Remedies for sunburn

If the sunburn is violent, you should contact your doctor immediately. If, on the contrary, we are just a little reddened, here are some DIY remedies.

Thanks to the sea breeze, a beautiful day certainly does not seem dangerous. Yet, if the protection of the skin is not adequate to your skin type and repeated according to the indications, the sunburn is lurking.

Even if the temperatures are high, it often happens that, thanks to the wind or frequent bathing, the body becomes more tolerant to heat, resulting in prolonged exposure to the sun. And here, in the evening, you find yourself with all red and sore skin. So let’s see what you can do, even alone, to promote healing and soothe the discomfort, without forgetting the importance of acting preventively.

Sunburn: why it is important to prevent

The sun’s rays, if absorbed in moderate quantities, can be an important ally of our health as they bring a series of benefits for the body. For example, they are essential for the synthesis of vitamin D (for this purpose it is enough to stay in the sun even just 20 minutes a day), and are also useful for the treatment of various diseases (such as rickets, psoriasis, jaundice). They also improve mood and cardiovascular activity.

If, however, exposure to the sun is excessively prolonged and without adequate protection factors, UV rays quickly become enemies.

In fact, although largely absorbed by the atmosphere, these radiations, invisible to the human eye, are the main responsible for photoaging: not only can they leave unsightly skin spots as gifts, but in the long term they favor skin aging and the formation of wrinkles and can also cause degenerative damage to the eyes.

But, above all, they can cause skin burns which, in addition to being painful, represent one of the main risk factors for the appearance of skin cancers. In particular, it is above all the burns suffered when you are children to favor the appearance in adulthood of melanoma, a very aggressive tumor that derives from the malignant transformation of melanocytes, the cells responsible for the production of melanin, the substance responsible for skin pigmentation.

It is therefore better to always remember to protect exposed skin with sunscreen products, choosing those that best suit your skin type and its color (the so-called phototype) and remembering to apply them often. Without forgetting to spread the sunscreen on the nose, at frequent risk of burn, behind the ears and on the feet, neglected areas.

Phototype Eyes Hair Skin
The Blue Red Milky with
II Blue or green Blond Albumen
III Brown Brown Albumen
IV Dark Bruni Olive
V Dark Black Olive
YOU Dark Black Dark

Sunburn: what happens to the skin

When exposed to sunlight, the surface layer of our skin (epidermis) reacts by producing melanin, a brownish substance capable of absorbing the energy of ultraviolet rays, and thus protecting tissues from their harmful effects.

The sensitivity of the skin to sunlight varies depending on the amount of melanin present in the skin and the duration of exposure to sunlight, and with it also vary the extent and severity of the lesions produced.

Prolonged exposure to sunlight without due precautions generally causes the appearance of a sunburn, more correctly defined as sunburn.

It usually appears after a few hours of exposure and is an inflammatory reaction that can occur with varying degrees of intensity: the mildest form is characterized by a simple redness, with “grater” skin and slight itching, followed, after a few days, by desquamation.

In intermediate burns, however, the skin also appears swollen and, touching it, is hot and painful. Also in this case, after a few days it begins to peel.

Finally, in the most intense burns, pain, burning and itching of the skin are felt, blisters and vesicles appear, followed by a strong desquamation. In some cases, more general symptoms may also be accompanied, such as fever, nausea and headache.

Ten “soothing” moves

But if the damage is done, how to remedy when the skin is already reddened and burns?

There are many possible solutions. In the most serious cases, it goes without saying, the request for the opinion and intervention of a specialist (a doctor, a pharmacist or a dermatologist) remains the only possible one, but, in all others, adopting some simple precautions or resorting to a natural remedy may be sufficient to alleviate the burning caused by a somewhat careless sun exposure.

Here, then, are some simple suggestions.

  1. If the sunburn causes nausea, chills, fever and blisters appear on the body, it is necessary to contact a doctor or pharmacy for the prescription of specific medicines (such as cortisone drugs, but also NSAIDs and antihistamines to be applied topically). In cases of intense and extensive erythema, it may be appropriate to go directly to the emergency room.
  2. In the case of widespread redness but in the absence of these symptoms, the first solution is to cool the body with cool showers or cold water compresses; Instead, avoid applying ice to bare skin.
  3. Oats can help us thanks to its soothing, moisturizing and anti-redness properties. With the flour mixed with a little water you can prepare a mixture to wrap in gauze and dab on the skin.
  4. In the bathtub filled with warm water it may be useful to immerse a bag of oat bran instead. The water will become a bit milky, that’s normal. To the warm water of the bathtub you can add, in addition to oats or alternatively to it, also baking soda: it gives relief, relieving skin redness. The important thing is that the burned skin is completely immersed.
  5. Among the natural remedies, it soothes burning and repairs cells damaged by UVB rays yogurt. It must be white and of good quality, to be applied on scalded areas. Some essential oils (such as lavender and helichrysum) may also be useful, but to be applied in small quantities.
  6. Among the creams and gels for after bath or shower it is better to choose those containing aloe vera, calendula or chamomile. They will make more effect when stored in the refrigerator. Instead, it is better to avoid lotions and moisturizers that contain anesthetics or perfumes, which can irritate the skin by sharpening its sensitivity.
  7. With the chamomile prepared at home and cooled, calming compresses are made. To be used especially when the eyelids have suffered the aggression of the sun.
  8. Pleasant and handy for a refreshing intervention, the thermal water in spray. “Soft” waters are preferred, with a particularly soothing action.
  9. Pay attention to grandma’s advice: the skin reddened by the sun should never be treated with olive oil or butter as they are fatty substances that clog the skin, preventing the accumulated heat from perspiring.
  10. After bathing or showering the body should be dried gently without rubbing, for example microfiber wipes are fine.

