Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"What is the best way to treat a sunburn?"
Went on vacation and got a terrible sunburn that is still pretty bad a few days later. How should I treat it? Are there any ways to make sure it doesn't do permanent damage to my skin?
Unfortunately there is no readily available quick-fix for a sunburn, and no way to undo the damage that has already been done to the skin cells. There are, however, various measures that you can take to help alleviate your discomfort and facilitate the healing process. It is important to keep your skin moist. Taking baths instead of showers can help water penetrate your skin, and avoiding drying soaps or products containing alcohol will help keep moisture embedded in the skin. It is often best to apply a moisturizing lotion within minutes after taking a bath or shower. In between washing, application of cool and moist compresses to the skin can help soothe irritable areas. For extra pain relief, if needed, the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as Ibuprofen can be very helpful. If you are experiencing severe pain or have blistering areas of skin, then it would be best to visit your primary care physician for further advice regarding treatment of your burn. Most importantly, it is advisable to take measures to prevent future sunburns from occurring. There is enormous evidence that links sunburns to the development of skin cancer. It is very important to wear protective clothing and buy sunscreen with at least SPF 30 that blocks both UV-A and UV-B rays, and to reapply the sunscreen very often if you need to be in the sun.
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