No matter how hard we try to follow the rules of sun safety, sometimes we still get burned. Some days, we don’t reapply SPF often enough; on others—like an overcast afternoon (“the most dangerous day at the beach,” according to dermatologist Margaret Weiss, M.D.)—we don’t even realize the sun is out. Vogue asked the experts for their best tips for finding instant relief—and getting ahead of the damage cycle.
Here are all the tips you know from skincancer.org via Vogue:
POP A PILL
At the beach, by the pool, “if you start seeing red while you’re still outside, you’re in trouble,” says Weiss, assistant professor of dermatology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. As a preemptive strike against swelling and inflammation, she suggests immediately taking an ibuprofen.
To lower overall body temperature after a scorcher, Elizabeth K. Hale, M.D., clinical associate professor of dermatology at New York University Langone Medical Center, suggests a cool bath or shower, or better yet, a cold milk compress. The protein and fat in milk—whole milk, especially—will help to ease discomfort better than plain water, she says.
SEE A DERM
For patients with blistering skin, derms like Robert J. Friedman, M.D., suggests over-the-counter topical steroids (hydrocortisone); Dr. Hale puts some patients under infrared LED lights to help reduce redness. “[For sunburns] it does take out some of that inflammation, and this could potentially decrease long-term damage to the skin,” she says.
Once burned skin starts to peel, the urge to “help it along,” says Los Angeles derm Karyn Grossman, M.D., can be irresistible. However, picking away dead layers or using exfoliants or treatment products (even your usual AHAs or glycolics) can make matters worse, exposing raw, fragile skin to the elements. Instead, says Grossman, “let it gently come off on its own. Keep skin super-hydrated with plain products like CeraVe or Cetaphil. Use Aquaphor on blisters at bedtime.” Weiss advises patients to avoid anything containing topical Benadryl (“or anything that ends in ‘dryl’—caladryl for instance”), which can potentially further sensitize skin or cause a rash. And, make sure to stay hydrated, drinking plenty of fluids.