my hand slips and touches the edge of a hot pan. Sometime I get burned, and knowing how to deal with that makes the process a whole lot less painful.

I’ve had a few bad sunburns in my life, whether because my sunscreen just wasn’t good enough or because I stupidly forgot to apply it. Those experiences, while they weren’t fun, did teach me a few lessons about treating sunburns. One of the simplest solutions is just to take a few ibuprofen or aspirin. They will reduce inflammation and pain.

Pure aloe vera helps cool and moisturize inflamed skin.
Pure aloe vera helps cool and moisturize inflamed skin.
Image: Shutterstock
Topical treatments include aloe vera, cortisone cream, or other cooling agent. Aloe vera can be store-bought in gel form or cut straight off of the plant. Gently apply the gel to your skin and rub with your fingers. Don’t rub it all the way in—instead, leave it a bit gooey to help prevent the skin from getting tight and even more irritated.

Other cooling methods include taking a cool (not cold) bath or shower (no soap, no scrubbing). If you have blisters, go with a bath to avoid popping the blisters with the shower pressure. Air dry or pat yourself down with a towel gently afterwards (don’t rub!). A cold compress can also work wonders on sunburns. Just wet a cloth with cold water and lay it on top of the burn for 20-30 minutes, re-wetting as needed.

When you burn your skin, it can dehydrate you. That makes it even more important to make sure you’re drinking as much water as possible. Aim for 64 oz every single day.

As far as lotion goes, begin applying it after the burn has cooled a bit and is no longer so red. Blisters should be gone by this point, and your skin will begin to heal itself. Use a creamy moisturizer without scent and apply liberally for as long as needed. This will help prevent further irritation and will make the peeling process a bit gentler on your skin.

Interested in home remedies? Here are some options that people have tried over the years:
One more reason to love tea: it can help sunburns heal!
One more reason to love tea: it can help sunburns heal!
Image: Shutterstock
  • Apply Noxzema facial cleanser as soon as you suspect a sunburn, leaving a thin layer of white visible. Apply every 2-8 hours as needed to keep skin moisturized.
  • Brew 2-4 teabags in warm water and remove when tea is nearly black in color. Allow liquid to cool to room temperature and then dip a cloth in the tea and gently dab the burn. Suggestion: do it at night, sleep on it, wash off in the morning.
  • Apply a cold compress made using skim milk.
  • Apply fresh tomato juice to the burn when it is still red but not peeling.
  • Dilute vinegar 50-50 with water, soak towels in it, and then drape over the burned area.
  • Take an oatmeal or baking soda bath to reduce swelling and itching.
  • Mash 3-4 apricots and apply as a salve on the burn. Leave for 15 minutes and then wash off with lukewarm water.