Accidentally get sunburned? Here are our best tips on how to heal a sunburn fast.
We would wager our entire 10-step skin care routine that you’re pretty good when it comes applying your sunscreen before heading out the door. You wouldn’t be reading The Klog or shopping for Korean skin care products if that weren’t the case! That said, even the most careful and most educated skin care aficionados out there can walk away from a glorious beach day with an unfortunate, painful sunburn.
With the help of an aesthetician and dermatologist, we’ve outlined common mistakes you might be making when it comes to applying your sunscreen. And for those of you who are reading this with a splotchy, itchy sunburn, we’re giving you tips for how to soothe and heal your skin ASAP.
Common sunscreen application mistakes:
Before you hit the pool or plan a day sightseeing in the city, read through these sunscreen application mistakes to make sure you’re covered!
You’re not applying enough sunscreen: Many people only apply 25% to 50% of the recommended amount of sunscreen that they ought to be wearing. “The guidelines are to apply one ounce—that’s enough to fill a shot glass—to the exposed areas of the face and body, and a nickel-sized dollop to the face alone,” says Hadley King, a board certified dermatologist at New York’s SKINNEY Medspa. A sunscreen’s effectiveness is tested at the rate of two milligrams per every square inch of skin. Depending on your size, this ultimately equates to one teaspoon per leg, ½ teaspoon per arm, one teaspoon on your back, one teaspoon on your chest, and ½ teaspoon for your face and neck. King adds, “If you’re using a spray, apply until an even sheen appears on the skin.”
You’re not using broad band: Most sunscreens these days say “broad band” protection, which means they shield both UVA and UVB rays. However, some sunscreens, such as those in your cosmetics, only contain an SPF. Read more about why SPF in your makeup isn’t enough.
You missed a spot: “I always see clients with burnt hairlines and ears and tips of the nose,” says Ildi Pekar, an aesthetician with over 20 years of experience. “You need to apply the sunscreen wherever the skin will be exposed to the sun.”
Sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to forget about certain areas. The hairline, as Pekar mentions, is a big one. A hat can fix this, or you can apply designated scalp sunscreen. Other areas that are often forgotten about include the tops and exposed “inside area” of your ears, hands, the tops and bottoms of your feet, eyelids, and lips. Also, don’t forget to apply sunscreen to your entire body before wearing a swimsuit or top with lots of cutouts. Alternatively, use a spray sunscreen to get those tricky spots!
You’re not reapplying often enough: Sunscreen, in general, should be applied every two hours. Also, forgetting to reapply sunscreen after you’ve hopped out of the pool, or seriously sweated it out, can lead to sunburns and skin damage, as well. “‘Sweat-proof’ and ‘water-proof’ claims are no longer allowed by the FDA. Instead, the label will state “water resistant” and for how many minutes—either 40 or 80 minutes. You need to reapply after this amount of time,” says King. The only time you may not have to reapply every two hours is if you’re inside an air-conditioned building all day long. If you’re planning to hit the beach after work, though, you really ought to reapply beforehand. Better safe than sunburned!
Your sunscreen is expired: “I see a lot of people using expired SPF,” says Pekar. “Please check the packaging, or it won’t be as protective as you think.” Sunscreen bottles aren’t that big, friends, and many have three-year expiration dates. Bottom line: You should be using that entire bottle before the three years is up, anyway!
You’re not using supplementary protection: Sunscreen is a magnificent force for the sun to reckon with, but it could use a little help. King recommends wearing “a broad-brimmed hat and protective clothing as much as possible.” Sunglasses, headscarves, and parasols can be fashion-forward ways to keep your skin healthy and happy, too!
Soothing sunburned skin:
“If you have accidentally gotten a sunburn, cool compresses soaked in milk and aloe vera can be soothing,” says King (try the Benton Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel). “Also, new research out of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center shows that high doses of vitamin D, taken one hour after sunburn, significantly reduce skin redness, swelling and inflammation, according to a double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial.”
You can find vitamin D supplements very easily, and they’re good to incorporate into your regimen anyway! Try any local supermarket, health food store, or online! In addition to moisturizing with aloe vera and taking vitamin D, you should also drink lots of fluids.
Within the first few days of a sunburn, the pain will begin to subside and uncomfortable itching and peeling will likely begin. As awful as it looks and feels, though, peeling is a very important part of the post-burn process, and it is a sign that your skin is healing! In fact, the peeling is your body’s way of ridding itself of dead and damaged skin cells to reveal fresh, healthy skin.
It may be tempting, but you should never peel your skin. This puts you at risk for peeling away healthy skin, and it can also make it more difficult for your body to heal evenly. On that note, also avoid popping blisters. If you have excessive blistering (more than 20% of your body), see a doctor for treatment. If you have a few blisters, cover them with a medical bandage and don’t touch them. When they pop on its own, apply antibacterial ointment and cover again.
While your skin is healing, you should avoid both physical and chemical exfoliation, including glycolic acids, salicylic acid, and salt, sand, or sugar scrubs. What you can do, though, is continue moisturizing! Use lots of aloe vera, as well as creams and lotions that have soothing, highly moisturizing properties. The Manefit Beauty Planner Honey Sheet Mask Set, Klairs Rich Moist Soothing Cream, and Skinfood Premium Lettuce & Cucumber Watery Essence are great examples of products that will ease the pain and promote healing.