We’ve all been where I am right now. No matter how diligent you are with your initial sunscreen application, one way or another, you’ll become a victim of the sun’s bright rays.
Mine happened last week while tubing. I wore my swimsuit for the first time this summer, exposing the palest parts of my body to direct sunlight. We didn’t have a waterproof bag, so the sunscreen stayed in the car. Big mistake… huge! Long story short, our glorious three hour journey ended in my chest and stomach being totally scorched. While most of us tend to reach for aloe vera, I searched for some other forms of relief.
Biafine or calendula cream
Biafine—the French pharmaceutical burn cream that’s earned a cult following in the skincare world—is, in my opinion, the eighth wonder of the world. I’ve been using Biafine on burns, bruises, and scrapes for years to help my skin heal quickly and relatively painlessly, and it works miracles. My current sunburn is the worst I’ve had in memory, and the Biafine is keeping me comfortable and actively working to heal my skin. The redness goes down daily, and I’m showing no sign of blistering or peeling.
If Biafine isn’t available to you (tragically, it’s difficult to get in the States), calendula cream works as a great substitute. It’s made from a garden marigold and works to help with relief and keeps the skin moisturized, encouraging healing without the blisters.
Black tea bath—worth the mess?
I’d never done this before my current burn, but the first night was so painful I was willing to try anything. I dropped a whole box of Lipton ice tea bags in the bathtub and filled it with cool water. I then soaked for 45 minutes, adding ice cubes whenever the water felt too warm.
It definitely worked for relieving the burning feeling, but the bathtub was stained afterwards and so was one of our towels. The second night, I opted to make a small amount of tea and then dab a soaked washcloth on really bad areas. This worked just as well and didn’t require all the clean up.
To ice or not to ice?
The age-old ice debate! Did you know this was a debate? I certainly didn’t. Here’s the skinny: don’t actually place ice on your sunburn, but a cold compress is definitely an A+ option for reducing pain and inflammation.
Why not ice? It could do more harm than good, creating a burn on top of your sunburn. Yikes.
Hit the showers
Although an old wives-tale says taking a hot shower helps lessen the effect of a burn (what?!), it’s actually quite the opposite—a hot shower will most definitely worsen the symptoms of your burn.
Cold showers, on the other hand, will work to soothe the burn and reduce redness and inflammation by decreasing blood flow to the skin. The Skin Cancer Foundation advises keeping the cold showers short, so as not to dry your poor skin out. Remember to gently pat your skin dry with your town, rather than rub!
Ibuprofen + water
Shifting your focus to beyond the physical burn will play a huge part in the healing and relief process. Ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin all help with discomfort and inflammation. Staying hydrated will also play an important role.
“Burns draw fluid to the skin’s surface and away from the rest of the body, so you may become dehydrated,” explains Dr. Brackeen to the Skin Cancer Foundation. “It’s important to rehydrate by drinking extra liquids, including water and sports drinks that help to replenish electrolytes, immediately and while your skin heals.”
Stay where the sun don’t shine
Seriously! The best way to heal a sunburn is to keep away from the sun. And if you must go out, don’t count on sunscreen to save you. Dermatologists agree that sunscreen alone isn’t sufficient to protect sunburned skin from UV rays, so keep yourself covered in loose-fitting pants, a long-sleeve shirt, and a hat.
Obviously, the best medicine for a sunburn is prevention. Bring sunscreen wherever you go – including the water. If you’re like me and plan on spending a day on the water and away from all your worldly possessions, invest in a waterproof bag for your necessities.