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Got Sunburn? You need to read this.

dermatology skin skin care skin health sunburn Aug 08, 2022


When it comes to protecting your skin from the sun's rays, prevention is better than treatment after the fact. But, we are all human, and sometimes sunburns do happen.

Yikes, yes, even I am guilty of getting a small sunburn this summer!

I didn’t realize it at the time, but a small patch of skin around my ankles was exposed, and at the end of the day, my skin let me know all about it! Although we strive to do our best, no one is perfect, so if/when a sunburn does occur, here are some tips to help you get through it:

  1. If you feel your skin starting to hurt, turn red or become swollen, those are signs you could be burning. It’s important, first and foremost, to get out of the sun and seek shade.
  2. Then, take a cool shower or apply cool compresses to any burning or symptomatic skin. This helps calm down inflammation, and it feels so good!
  3. Apply a moisturizer to help lock in moisture as the sunburn heals. This is especially helpful as the skin starts to peel. It's so important to AVOID petrolatum products like Aquaphor and Vaseline as they will occlude the skin.
  4. Take a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory product like ibuprofen (Motrin), naproxen (Aleve) or aspirin. This is another way to help calm down the inflammatory response that might happen when the skin is sunburnt..
  5. Stay hydrated with water or a sports drink containing electrolytes, especially as the skin peels. When we lose our skin barrier, we also lose hydration.

Most sunburns will usually heal themselves within a week or so.

If you find that your skin is not healing as expected, there are some signs that would warrant medical attention. If you start to develop large blisters, especially covering a significant portion of your skin, seek medical guidance. You should refrain from popping these blisters at home on your own, or removing the blister roof. You should also seek treatment if you start to develop a fever, chills, or confusion which cannot be otherwise explained. Finally, and most crticially, if you have any concern for an infection in an area of skin breakdown, seek medical attention immediately.

So, to recap:

  1. No one is perfect - everyone gets sunburn from time to time. It's how you deal with the aftermath of the burn that's important.
  2. As soon as you realize that you have sunburn, seek shade and cool, take a cold shower, or place a cold compress on the affected area[s].
  3.  Keep the skin moisturized but avoid petrolatum-based products like Vaseline.
  4. If you notice any unusual symptoms, or the sunburn doesn't heal by itself within a ~week, seek treatment immediately. 

Remember, no one is immune from sunburns. With enough sun exposure, ANYONE, no matter what skin type, can burn. It just happens faster for individuals with lighter skin tones.


If a sunburn does occur, don’t beat yourself up, but be sure to learn from your mistake. Try to avoid and prevent sunburns in the future by wearing SPF 30+ broad spectrum sunscreen and sun protective clothing when outdoors.


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