To heal from first-degree sunburn, you need to give your body time to replace the skin that was damaged. First-degree sunburn only affects the outer layer of the skin. The skin will typically just look red and may begin to peel after a few days as the skin begins to replace itself.
There’s a limit to how fast your body can heal itself, but you can maximize the healing process by:
Reading: How to heal sunburn fast
- getting plenty of rest
- staying hydrated
- moisturizing your skin
Other tips to support the healing process and relieve symptoms include:
- Take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Taking an NSAID such as ibuprofen immediately after you notice sunburn can help decrease inflammation and pain.
- Get lots of sleep. Sleep restriction disrupts your body’s production of certain cytokines that help your body manage inflammation. This disruption can negatively affect your body’s ability to heal itself.
- Avoid tobacco use. Smoking or using other forms of tobacco can impair your body’s natural healing process by promoting inflammation throughout your body. Quitting can be difficult, but a healthcare professional can help you create a cessation plan that works for you.
- Avoid additional sun exposure. Exposing sunburn to more ultraviolet (UV) rays can further damage your skin. If you have to go out, try to cover your sunburn with clothing and wear sunscreen.
- Apply aloe vera. Aloe vera contains a substance called aloin that reduces inflammation. Aloe vera can also moisturize your skin and prevent peeling.
- Cool bath. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends taking a cool bath or shower to soothe your skin. Afterward, leave a little moisture on your skin when you dry off and then apply a moisturizer to trap in water.
- Apply hydrocortisone cream. Hydrocortisone creams are used to treat swelling, irritation, and itchiness. Apply hydrocortisone cream to manage swelling and pain. You can get 1 percent hydrocortisone over the counter, or if necessary, your doctor can prescribe a stronger ointment.
- Stay hydrated. Sunburn draws moisture away from your skin. Drinking plenty of fluids and electrolytes can help rehydrate your skin.
- Try a cold compress. Applying a cold compress to your skin — but not directly on a sunburned area — for short intervals not long after the burn happens may help draw away excess heat from your skin and reduce inflammation.
- Try an oatmeal bath. An oatmeal bath may help soothe your skin and reduce irritation. You can make an oatmeal bath by mixing a few tablespoons of baking soda and about a cup of oats to a cool bath.
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Applying essential oils like chamomile, sandalwood, peppermint, or lavender, as well as diluted apple cider vinegar, may help heal sunburns. However, these methods haven’t been scientifically proven. If you choose to use these methods, it’s important to follow recommendations regarding safe skin application.
Keep in mind that you won’t be able to get rid of sunburn overnight even if your burn is mild. Most instances of first-degree sunburn should still take at least a week to heal, even when properly treated, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. More severe sunburn may take weeks or even months to heal.
Sunburned areas are typically first-degree burns. You would have to spend much more prolonged time in the sun to get second-degree or third-degree sunburn from the sun. These are much more serious.
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Second-degree sunburn will reach the second layer of the skin, which is the epidermis. These sunburned areas typically result in blistering. Third-degree sunburn reaches the fat below the skin and can destroy the nerves. As a result, you may not actually feel pain.
You are also more at risk for:
If you or someone you know experience second- or third-degree sunburn, you should not treat it at home. Consider these types of sunburn a medical emergency and seek immediate medical treatment.
Learn more about burn types here.
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