Banner Health Services  

What can I do about my sunburn?

Dr. Kessler  

Margaret Kessler, MD, is a dermatologist at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix. For more information, talk to your doctor or call Dr. Kessler’s office at (602) 354-5770.

Question: I forgot to reapply my sunscreen after I went swimming and got really sunburned. What can I do to treat the sunburn at home?

Answer: Long hours in the intense Arizona sun can quickly lead to sunburn. Sunburns usually develop within a few hours; occasionally, they may not appear until a day after sun exposure. Sunburns can take days to sometimes more than a week to resolve. The symptoms of pain, redness, heat and even blistering can be very uncomfortable, but a few simple remedies can help give you some relief:

  • Cool compresses to the skin
  • Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprophen, aspirin and naproxen available at your pharmacy
  • Cooling gels and moisturizers with aloe

The damaging rays of the sun can do more than just tan your skin or cause sunburn. They also can lead to “sun spots,” otherwise known as lentigo or freckles, wrinkling of the skin, pre-cancerous growths known as “actinic keratoses,” and skin cancers such as basal cell or melanoma.

Two simple steps can help protect your skin from the damaging rays of the sun and still allow you to enjoy the outdoors. First, schedule your outdoor activities for early in the morning and late in the evening when the sun’s rays are less intense. Second, wear protective clothing and sunscreen when outdoors. Sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes before exposure. It should be reapplied every two to three hours, after swimming and heavy sweating or after towel drying. At least an SPF 30 should be used before outdoor activities.

When your skin is at risk, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer diagnosed and the better you protect your skin from sun damage, the less your risk will be for developing skin cancer in the future.

Reviewed September 2010

Page Last Modified: 02/27/2015
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