When you go outside, it’s vital to wear sunscreen, slather on enough, apply it frequently (about once every two hours), and use the right kind.
But it’s easy to forget to protect ourselves, especially as the summer months begin and we crawl out of our dark homes, schools, and offices and run toward a sunny beach.
As a result, millions of people each year are kissed by the sun’s damaging ultraviolet light and get sunburns.
Sunburns are painful and can last for more than a week, so in desperation we might try just about anything.
Dr. Erin Gilbert, a board-certified dermatologist in New York, has three key pieces of advice on what works and what doesn’t.
“If you get a sunburn, what are you going to do? … What’s the best thing to do?” Dr. Gilbert previously told Tech Insider. “The first thing is you wanna just get out of the sun, and stay out of the sun, as much as you can or the next week.”
This is because your body, whose natural defences are already compromised, is trying to heal itself. Any extra UV exposure will harm more of your cells’ DNA (or genetic code), kill them off, and prolong the pain and damage. Burning also increases your risk for skin cancer, since a lot of DNA damage can up the rate of cancer-causing mutations.
Dr. Gilbert has a home remedy to try while you bide your time in the shade that she said actually works.
“You can put cold washcloths in your refrigerator, soaked in milk, and you can apply those to the areas where you have the sun burn, ” she said. “What that does is, the cooling effect will take some of the heat out of the sunburn, and the milk actually contains lactic acid.”
Lactic acid, she said, will take off some of the top layers of dead skin. “So if you’ve got blistering, it actually can make it look better and heal faster,” she said.
Dr. Gilbert also likes extracts from aloe vera, a type of sticky succulent plant whose leaves contain a sticky juice. She said such products can help calm down the pain of sunburn.
However, she says you need to closely read the ingredient label to make sure there aren’t any drugs that could make things worse for you in the long run.
“Some of the gels that are on the market actually contain lidocaine and benzocaine,” she said. “What they do is temporarily are going to take away the pain from the sunburn. But as soon as they wear off, you’re gonna be in worse shape because you’re actually going to feel the pain even more. So I don’t like using these products all that much.”
Dr. Gilbert has one more sure-fire recommendation for anyone who’s struggling with an itchy, hot sunburn.
“You can take aspirin or you can take just a general anti-inflammatory. This is because your skin is inflamed,” she said. “It’s angry, it’s red, and it’s painful. And so what you want to do is take something — any anti-inflammatory, so Motrin, Tylenol, aspirin also works. That’s going to help you a lot in terms of your pain.”
Watch Dr. Gilbert dole out all of her advice below.
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