How to Get Rid of Sunburn Fast and Restore Your Skin
Ready to have fun in the sun this summer? The sunny days and blue skies are perfect for a swim at the beach or dining outdoors with family and friends. But no matter what you plan on doing this summer, there’s something you need to watch out for and that’s sunburn. This is especially important if you live in or are visiting the sunny Gold Coast.
While you should avoid getting sunburnt in the first place, if you do happen to get a sunburn you’ll find everything you need to know about sunburn in this short guide, plus how to treat it fast!
How does your skin get sunburnt?
When your skin soaks up sunlight, your skin cells produce a dark pigment called melanin to protect your skin against damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays. It’s a defence mechanism and when the defences are overwhelmed due to excessive exposure to UV rays, a toxic reaction occurs that results in sunburn. Sunburn is a radiation burn to the skin that’s caused when UV rays damage DNA in the epidermis, the top layer of your skin.
Sunburn can occur in less than 15 minutes, and if you get sunburnt five or more times, you double your risk of getting the deadliest form of skin cancer: melanoma. It’ll also lead to premature ageing and wrinkling of the skin.
You can get sunburnt even on cool, cloudy days, so make sure to protect your skin from the sun.
What activities cause sunburn?
Here are some of the activities that can cause sunburn:
- Spending time at the beach, park, or pool, e.g. swimming, surfing, lazing in the sand, and picnicking.
- Playing or watching outdoor sport, e.g. tennis, soccer, cricket, and baseball.
- Undertaking outdoor activities around the home, e.g. gardening, mowing the lawn, barbequing, and entertaining.
- Working outdoors, e.g .surveyor, environmental scientist, builder, and recreation worker.
Symptoms of sunburn
When you have a sunburn, you may get the following symptoms:
- the colour of your skin changes from pink to red and even purple
- the surface of your skin feels hot
- the affected area feels painful and/or itchy
- your skin starts to swell or develop a rash
- fluid-filled blisters that could itch and then pop or break
- broken blisters that peel to reveal more tender skin underneath.
The symptoms of sunburn appear within 2-6 hours after sun exposure. And they become worse around 24-48 hours later.
How long does it take for a sunburn to heal?
In general, the time it takes for a sunburn to heal depends on its severity. For example:
- Mild sunburns last 3-5 days. These come with redness and some pain. Your skin may also peel during the last couple of days as it starts to heal.
- Moderate sunburns last about a week. These are more painful. Your skin will be red, swollen, and hot. After a week, your skin may continue to peel for a few more days.
- Severe sunburns last up to 2 weeks. You’ll have very red skin and painful blistering. You may need to see a doctor or go to the hospital. If not, you can stay at home to recover.
In addition, there are several factors that could make a severe sunburn take longer to heal, such as:
- you have fair or light skin, freckles, or red or fair hair
- you go outside between 10am and 3pm when the sun’s rays are hotter
- you live at high altitude or near an ozone hole
- you live or visit places near the equator
- you use tanning beds
- you take drugs that make you more susceptible to burns, e.g. photosensitising medication.
How to treat sunburn
Treatment can help manage the symptoms of sunburn while your skin heals. Here are some tips for treating a sunburn:
1. Use natural and home remedies
Natural and home remedies are good for mild sunburns.
- Drink lots of water to replace fluid loss caused by the burn and to speed up the healing process.
- Gently apply a cool or cold compress or a cold damp towel on your skin for 10-15 minutes.
- Gently bathe in cool or tepid water to relieve pain.
- Take a lukewarm bath to loosen peeling skin and then remove it gently. Or you can go to Esteem Medi Spa for skin peels to rejuvenate your skin.
- Cover itchy blisters with a wound dressing to reduce the risk of infection.
- If your blisters pop or break on their own, clean the area with mild soap and water, and then cover it with a wet dressing.
- For sunburn rash, apply a cool compress and aloe vera gel to soothe your skin and make the rash go away faster.
2. Use treatment products
Treatment products should be used for moderate and severe sunburns.
- Use a spray-on product that helps soothe your sunburn.
- Apply moisturiser to rehydrate and soothe your skin.
- Take over-the-counter medication such as paracetamol, aspirin, or ibuprofen to reduce pain.
- Take an anti-inflammatory drug like ibuprofen or use a corticosteroid cream to reduce swelling.
- After you remove peeling skin, apply antiseptic cream to the new skin to reduce the risk of infection.
You can buy treatment products at Chempro Chemist, which is open 7 days a week.
3. See a doctor
You should see a doctor at Strand Medical Centre if you experience:
- severe sunburn with a lot of blisters and pain
- sunburn that covers a large area of your skin
- headaches or fever
- nausea and vomiting
- feeling faint
- chills or fatigue
- dizziness or altered states of consciousness
- a rapid heartbeat
- extreme thirst
- reduced urination
- pus, swelling, and tenderness in the blisters
4. Take preventive measures
You can avoid making your sunburn worse by:
- Applying sunscreen liberally 20 minutes before going outdoors and reapply every 2 hours. Use an SPF 50+ sunscreen that’s broad spectrum and water resistant. Also look for one with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide as they reflect off UV radiation.
- Covering up with sun-protective clothing. This can either be a long-sleeve shirt and pants or a UPF 50+ clothing that blocks over 98% of the sun’s rays. You can find sun-protective clothing at Sunburn Swimwear.
- Wearing a broad-brimmed hat and wrap-around sunglasses that meet Australian Standard AS/NZS 1067. These’ll also help to physically block the sun’s rays. You can buy hats and sunglasses from Sunburn Swimwear.
- Staying out of the sun until your sunburn has healed or minimising your sun exposure. You can stay in the shade while avoiding UV rays that could be reflected on to you from buildings, windows, concrete, water, or sand.
- Checking the UV Index every day on the Bureau of Meteorology website or the SunSmart app. This way you don’t go or stay outside when the sun’s rays are the most intense, eg UV Index of 3 or above.
Protecting your skin from the sun
Sunburn causes irreversible skin damage and skin cancer that can be fatal. In fact, more than 2,000 Australians die from skin cancer each year. With the harsh Australian sun, it’s easy to get a sunburn so you should protect your skin from the sun.
If you have a sunburn, follow these tips and it’ll heal in no time. Then you can enjoy the rest of your summer around Coolangatta!