Once sunburn occurs, you can't do much to limit damage to your skin. But the following tips may reduce your pain and discomfort:
- Take a pain reliever. Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, may help control pain until redness and soreness subside.
- Cool the skin. Apply to the affected skin a cool compress — such as a towel dampened with cool tap water. Or take a cool bath or shower.
- Apply moisturizer, aloe vera lotion or gel, or hydrocortisone cream to the affected skin. A low-dose (0.5 to 1 percent) hydrocortisone cream may decrease pain and swelling and speed healing.
- If blisters form, don't break them. They contain your natural body fluid (serum) and are a protective layer. Also, breaking blisters slows the healing process and increases the risk of infection. If needed, lightly cover blisters with gauze. If blisters break, gently clean the area with mild soap and water, apply an antibacterial cream, and cover with a wet dressing.
- Drink plenty of fluids, especially water. Sun exposure and heat can cause fluid loss through your skin. Drinking helps your body recover.
- Treat peeling skin gently. Within a few days, the affected area may begin to peel. This is simply your body's way of getting rid of the top layer of damaged skin. While your skin is peeling, continue to use moisturizing cream.
- Protect your sunburn from further sun exposure. Stay out of the sun or protect yourself from sunlight when you go outside.
Avoid applying "-caine" products, such as benzocaine. Such creams may irritate the skin or cause an allergic reaction.
Benzocaine has been linked to a rare but potentially deadly condition called methemoglobinemia. This condition decreases the amount of oxygen the blood can carry.
Don't use benzocaine in children younger than age 2 without supervision from a health care professional. If you're an adult, never use more than the recommended dose and consider talking with your doctor before using it.