Going somewhere warm for the winter? Make sure you pack some sunscreen!
Off all the skincare routines and products that you see your favorite beauty bloggers endorse and use, the importance of SPF a.k.a sunscreen cannot be stressed upon enough. Remember your mom slobbering lotions and potions of the good old sun block on you every time you hit the beach, when you were little. And some of us continuing the tradition by drenching ourselves and our kids in it now. Using and re-applying sunscreen on the beach is not just a sexy idea from a saucy hollywood flick, it is actually really reallyyy important to prevent sunburn.
However, despite your best efforts, there are times when you still manage to get burned. Perhaps you were careless, and after too many margaritas forgot to re-apply your sunblock. Now, you are literally burned by your day of fun in the sun. Before you do anything to put yourself out of your stinging, burning agony, read these tips so you know what NOT to do to soothe a sunburn.
Here is Dr. Gretchen Frieling ‘s list of things to avoid after a bad sunburn.
Don’t Cover that Burn With Makeup
Even though your sunburn might look bad, avoid covering it up with makeup. “The only way the burn will heal is if you let your skin breathe,” says Dr. Frieling. “Introducing various makeups through dirty sponges or brushes will only increase your risk for infection or allergic reaction, which will ultimately make it all worse.”
Wearing Tight Clothing
Wearing tight clothing over sun-burnt skin is not advised, when inflammation is setting in. “Your body is trying to respond to the trauma by increasing blood flow to the area to help with healing. This results in redness, warmth, and inflammation to the area,” says Dr. Frieling. Wearing tight clothes could amplify the response, which could lead to more intense swelling and blisters. Alternatively, you can avoid sunburns altogether and use the best sunscreen for your skin type.
Taking an anti-inflammatory medication, like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can help soothe your skin once you’re sunburned. However, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen and naproxen, can also leave you more vulnerable to getting burned in the first place.
Dr. Frieling explains, “That’s because certain medications contain photo-sensitizing agents. Those molecules will absorb the sun’s UV rays and release them back into your skin, which damages and kills skin cells.” However, NSAIDs aren’t the only ones that can raise your risk of getting fried. “There is a whole slew of meds out there that can leave your skin more sensitive to sun’s rays,” says Dr. Frieling “meaning you need to take extra precautions before spending time outdoors.” Common ones include topical acne medications like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, antihistamines, and antibiotics. Even OTC supplements like St. John’s Wort can make you burn more easily. Avoiding direct sunlight after applying or taking these medications is your best bet, but if you need to head outside, Dr. Frieling suggests protecting your skin with SPF 30 sunscreen and covering up with long sleeves, or hats.
Taking Hot Showers
When your skin gets a little too toasted, you may notice that it tends to feel dry as it heals. Even if you’re not in physical pain, taking hot showers can strip your skin of essential oils, which can dry it out even further and make it more sensitive, explains Dr. Frieling.
“This may lead to blistering and possibly prolong the healing process.” On top of that, hot water isn’t going to feel great, even on a mild sunburn that didn’t feel too bad to begin with. While cold showers typically feel uncomfortable, sticking to lukewarm or cool showers when you’re burned will ease discomfort. The temperature should be no warmer than what you would expect from a heated pool, which is around 84 degrees.
Don’t Use Scented Aloe
Aloe has anti-inflammatory properties and is suitable for your skin after you get a sunburn. However, using a scented aloe can irritate the skin even more. Dr. Frieling suggests using a fragrance-free aloe or using aloe directly from an aloe plant.
Some cologne may contain ingredients that make you more prone to burning. “Oil of bergamot is especially notorious for this,” explains Dr. Frieling “and can cause a severe, blistering reaction when it’s on your skin and exposed to the sun.” It’s become rarer in the past few years since many fragrance companies started stripping the ingredient from their products. Other perfume ingredients and essential oils, like rosemary and lavender oils, can make your skin more sensitive to the rays, too, Dr. Frieling adds. To play it safe, avoid spraying any scents onto your skin before you go outside.
Don’t Pop Your Blisters
Similar to not peeling your skin, you should never pop blisters. “That extra bubble of skin serves a fundamental purpose in protecting the wound,” says Dr. Frieling. “If a blister hurts severely, apply a cream-based unscented aloe vera.”
Not Drinking Enough Water
Sunburns dehydrate you from the inside out, so you really should be drinking 8 to 10 glasses of water a day to rejuvenate the skin.
While scrubbing dead skin off your body helps to you then the skin, it’s one of the worst things you can do on a sunburn. When your skin is burnt from the sun, exfoliating only exposes the damaged layer of skin, even more, causing pain and further irritation, explains Dr. Frieling. Instead, use a gentle moisturizer or mask to treat damaged skin.
Don’t Use Coconut Oil or Butter
You may have heard before that lathering butter or coconut oil will soothe your burn, but it’s a myth. The skin is hot and needs to cool down, applying a fat-based product onto your skin will not only clog the pores and stop the healing process, but it might also aggravate inflammation. “Coconut oil and butter are great for moisturizing the skin in other instances,” says. Dr. Frieling, “but when it comes to a burn, you should wait until the skin cools to use it.”.
More about our expert
Dr. Gretchen Frieling (“Dr. G”), MD is a Harvard-trained, board-certified Dermatopathologist, with over 10 years of experience in Medicine and Dermatopathology. Dr. Frieling has mastered the art of re-defining and re-vitalizing the face by eliminating fine lines, wrinkles and re-establishing volume with a minimalistic approach. She is the founder and CEO of the GFaceMD luxury medical skincare line. Along with splitting her time as a practicing Dermatopathologist, Dr. Frieling enjoys spending time with her husband, her two kids, and extended family.