You were out on the boat all day, you forgot to reapply sunscreen, and before you knew it, you scored a nasty sunburn. Or maybe you were just mowing the lawn for an hour – maybe it was even cloudy – and it didn't even cross your mind to put on sunscreen. Now you're scorched.
No matter how many times we're told we should use sunscreen every day, sometimes we fail. And when that happens, and your skin is blazing red, you've got to treat it. "Sunburn may seem like just a temporary situation," says Dr. Robert Friedman, a dermatologist at New York University's Langone Medical Center. "It looks bad, it hurts, it peels, but it can also cause long-lasting damage to the skin, such as wrinkles or even skin cancer."
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That's because sunburn directly damages the DNA of skin cells, says Dr. Whitney Bowe, a dermatologist in New York City. "Although prevention is best, if you quickly treat a sunburn, you might have a shot at minimizing the damage done to the cells," Bowe says. "You want to help the skin repair itself as quickly as possible." Here's what to do.
Use Lots of Lotion
After your bath or compress cool-down, slather on lotion. But if you have any small blisters, leave those spots alone, Friedman warns. "When choosing a lotion, reach for something that is both moisturizing and hydrating so that it helps trap moisture in the skin," Bowe says. "Look for ingredients like ceramides, glycerin, or soy. I also like lotions that contain oatmeal, which is particularly soothing. Some fancier creams contain antioxidants like vitamins C and E, which can also help tame inflammation in the skin. But avoid creams with petroleum, because those will trap heat in your skin." Friedman adds that dabbing on small amounts of 0.5 percent or 1 percent hydrocortisone cream, sold over the counter, for a day or two can relieve some discomfort.
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