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Sunburn FAQs: How (& How Not) To Treat Sunburns

Sunburn FAQs: How To Treat Sunburns || how to treat a sunburn, what not to do after a sunburn, sunburn relief

For many people, summer, sunshine, and sunburns just go hand-in-hand. Most of us know that avoiding sunburns is usually the best course of action, but it’s bound to happen. When it does, it can be helpful to know how to treat a sunburn and what not to do after a sunburn. Today, we’re going to talk about the right way to get sunburn relief. Let’s get started.

Common Questions About Sunburns, Sunburn Relief, & How to Treat a Sunburn:

#1: Do Sunburns Cause A Tan?

Technically yes, sunburns cause a tan. When the skin is exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or from artificial sources like tanning beds, the body produces melanin, a pigment that helps to protect the skin from further damage. And, as most of us are aware, melanin is what gives the skin its tan color.

#2: Why Do Sunburns Feel Hot?

Sunburns feel hot because the body reacts to the physical damage by releasing histamine (a substance that causes inflammation) and increasing blood flow to the area. This inflammation causes the skin to become red, swollen, and painful. You can try to mitigate this, then, with antihistamines like Loratadine or Diphenhydramine.

#3: How Do I Sleep On A Sunburn?

If you’ve ever been burned, you’ll know that touching the affected area with anything is painful. You just don’t want to do it. There are several things you can do to make sleeping more comfortable, but, keep in mind that it’s mostly going to be a waiting game. Here are a few things you can try:

  • Take over-the-counter NSAIDs (anti-inflammatory pain medication) and an antihistamine about a half hour to an hour before you go to bed.
  • Take a cool shower (not cold) before bed.
  • Apply aloe and maybe even an arnica gel product before bed.
  • Sleep on soft, cotton sheets without clothing covering your burns.
  • Set an alarm to take more pain meds before they wear off. 
  • See if placing a fan blowing on you overnight helps.

#4: What Are The “Stages” of Sunburn?

Sunburns are an acute reaction to UV radiation, so it tends to come on suddenly and dissipate quickly after the source of radiation has resolved. To divide the sunburn reaction into stages, it would look a bit like this:

  1. Initial reaction - within 6 hours, redness and pain will appear. Some people might even be itchy before the redness fully appears.
  2. Peak pain, redness, and swelling will occur within 24 hours. 
  3. Within 48 hours, pain, swelling, and redness will dissipate and peeling may occur.
  4. Within 36-72 hours after exposure, the sunburn will have completely healed and peeled.

#5: How Do I Heal A Sunburn?

The quick answer to this is time. Your main concern will be managing your pain and helping your skin stay moisturized and protected from further damage. Use aloe, arnica gel, NSAIDS, cool showers, and antihistamines to help your skin as much as possible. We also recommend our Skin Recovery Cream for after-sun care for your skin.

#6: Can I Put Sunscreen On A Sunburn?

Yes, and you absolutely should, if you have to be outside. If you have to reach for sunscreen, zinc oxide products (like our Mineral Facial Sunscreen) seem to be the way to go. Research suggests that zinc oxide can help reduce inflammation and soothe certain skin conditions.

Above all, remember that even though sunburn results in tanner skin, that doesn’t mean that it’s not damaging and high-risk. Take steps to protect your skin this summer – your skin will thank you 10-20 years from now!