And, in addition…

Even the right diet helps to recede faster the discomfort of a wrong tan.

In the diet, in particular, fruits and vegetables must abound, which thanks to their high water content, restore general hydration and levels of mineral salts dissolved in the blood (electrolytes). Foods containing vitamins A, E, C and antioxidants, such as kiwi, pineapple, oranges, tomatoes and spinach, are especially recommended.

For the same reason it is necessary to drink plenty of water with a low sodium content or smoothies.

Coconut milk is particularly suitable for its refreshing power.

After a sunburn it is good to wear clothes made of natural fibers and light clothing, which create as little friction as possible in contact with the skin.

The sun? For 2 or 3 days at least it is preferable to ignore it.

Prevention first

In order not to be struggling with the annoying symptoms of a sunburn, it is advisable to always choose and use a sunscreen with a protection factor suitable for your skin type (the lower this is, the higher the protection).

It should also be preferred a cream that protects against both UVB (avoids sunburn) and UVA (protects against deeper damage).

The cream should be used within 12 months of opening and in any case within the deadline, so that the photoprotection is not altered.

It is important to avoid prolonged sun exposure especially if you have a type I or II phototype, ie fair skin, blond, red or light brown hair, light eyes, the presence of freckles. Those who have these characteristics burn themselves very easily.

Exposure to the sun gradually (starting with 45-60 minutes on the first day and increasing each day by 15-20 minutes) helps to get a pleasant tan reducing the risk of sunburn.

Moreover, not all hours of the day are suitable for direct exposure to the sun: in Italy it is good to avoid it between 11 and 15 (the so-called “central hours”). It is the time when the intensity of solar radiation is strongest and therefore potentially most harmful.

Particular attention should be paid to children, for whom it is good to avoid direct exposure to the sun up to one year of life: their skin is thinner than the adult one, therefore more sensitive to ultraviolet, and is also more easily subject to dehydration.

For children over one year old, exposure still requires the application of a sunscreen with very high protection (greater than 50).

At any age, sunscreen should be worn from the first exposure, even if short and even when you are already tanned. It should also be applied generously, repeating the application about every 2-3 hours (to prevent it from losing its protective action due to sweat or water) and after a possible bath in water or after practicing physical activity.

Nose, lips, ears, neckline, shoulders, scalp require greater attention, because they are areas exposed to sunlight for longer and where the skin is generally thinner, and therefore they are more at risk of sunburn.

In addition to sunscreen, you can also protect yourself with accessories such as peaked hats and sunglasses with UV filter. Clothes can also provide a protective barrier against ultraviolet, but it should be remembered that this depends on factors such as humidity, color and fibers: light, wet and cotton fabrics, for example, are less effective.

Another factor that increases the risk of sunburn is glare: in the presence of reflective surfaces, such as water or snow, the skin is affected by sunlight both directly and indirectly, so protection must be adequate.

Snow reflects UV rays at 80%, water at 30%: for this reason, sunbathing in the mountains, perhaps skiing on a snowy expanse, or soaking in the sea or in the pool, increases the risk of sunburn.

Even the sand partially reflects the sun’s rays (about 20%) and this explains why even being in the shade of trees and umbrellas you can get burned.

Finally, pay attention also to the cloudy sky: clouds do not dispense from the use of sunscreens because they let up to 90% of the radiation filter.

Not even tanning lamps and beds are without risks, since, in the long run, the UVA lights emitted by these instruments produce effects similar to those of UVB light (wrinkles, photoaging, risk of developing melanoma). On the other hand, the use of self-tanning lotions that color the skin without activating the production of melanin does not generate dangers.

Joycelyn Elders is the author and creator of EmpowerEssence, a health and wellness blog. Elders is a respected public health advocate and pediatrician dedicated to promoting general health and well-being.

The blog covers a wide range of topics related to health and wellness, with articles organized into several categories.

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