Soaring temperatures have seen a surge in scorched skin and painful sunburn, so if you have overdone it and found yourself red-faced – and bodied – these top tips from GP Dr Paul Stillman and other experts will help to take the sting from your skin and undo some of the harm.
Fluid thinking: Hit the bottle – of water – or sip green tea, says Crawley-based Dr Stillman.
He says: ‘Rehydration is essential. If you are burnt you are probably also dehydrated and when skin is sunburnt, our body’s repair mechanisms kick in and draw fluid away from the rest of the body and up to the skin’s surface.
Did you know? You need six teaspoons of sunscreen per adult to provide the protection promised, but using half of that amount could cut protection by two-thirds
‘Water is good, but green tea is even better as it is high in antioxidants which help repair damaged DNA.’
Studies confirm a cup of the green stuff also reduces the risk of skin cancer. Dr Stillman offers another top tip when it comes to pain relief, adding: ‘You could even try taking a cool green-tea bath, topical applications work, too, and a bath will help cool the skin.’
Avoid quick fix anaesthetics: New York-based dermatologist Dr Erin Gilbert, whose client list includes actors and A-list models, advises steering clear of local anaesthetics which contain benzocaine or lidocaine, when it comes to taking the pangs of sunburn away.
‘They only help with the pain momentarily and won’t aid in the healing process. Plus, when they wear off, you’ll feel the pain even more,’ she warns.
Wonder cream: There is only one product which is licensed to relieve mild to moderate sunburn Dr Stillman says – Soleve Sunburn Relief.
Explaining the ointment’s healing properties, he says: ‘Soleve combines two active ingredients: therapeutic levels of the analgesic ibuprofen, which reduces pain and inflammation; and isopropyl myristate, an emollient which soothes and moisturises the skin by trapping water and promoting healing.
‘It provides fast-acting pain relief where it is most needed and also reduces skin tightness.
‘The concentration (one per cent) is lower than the dose used in topical ibuprofen products for muscular pain (five per cent to 10 per cent), so it can be used over a larger area without the risk of exceeding the safe dose.’
More than just skin deep: Severe sunburn can lead to blistering – which is basically a second-degree burn.
Dr Stillman advises: ‘Never break blisters, they protect damaged skin from infection.’
He adds: ‘If you are badly sunburnt and have high fever, confusion, nausea or chills you may have heat-stroke and should seek medical advice.’
Cover up: Pharmacist Raj Aggarwal says if you do develop sunburn then you need to cover the area quickly to prevent further damage to your skin.
Tightly woven fabrics work best.
When you hold the fabric up to a bright light, you shouldn’t see any light coming through. And remember, when fabrics get wet they become more transparent.
Prevention is always the best cure, but there are a lot of common myths and misconceptions which increase your risk of getting caught out in the sun.
Shade fail: Sitting under a beach umbrella will not prevent sunburn, according to a real-world study published earlier this year. Eighty-one fair-skinned volunteers were split into two groups who spent 3.5 hours on a hot Texan beach.
Half were given no sunscreen but were asked to stay under a large beach umbrella for the entire time, the other half applied an SPF sunscreen. Neither was perfect, but three times more volunteers in the umbrella group suffered sunburn, 78 per cent compared to just 25 per cent of the sunblock group.
Liquid gold: Studies confirm a cup of green tea can reduce the risk of skin cancer. Bathing in it can also help to cool painful sunburn
Dark skin doesn’t burn: The melanin which determines skin colour offers some protection against sunburn, and people with dark complexions can tolerate more time in the sun before getting burnt – but they will still burn.
In fact, a study published earlier this year reported that people with darker skin were at increased risk of sunburn. Lead author of the study, dermatologist Dr Tracy Favreau, said: ‘The concern here is that participants with high melanin content skin may think they’re naturally protected from sunburn, which isn’t true.’
A base tan protects you: Studies suggest a pre-holiday tan will provide the equivalent of an SPF3 sunscreen — which is not enough to offer any real protection. Cancer Research UK warns: ‘Far from being a sign of health, a tan is a reaction to DNA damage in the skin. It is a sign that your body is trying to repair damage that has already happened.’
Using a high SPF sunscreen will prevent burning: Wrong. Although it’s described as a ‘sun protection factor’ the SPF of a screen actually indicates how much longer it will take to burn.
In theory, if you burnt in 10 minutes without protection – which is quite easily done when it’s hot – an SPF 30 would provide 300 minutes, or five hours, of protection. But this assumes the screen is applied thickly enough – which most people fail to do – and is topped up at least every two hours.
Studies show most people apply less than half the lotion required to provide the stated SPF, some products don’t deliver the stated SPF and old lotion loses some of its effectiveness.
It is also important to remember that the SPF shows the theoretical protection against UVB radiation, to protect against UVA radiation you need a product with a high star rating, as well.