Summer means time outdoors, but it can also mean painful sunburns if we aren’t careful with our skin. While the best defense for a sunburn is a good offense (don’t let your skin burn in the first place), burns can and do happen throughout the summer months.
Sunburns can be painful, making it difficult to wear certain clothing and even interfering with your sleep at night. Dr. Charlotte Birnbaum of Spring Street Dermatology in New York City has tips on how to relieve the discomfort and aid the healing process.
Sunburn Treatment Tips
Dr. Birnbaum offers a few products and strategies to alleviate a sunburn:
- Cool yourself down! Use ice packs or take a cool swim or shower to help dissipate some of the heat from the skin and help relieve pain.
- Calm down the inflammation. If safe for you to do so, consider taking a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug like ibuprofen or aspirin. Consider applying aloe vera or over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream which both have anti-inflammatory properties.
- Hydrate! When our skin burns, water is drawn to the skin’s surface. It is important to replenish our stores in our body to avoid dehydration.
- Moisturize with a water-based lotion. This will help restore our skin barrier as it heals itself.
- Protect your sunburned skin from further damage. Seek shade and wear sun-protective clothing while exposed to UV radiation.
If you develop blisters from your sunburn, Dr. Birnbaum cautions that you should never pop the blisters. This can make you more vulnerable to infection. If you develop extensive blisters, or experience fever or chills, consult your board-certified dermatologist for evaluation and additional treatment recommendations.
Sunburn, Skin Cancer, and Wrinkles
While sunburns do get better over time, damage has been done to the skin that cannot be reversed. Regular sun exposure can lead to unwanted side effects like an increased risk for skin cancer. All three types of skin cancer, including basal cell, squamous cell, and the deadly melanoma, can be the result of sun exposure.
The Skin Cancer Foundation estimates that just five sunburns over a lifetime can double your odds of developing melanoma. Around 196,060 cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2020 alone and an estimated 6,850 will die from the disease this year. While non-melanoma skin cancers are not as deadly, they are much more common and take the lives of as many as 5,400 people every month. To learn more about sunburns and skin cancer, visit skincancer.org
Sun-Kissed = Early Aging
Premature aging is another byproduct of too much time in the sun. UV exposure breaks down collagen, an essential protein within the dermal structure that gives skin its smooth, supple appearance in our youth. Over time, our bodies produce less collagen, which leads to skin laxity and the formation of wrinkles. Since UV rays accelerate collagen breakdown, they also speed up the aging process – exponentially in some cases.
In addition, those powerful rays lead to pigmentation issues, including brown spots that are often referred to as liver spots or age spots. Over time, the skin can take on a leathery texture, which signifies the tissue has become significantly more frail and subject to bruising. The combination of these effects can lead you to look much older than you feel and sometimes older than you really are.
Sunburn Prevention: The Best Defense
It bears repeating – the best defense against sun damage is a good offense. Aggressive, consistent sun protection is the most effective way to reduce your risk for skin cancer and ward off unwanted signs of early aging.
Some of the best steps you can take to protect your skin and prevent sun damage include:
- Avoiding the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. when UV rays are at their most potent
- Seeking shade whenever possible while outdoors, especially during the middle of the day
- Applying sunscreen daily, paying special attention to the ears, lips, and backs of the hands
- Choosing a broad-spectrum sunscreen, which protects against both UVA and UVB rays
- Using an SPF 30 daily and a higher SPF for longer times outdoors or if you have fair skin
- Reapplying sunscreen if you are out for an extended period, if you get wet, or you perspire heavily
- Wearing protective clothing, including long sleeves, pants, and a hat with a broad brim
- Wearing sunglasses with UV protection
It is also critical to examine your skin regularly for any new moles or changes to current moles. If you see any, schedule an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist for further assessment. It is also important to have annual skin checks with your dermatologist as early detection is essential to ensuring successful and thorough treatment of any type of skin cancer.
Save Your Skin Today
At Spring Street Dermatology in New York, New York, our goal is to keep you looking and feeling your best throughout life. Healthy skin is beautiful skin, and we have the treatments necessary to ensure your skin is in top condition. If you have experienced sun damage, our targeted treatments can help reverse the damage and restore your youthful appearance.
Contact our office today to schedule a consultation and find out how we can help you take your skin to the next level.
To schedule a dermatology consultation with Spring Street Dermatology to treat any existing sunburns, or to learn more about how to prevent early aging from sun exposure, feel free to contact us using our online contact form.