How to treat a sunburn

As I noted in my last post, May is Skin Cancer Awareness month. Unfortunately for all of us sun-lovers, our exposure to the sun accounts for 70% of all skin cancers. Worse, the single greatest risk factor for the most deadly type of skin cancer—melanoma—is a severe sunburn.

So, Rule #1 in treating a sunburn is to avoid getting a sunburn.

I recommend:

  • Religious application of sunscreen.
    • Preferably a mineral sunscreen (zinc oxide or titanium dioxide), rather than a chemical one.
    • SPF 30 or higher is best. (This means it takes 30 times as long for your skin to turn red as it would without sunscreen.)
    • Remember to reapply it as often as necessary, such as after swimming, sweaty exertion, or when your sun protection factor (SPF) runs out
  • Reducing sun exposure by means of a wide-brimmed hat, long sleeves, long, loose leg coverings, and even gloves when driving or gardening.
  • Eating your sunscreen (!) By consuming red, lycopene-containing foods such as watermelon, pomegranates, and tomatoes you’ll actually increase the effectiveness of your topical sunscreen (thus, reducing the risk of sunburn). Murad even offers a supplement with 100% pomegranate extract to help you eat your sunscreen.

But let’s say life happens and, despite your best intentions, you end up with a sunburn. What to do?

#1. Get out of the sun and avoid additional exposure.

#2. Re-hydrate yourself! A sunburn draws fluid to the skin’s surface and away from the rest of the body, which means you need to replenish that water loss. In addition to drinking and eating plenty of water, moisture-rich foods containing lycopenes again are helpful after sunburn, just as much as they are preventive, because their antioxidants fight inflammation, thus helping to repair damage to cells and DNA. (See below for a delicious, rehydrating watermelon smoothie!)

#3. Cool your body with a cool bath or shower. A cool bath with colloidal oatmeal is particularly effective at drawing heat out of the body, soothing inflammation. As soon as you get out of the water, gently pat yourself dry, leaving a little water on your skin. Follow with a moisturizer, perhaps one containing aloe vera, to help seal the water into your skin. A cold compress on the sunburned area can also help.

#4. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! Returning moisture to the skin will help it heal faster.

#5. Ease the pain by taking aspirin or ibuprofen, if necessary to alleviate swelling, redness, and discomfort. You might also apply a non-prescription hydrocortisone cream to particularly tender or itchy areas. (Do not, however, treat sunburn with “-caine” products, such as benzocaine, as these may irritate the skin or cause an allergic reaction.)

#6. Soothe, don’t pop, any blisters. Apply a cooling compress or aloe vera gel, but let the blisters heal naturally. Don’t scratch them, even if they itch! (Instead, apply hydrocortisone cream.) If the blisters break on their own, apply an antibiotic ointment and cover the area with a bandage of loose gauze.  Blistered skin is a sign of a second-degree burn, which greatly increases your chance of skin cancer, and may indicate sun poisoning, as well. Other sun poisoning symptoms include nausea, vomiting, chills, fevers, and dizziness, and may require medical attention.

#7. Seek medical attention if the sunburn is severe and you are in pain or experiencing any of the symptoms of sun poisoning!

Enjoying the great outdoors is one of the primary appeals of spring and summer—and getting outdoors is also fundamental for reducing Cultural Stress! So enjoy your days in the sun, but do so responsibly!

That’s #ModernWellness!

Rehydrate with a delicious watermelon smoothie!!

The secret to this four-ingredient recipe is frozen watermelon! (Otherwise, blending the watermelon will give you delicious watermelon juice!) However, if you are fresh out of frozen watermelon, add a handful of ice cubes to the recipe.

Combine in a blender:

3 cups frozen watermelon cubes

1 cup frozen strawberries (or substitute mangoes, blueberries, or bananas)

½ cup vanilla yogurt (can also substitute plain if you don’t want the added sugar)

½ cup unsweetened almond milk, coconut water, or tap water (as needed to blend)

Optional, but delightful:

¼ cup fresh mint or basil leaves, packed, plus a sprig for garnish

Pour into two 12-ounce glasses and drink up!

DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this site is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider, who should also be consulted with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.


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