So You Have Sunburn? Here's What You Need to Do Next
It's officially tank top, shorts, and swimsuit season, which means you're apt to spend way more time outside basking under the warm rays of Ms. Sunshine. In these sunshine-y times, we all know that we're supposed to slather on the SPF — like, a lot of SPF. Sometimes, though, despite putting forth your best effort and being super careful, burns still happen.
So how do you cover up those strange patterns left behind from your cutout tank top or monokini? And how do you conceal a bright red, Rudolph nose? What about all that peeling, scaly skin that happens a few days later? And let's not forget the accompanying pain... We spoke to a dermatologist and a makeup artist to give you the lowdown on the sunburn maintenance.
See Ya, Sunburn Pain
First thing’s first: Take an anti-inflammatory, such as ibuprofen or aspirin, as soon as you realize you’ve been sunburnt, then repeat every six hours. This will not only reduce pain, but will actually help with the redness, explains dermatologist Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse. She adds that you should eat something first so the medicine doesn’t upset your stomach.
Next, she recommends applying a thin layer of hydrocortisone cream two to three times daily, which will also help reduce redness and inflammation. You can also apply a cool compress to help reduce the stinging.
“To reduce the heat and pain in your skin, try a natural approach,” says Dr. Shainhouse. “Boil up a kettle of water and pour it into a bowl with two to four tea bags. Black tea works best, but green tea can help, too. Let it steep and cool. Then, use the cooled tea as a compress on the sunburned area.”
You can also try applying a chilled aloe vera gel for double the relief.
Preventing Scale City
Many of us have experience the post-burn, peeling skin effect. Turns out, there are a couple ways to minimize, and better deal, with this uncomfortable, unsightly process.
“Once the healing skin starts to shed, use a gentle moisturizer,” recommends Dr. Shainhouse. “Consider ingredients like coconut and Shea butter to moisturize and ingredients like ceramides to help repair the broken skin barrier.”
You can also try mildly exfoliating your skin to expedite the peeling process. If your skin can tolerate it, Dr. Shainhouse suggests lotions with hydroxy acids, such as ammonium lactate, which will gently remove the dead skin.
Operation Sunburn Cover Up
Now that we’ve covered the pain and peeling, let’s talk about the process of concealing your burn and the awkward tan lines that follow. We realize this might not be first on your priorities list, but if you want to take the extra steps, here's what you need to do.
First, continue moisturizing and stick with sheer, lightweight layers of makeup to prevent a cake-like effect. Once you’ve got those bases covered, you can move on to makeup.
“To downplay a sunburn, pick a yellow toned-foundation,” advises Sonia Kashuk, makeup artist and founder of Sonia Kashuk Beauty. She recommends something like her Perfecting Luminous Foundation, or Radiant+ Tinted Moisturizer, which will neutralize redness.
You can extend this color-correcting method to other parts of your body, as well.
“Try applying a deeper shade of high coverage foundation and some bronzer to blend the tones,” suggests Kashuk. She recognizes that this is a lot of work, though, and says that sometimes it’s just better “to own it!”
An all-over body bronzer may serve you well if you’re feeling really self-conscious. If you’re dealing with commitment issues, try a temporary wash-off bronzer that’ll stay put through the day or evening but isn’t permanent.
Lastly, and most importantly, we should state that prevention is key to all of the above. Reapply sunscreen often — and especially every time you hop out of the water or get a little sweaty. When you’re not at the beach or pool, also wear clothing that covers more of your skin, rock those large sunglasses and wide brimmed hats, and carry a sun umbrella.