Home Health & Wellness How to Treat Sunburn: Leading Doctors Share Top Tips

How to Treat Sunburn: Leading Doctors Share Top Tips

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With the summer season in full swing, searches for “sunburn” have spiked +300% in the last week alone. With Brits arriving home from holiday or anticipating the warm weather over the next few days, Brits are seeking tips on treatments and avoiding sunburn. 

Based on these findings, Beauty Daily by Clarins spoke to leading medical experts. This includes Dr Claire Ashley, an NHS Urgent Care and locum GP, and Dr Tara Francis, an advanced facial aesthetician and skin care specialist, to share their tips on the causes, symptoms, prevention, and sunburn treatments.

What causes sunburn? 

Sunburn is caused when you expose unprotected skin to too much sunlight. Essentially, suntan results from the body’s natural defence mechanism kicking in against damaging ultraviolet rays. When the defences are overwhelmed, a toxic reaction occurs, resulting in sunburn.  

“Sunburn is an actual burn, just caused by the sun. The damage is caused by thermal injury similarly,” explained Dr Ashley.  

“Most cases are mild and superficial and will settle by themselves. However, deeper burns that cause blistering should be treated in the same way as those caused by the likes of boiling water.  If the burn is too deep, it can make you ill and leave a permanent scar. It’s also a risk factor for skin cancer.” 

Common sunburn symptoms 

Understanding sunburn symptoms is key to stopping further damage from those dreaded UVs. Most of us have experienced sunburn at some point and know that pain and soreness is one of the common symptoms.  

“The pain is attributed to damage of nerve endings under the skin and is typically at its worst a few hours after exposure to the sun or other sources of UV like sunbeds,” explained Dr Ashley, pointing out the common symptoms of sunburn below. 

Red, sore skin 

The skin usually feels tender and warm to the touch. It is also typical for the sunburned areas of skin to start flaking and peeling a few days after sun exposure. 

Blisters 

“If the sunburn is severe, then you might notice blisters appearing in the sunburnt skin,” added Dr Ashley. “Sometimes, this is associated with feeling poorly. When a sunburn with blisters happens, you know you’ve spent far too much time in the sun and have caused quite a bit of damage to your skin. The sun blisters are bubbles under the skin filled with fluid; they are unattractive, uncomfortable and can hurt quite a bit.”  

Other sunburn symptoms include:

  • A high temperature – you may feel hot and shivery 
  • Extreme tiredness – often accompanied by dizziness and sickness  
  • Headache and muscle cramps 

How to treat sunburn fast?

What are the best treatments for quick, effective relief? 

According to Dr Ashley, the fastest way to get rid of a mild case of sunburn is to apply after-sun cream, cool the skin down with a cool shower and drink lots of water to help prevent dehydration. 

You may try Clarins SOS sunburn soother mask with shea oil, organic aloe vera and sunflower extract. Its gel-cream formula has a cooling effect that comforts your skin, relieves and minimises burning sensations; plus, protects your skin against free radicals and sun-induced ageing.

“Paracetamol and ibuprofen can be helpful too if it’s painful,” she says. “You must keep the sunburnt area covered and out of the sun until it has healed. Don’t apply ice or wear tight clothing, as this might aggravate it and make it more painful. 

“If you develop any of these symptoms (including blistered skin without feeling poorly), you must seek urgent medical advice from your GP or local urgent care centre. If you are abroad, you will need to see a local doctor, so I would always recommend that patients travel with their EHIC card and health insurance to cover any expenses.”  

In total agreement is Dr Tara Francis, who has cared for many patients with sunburn through her work as an aesthetician and skincare specialist. “With sunburn, it’s important to know when to see your doctor: sometimes at-home remedies or products won’t cut it and seeking medical attention is the best choice.”

How to prevent sunburn as much as possible 

The best way to avoid sunburn is to manage how people expose their skin to sunlight. This includes: 

  • Sitting in places that offer a lot of shade. 
  • Wearing a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Protecting the eyes with sunglasses. 
  • Always wearing sunblock of SPF 30+ and reapply it regularly.

“There is nothing more important if you are in contact with the sun than taking preventive measures like applying SPF throughout the day,” added Dr Francis. “And be sure to stay hydrated – drink lots of fluids to avoid dehydration.” 

And finally, in the words of Dr Ashley, the best way to prevent sunburn is by staying out of the sun when it is at its most powerful. 

“The best way to treat sunburn is not to get it in the first place. So I’d recommend staying covered outside, slathering yourself in factor 50 suncream, and avoiding the sun between 11 am–3 pm when UV rays are strongest.”  

So go forth and have fun in the sun – but remember to stay safe! (We prefer to get our serotonin fix without sunburn.

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