What's the best way to recover from sunburn?

Image via Flickr

We wanted to open this article by saying most of us in 2015 are sun conscious, but we’ve just read an alarming statistic that proves the opposite.

A recent study showed that most Australians still believe that sunburn mostly happens on hot, sunny summer days.

Over a third of people (37%) didn’t feel protection from the sun was necessary on cloudy days or doing everyday activities such as the gardening, BBQs or walking. And almost a third (30%) said that it’s never occurred to them to get a regular skin check.

What you really need to look for in a sunscreen.

So if you do find yourself accidentally sunburned this summer, there are a few things you can do to reduce the severity.

We spoke to clinical dermatologist and president of the Skin & Cancer Foundation Inc, Chris Baker, to find out the best way to recover from sunburn (and stop it from happening in the first place).

Chris writes:

The best approach to sunburn is to prevent it happening in the first place. We all need to be aware when sunburn might be a risk and to predict risk times.  It’s easy to be caught out and to find you are outside longer than expected or in unexpected sunshine. Be careful of bright cloudy days and sunny cool days. We don’t associate these conditions with sunburn but there is still a risk of high UV exposure. The message is cover up – seek shade, wear a hat and clothing and apply sun screen to exposed skin and don’t forget sunglasses.

Four Australian states will completely ban solariums at the end of this year.

If sunburn does occur, it will run its course. Mild sunburn will get better over 1 to 2 days if you keep out of the sun. Simple soothing treatments such as cool compresses and a moisturising cream are all that is needed.  There is some evidence that the early use of an anti inflammatory medication (such as a NSAID) may reduce the severity and duration of sunburn, however medical advice is recommended. If sunburn is severe, blistering can occur and you can become unwell. Medical attention is needed and, if very severe, admission to hospital may be required.


What are the best products to use post-burn?

Unfortunately, there are no treatments that reverse the damage caused by a sunburn. Every sunburn causes some irreversible damage to DNA in epidermal cells and ageing of the skin - and that damage keeps adding up with every sunburn. Nothing will return your skin to normal. You cannot reverse this damage, the wrinkling or the ageing look. A moisturiser is useful in treating the skin dryness that can follow. Most important is the use of sun protection and a sun screen to prevent further damage.

Do products with Aloe Vera in them actually help?

There is no proven benefit in using Aloe Vera containing products after a sun burn. Some people find them pleasant to use and that is okay.

Can you reverse sun damage?

Sun damage is essentially not reversible. Every sun burn adds to the risk of skin cancer and adds to the signs of aging, such as wrinkles, brown spots and scaly sun spots. There is evidence that topical retinoids (such as retinoic acid) and AHA’s (such as glycolic acid) can improve some of the signs of sun damage. There are various prescription treatments to deal with precancers (solar keratoses) that may occur after repeated sun exposure.

The good news, however, is that with sun protection and sunscreens you can prevent further damage. See the gallery below for some of our favourites. And don't forget to protect your lips - go for a hydrating balm with SPF, we love Carmex Ultra Hydrating Lip Balm Clear Satin, $8.99, buy here.

How do you stay sun safe?