How to Treat a Sunburn for Fast Relief

January 13, 2021

Featured in Shape, Jan 2021

Featuring insights from AristaMD contracted dermatology specialist Dr. JiaDe Yu

Looking for how to treat sunburn blisters, itchiness, or pain? Here’s what you should know so you can treat sunburn fast.

Getting a sunburn can spoil a fun day outside, and not just because it might make you the butt of a few “lobster” jokes. Sunburns can itch and sting for days, acting as an unpleasant reminder that you slacked off with the SPF. 

The best way to avoid discomfort is to prevent sunburn in the first place, applying and reapplying sunscreen with at least SPF 30, as recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation, and staying out of direct sunlight between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are strongest, adds JiaDe Yu, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School and contracted specialist at AristaMD. No matter how you end up treating your sunburn, you want to stay out of the sun while your burn is healing to avoid causing further damage, he advises. While you’re riding it, there are steps you can take to ease the discomfort.

“Once the damage is done, the inflammation induced by the burned skin is triggered leading to itching, pain, and blistering in severe cases,” says Dr. Yu, who is also the director of the Occupational and Contact Dermatitis Clinic at Mass General. “Cool baths and cold compresses can help ease some discomfort.” Just don’t stay in the tub for too long and avoid using harsh soaps, as both can dry out and irritate your skin, according to The Skin Cancer Foundation.