So you got too much sun… now what?
-Paige Herman Axel
A sunburn can happen to the best of us. If you’re anything like me, every time I think I’ve covered myself from head to toe, I inevitably miss a spot. Instead of beating yourself up, vow not to make the same mistake again, and read on to learn how to take the sting and redness out of getting burned.
Before you head outside
Do be vigilant about busting out the sunscreen every time you hit the pool or the beach, but unfortunately, even the most sunscreen-obsessed among us apply it incorrectly. The recommended dose is a shot-glass-worth of lotion for the entire body-applied every 2 to 3 hours and after swimming-which means a family should finish a bottle in 1 to 2 days in the sun. (How long have you been using your bottle?) Also make sure you hit those commonly missed areas, like the ears, tops of the feet, your hairline, and where you part your hair. I’ve found that a sunscreen stick like Banana Boat Sport Sunblock Stick SPF 50 is great for these small easy-to-miss spots ($4.19, drugstore.com).
After the fact
So you get home, take a shower, and stare at the outline of your bathing suit in disbelief. Now, head for the medicine cabinet. First, pop some Motrin or Advil. West Palm Beach dermatologist Kenneth Beer recommends 400 mg twice a day along with a dose of Claritin or Zyrtec until the redness and discomfort begin to subside. Dr. Beer also says to use an over-the-counter topical hydrocortisone a few times a day to help with the inflammation. Another option, he says, is a rich, fragrance-free cream called Theraplex that you can find at the drugstore.
In the event of a really bad burn, a trip to the dermatologist’s office may be in order. Some doctors turn to GentleWaves, a painless light-based anti-aging treatment that is believed to calm inflammation. Your dermatologist may prescribe a higher-strength topical steroid or even an oral prescription steroid for severe sunburns.
Keep in mind that even a dermatologist can get a sunburn from time to time. Dr. Beer says, “When it happens to me, I put on a topical steroid as quickly as I can, and keep the skin moist until it heals. I also avoid hot water for a few days until the skin recovers.”