Did you welcome the unofficial start of summer this weekend with a sunburn? We hope not, besides being painful sunburns harm cellular DNA, can cause eye damage (including cataracts), accelerate aging, and increase your risk of developing skin cancer.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) says that the best way to protect your skin and health is to limit sun exposure, and wear sunscreen (SPF of at least 30) daily, whether you’re on a beach, in your office, or at home. The sunscreen you choose should provide broad-spectrum protection – that is, be effective against both UVA and UVB rays.
UVA rays are associated with tanning and can accelerate visible skin issues that we associate with aging such as wrinkles, brown spots and other damage. Remember: a tan is the result of injury to the skin’s DNA, your skin darkens in an attempt to prevent further DNA damage. UVB rays are the chief cause of skin reddening and sunburn. Both UVA and UVB are linked to skin cancer.
And while 30 SPF remains the recommended level of protection, you may want to opt for 40 SPF or higher. A recent study by Consumer Reports found that nearly half of sunscreen products in the United States do not live up to their SPF claims.
According to the study, 43% of the 64 products tested provided 10-15 points less SPF than the label promised. So a 30 SPF sunscreen may provide the protection of a 20 SPF product. Because of this, you may wish to choose a product that is at least SPF 40.
The sunscreen product that you select should be water-resistant too, so that you don’t immediately sweat or swim it off. It’s possible that the discrepancy between label-stated SPF and tested SPF in the Consumer Reports study resulted from products not being water-resistant.
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we get a burn. Here’s how to soothe your skin, and mitigate the damage.
As soon as you notice the burn, take a cool bath, apply cold compresses (consider soaking the compress cloth in milk or cool green tea to reduce the burn and inflammation more effectively), and mist yourself with cool water. You may want to take ibuprofen or aspirin to relive pain and reduce inflammation caused by the burn. And make sure to drink plenty of cool, non-caffeinated liquids. The sooner you can cool your skin down after you overdo the sun exposure, the better – you may be able to lessen the burn’s severity a bit if you act fast.
You can also try applying aloe gel straight from the plant to your skin, or moisturizing cream/lotion with aloe, glycerin or hyaluronic acid. You might want to apply a 1% hydrocortisone cream to reduce pain and swelling. Consider refrigerating your lotions for extra soothing and relief.
Avoid products containing fragrance or alcohol, which can further aggravate your now-tender skin. Be wary of burn treatment products containing anesthetics, such as benzocaine, which can also irritate your skin if you use more than the recommended dosage. If you use antiaging or acne control skin care products, skip them until your skin is well-healed.
And keep your hands off your skin. Do not break any blisters that may develop, and do not “help” your skin to peel. Just keep moisturizing and drinking those fluids.
If you have a severe sunburn, particularly one with blisters, that covers a large portion of your body, are running a high fever or are experiencing pain that over-the-counter drugs can’t ease, head to your health care professional.
If you’re unsure if you have a burn that needs medical treatment, a quick telemedicine consultation can provide the guidance you need, plus help you manage other summertime ailments. If you’d like around-the-clock, no-charge access to qualified medical professionals via phone, smart device or computer check out DentalPlans’ telehealth savings plans, or call 1-800-238-5163 for more information on affordable health savings plans.