Some skin care solutions aren’t solutions at all.
If you stayed out too long or your sunscreen wore off and now you have a sunburn, there are some things that you should not do if you want your skin to heal well.
Keep in mind that a sunburn is a sign of damaged skin. The last thing you want to do is damage it more, but some so-called skin care solutions can do just that.
Skin Care Solutions to Avoid: Put Sunscreen On Your Sunburn
Some people think that if you put sunscreen on a sunburn, it will help prevent further damage from that burn.
But sunscreen is not a sunburn treatment, it is a sunburn preventative—and not a bulletproof one at that. Most sunscreen only offers partial protection from the sun, so you can’t rely on it to protect your skin after you’ve been burned, or to help limit the damage.
Skin Care Solutions to Try: Your best bet is to get inside and treat your sunburn right away. (We’ll talk about how to properly treat it below.) That doesn’t involve using more sunscreen but applying cooling and healing products that will help limit the damage and promote healing.
If you can’t go inside right away—maybe you’re hiking or playing a softball game—your best approach is to cover the burn immediately with some type of clothing. It may be too hot to do so, but if you don’t, your skin will continue to burn, and the damage could be significant.
Put on a hat, long-sleeved shirt, long pants, socks, or whatever you need to cover the burned area until you can get inside. You can also use an umbrella if you have one.
2. Skin Care Solutions to Avoid: Apply a Vinegar Compress to a Sunburn
This is a common Internet recommendation. The idea is that the anti-bacterial properties of the vinegar will help prevent infection and protect the wound from bacteria.
Try this once, though, and you’ll be likely to question this recommendation. Vinegar is naturally acidic, and it can burn if you place it on a tender sunburn. That may result in even more damage to the skin than you already have.
Skin Care Solutions to Try: Instead, use pure aloe or a milk compress to immediately take the heat out of a sore sunburn. If it’s particularly painful, take an anti-inflammatory medication like aspirin or ibuprofen, and spray on some of our Rescue + Relief Spray. (It’s even better if you store it in the refrigerator.) It has turmeric, a powerful anti-inflammatory, and aloe, as well as cooling ingredients to help calm and soothe burned skin.
3. Skin Care Solutions to Avoid: Eating Foods Like Tomatoes and Strawberries
These healthy foods contain vitamin C and other antioxidants that are good for you and your skin, but to imagine that eating them will protect you from sunburn is to set yourself up for suffering.
Yes, eating these foods will offer a small amount of protection, but it’s not a reason to skip sunscreen. The sun’s UV rays are intense, particularly during the summer months, and will overpower the natural defenses in your skin if you don’t take extra steps to protect it.
There’s also a myth that squeezing the juice from a tomato or applying tomato slices on the burn will help relieve redness. Again, this is a bad idea. Tomatoes are acidic and will only make your burn sting more.
Skin Care Solutions to Try: Always use a safe sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher to protect your skin. Those formulas with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are the safest for adults and children.
4. Skin Care Solutions to Avoid: Apply Butter to a Burn
This is an old remedy that was used decades ago, but it’s no longer helpful today (and probably never was). You want to cool the burn to speed healing, and butter can create more heat in the skin.
Skin Care Solutions to Try: As noted above, apply cooling treatments like cold water, milk compresses, and our Rescue + Relief Spray, which is aloe-based. A bag of frozen veggies can also work well.
5. Skin Care Solutions to Avoid: Coconut Oil
Like butter, coconut oil can trap heat on the skin, prolonging inflammation and making your sunburn worse. Coconut oil is an effective moisturizer that you may want to use as your sunburn heals, but be sure to avoid it until that point. Use light, cooling options instead.
6. Skin Care Solutions to Avoid: Hot Showers
Some people believe that taking a hot shower can soothe the pain of a sunburn. Hot water, however, like butter and coconut oil, can make the burn worse. It not only adds heat to an already overheated area but can also dilate the blood vessels, increasing blood flow to the surface of the skin and increase your level of pain. Use cooling options instead.
7. Skin Care Solutions to Avoid: Shaving Cream
Normally, shaving cream feels cool and fluffy on the skin. Some shaving creams do have moisturizing properties, too, but many contain chemicals that might irritate and inflame the skin. Any shaving cream is also likely to aggravate blisters if you have them.
Skin Care Solutions to Try: In addition to cooling the burn with cool water, frozen peas, milk compresses, and our Rescue + Relief Spray, follow our treatment recommendations below.
How to Properly Prevent and Treat a Sunburn
Instead of falling for Internet myths, follow these tips to help prevent and properly treat a sunburn:
- Protect with clothing: Use hats, shirts, pants, socks, and more to protect your skin from the sun. Keep in mind that some light materials will allow UV rays through, and yes, you can get sunburnt through some clothes, so consider applying sunscreen as well.
- Protect with sunscreen: Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more that includes zinc oxide or titanium oxide. Don’t forget to reapply every couple of hours, and more if you sweat or get wet.
- Watch your exposure: Your skin will naturally adapt to the sun over the summer, but you need to give it time. Gradually increase your exposure to the sun. Avoid spending long periods outside—even when wearing sunscreen—at the beginning of the season.
- Protect after a burn: The instant you notice that your skin is burning, take action. Put on some clothes, get into the shade, and/or go inside.
- Cool the burn: As soon as you can, cool the burn with the methods we listed above. This can help limit the damage. Then continue to cool the area by taking frequent cool baths or showers and reapplying cooling compresses.
- Take an aspirin: You may want to take an aspirin or ibuprofen to help reduce the pain, inflammation, and swelling.
- Use a moisturizer with aloe: Once you’ve cooled the skin down, apply a cooling moisturizer right away. Those that contain aloe can help encourage healing. We recommend our Calming Moisture and Body Repair Lotion, as both contain aloe as well as other anti-inflammatory ingredients. Continue to reapply several times a day.
- Drink extra water: According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), a sunburn “draws fluid to the skin’s surface and away from the rest of the body.” Drinking extra water can help you prevent dehydration while giving the skin the moisture it needs from the inside out.
- Don’t pop any blisters: If your skin blisters, don’t pop them! These can help protect you from infection, so simply leave them be until they heal.
- Take extra care: While your skin is healing, continue to apply your anti-inflammatory moisturizer, and be extra careful to protect your skin when you go outdoors. Wear clothing that covers the burn—tightly woven fabrics are best.
What sunburn treatment myths have you heard?