Ouch!

Sunburns can be painful and damaging to your skin, while also increasing your risk of skin cancer, the most common cancer in the United States and one of the most preventable. A new survey by the American Academy of Dermatology shows that one in three Americans (36%) got a sunburn in 2023, a significant increase over the previous year.

“No matter your skin tone, you can get a sunburn if you are outside without proper protection,” said Veena Vanchinathan, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in Morgan Hill, Calif. in a news release. “It’s important to practice safe sun because both tanning and sunburning harms your skin. If you repeatedly experience sunburns, your skin will become more damaged over time.”

Prevention is Key

Protect your skin from the sun to prevent sunburn and reduce your risk of skin cancer and premature skin aging. Seek shade, and wear sun-protective clothing — such as long sleeves, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses with UV protection. Apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to all skin not covered by clothing.

The same AAD survey showed that fewer than 34% of Americans use sunscreen, with only one in three reapplying it every two hours, which is the recommended timeframe. As many as 27% of people who do use sunscreen tend not to reapply sunscreen at all. Since sunscreen’s protective qualities wear off over time and sweat and water can wash it off the skin, it’s important to reapply sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays and reduce your risk of sunburn.

Steps

If you do get a sunburn, the first step to treating it is to get indoors and out of the sun. Once indoors, Dr. Vanchinathan and the AAD recommend following these tips to help relieve your sunburn:

  1. Take cool baths or showers to help relieve any pain. Afterward, gently pat your skin dry.
  2. Soothe your sunburn by applying moisturizer containing aloe vera or soy while your skin is still damp and whenever you feel discomfort. You can also apply calamine lotion, place a cool, damp washcloth on the affected area, or take a colloidal oatmeal bath.
  3. Take aspirin or ibuprofen to help reduce swelling and discomfort from your sunburn.
  4. Drink extra water, as having a sunburn can make you dehydrated.
  5. Do not pop sunburn blisters. A blister means you have a second-degree sunburn. Allowing blisters to heal — instead of popping them — protects you from infection. Keep blisters clean and apply petroleum jelly to protect them while they heal.

If your sunburn gets worse, partner with the sun protection expert, a board-certified dermatologist. Signs of a worsening sunburn that require medical attention include high fever, chills, nausea, pus or swelling of the skin, a potential sign of a skin infection.

“While a sunburn is often treatable at home, symptoms occasionally require additional attention by a board-certified dermatologist,” Dr. Vanchinathan said. “Not only are we able to help make you more comfortable, but it’s also a great time for your dermatologist to check you for signs of skin cancer.”

More Tips

These tips are demonstrated in “How to treat a sunburn: Dermatologist tips,” a video posted to the AAD website and YouTube channel. This video is part of the AAD’s “Your Dermatologist Knows” series, which offers tips people can use to properly care for their skin, hair, and nails.

To find a board-certified dermatologist in your area, visit aad.org/findaderm.

Source American Academy of Dermatology