Have you ever noticed how easy it is for the skin to become sunburned around this time of year? Well, if you're a Detroiter, or living in a similar climate, and haven't taken a vacation in a while, here's why -- Your skin has been hidden under layers of clothing for months, shielded from the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays. Exposure to UV helps melanocytes (pigment-producing cells) produce melanin (pigment that can help protect against UV damage). So, the moment the skin finally gets to see the light of day, it is that much more susceptible to being burned due to a decreased production of melanin during those winter months. The skin is so sensitive during this time that it can even get burned while wearing sunscreen.
So what do you do if your skin accidentally becomes sunburned?
1. Limit further exposure to the sun
Staying in doors is preferred. If you must go out, the sunburned skin should be well protected by wearing a few layers of clothing.
2. Treat the symptoms immediately
Treat the symptoms of sunburn ( i.e. pain) even before you see the signs (i.e. redness, swelling, peeling).
Water loss from the skin easily occurs after a sunburn. Therefore, the skin must be moisturized frequently throughout the day. A topical ointment will be the most soothing. Those that also contain aloe vera are very popular and effective.
The skin should be kept hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Dehydration is definitely a risk factor to burn, and will also prevent healing after the sunburn has already occurred.
4. "Put out the fire"
Over-the-counter topical steroids, such as hydrocortisone, can help reduce redness, swelling, and discomfort from a sunburn. They are very safe when used as directed.
Oral anti-inflammatories, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, is another great option for controlling discomfort.
If blisters occur, seek immediate care from a board-certified dermatologist. Do not remove the skin as that skin will help protect against infection.