We all know the importance of sunscreen in these sweltering summer months, but let’s face it — mistakes happen. You’re at the pool, beach, or just running around the hot city on an errand mission, and you suddenly start to feel those hot tingles that let you know that your skin may be on the verge of a sunburn crisis. Or worse, you get home, look in the mirror, and find a human lobster staring back at you. What to do now? We recently chatted with New York dermatologist Dr. Michelle Henry to get an expert’s take on how to heal that burn and minimize the damage after you’ve gotten too much sun. Scroll on for her tips and product recommendations, all available at a Simon near you.
What’s the biggest mistake most people make when it comes to summer skincare?
Skipping sunscreen altogether or forgetting to reapply every two hours are some of the most dangerous summertime mistakes. Many forget to reapply sunscreen when swimming or in the water, which can lead to severe burns.
What’s the first thing you should do if you notice your skin burning?
Seek shade immediately! And always use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 50 or greater when outdoors for an extended period of time. After seeking shade, apply a moisturizer that contains aloe to help soothe the area. Aloe has proven anti-inflammatory properties and is one of my favorite ingredients after a sunburn.
So, you’ve already gotten the burn — what time frame are we looking at in terms of recovery?
A mild burn will heal in about a week. However, more severe burns can take a few weeks to heal.
Are there any steps someone can take to help cut that healing time down?
Hydration is key! Drinking water and moisturizing will keep the skin hydrated and optimize healing. Oral and topical antioxidants, such as vitamin C, help to halt premature cell death and promote skin healing. Eating foods that are naturally anti-inflammatory, such as salmon, will also help stimulate the healing process.
What can someone do to help alleviate the pain, discomfort, or redness in the meantime?
Try taking a cool bath. If you are terribly uncomfortable, consider using an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream twice daily or taking ibuprofen to reduce the inflammation, swelling, and discomfort.
Should you alter your normal skincare routine while recovering from a sunburn?
I recommend sticking with bland, fragrance-free moisturizers and gentle cleansers until the post-burn peeling phase has subsided to avoid additional irritation. This is roughly a week after the burn in most cases.
Is there anything that can be done to help correct sun-related skin damage, even after the burn itself has healed?
Religious sunscreen use is important, as the cumulative damage is what causes skin cancer. Certain lasers, such as the Fraxel, may help to shed superficial photo-damaged skin, thereby improving the appearance.