Get your own personal stylist to help you find clothes you love. All online, completely free

Sign In


How to fix sunburn

How to fix sunburn

Perhaps it’s because we get so little sun in Britain that, when it does appear, we’re so ill-equipped to cope with it. Much as our trains stop working at the first sign of snow, while Sweden’s roll on all winter, practice, it seems, is key. Which explains why you can spot holidaying Britons from 50 yards; they’ll be the ones out at midday, skin pinking, while the locals are all indoors.

But whether you burn abroad or back home at a barbecue, you’re putting yourself in danger of side-effects beyond an embarrassing skin tint. “There’s no safe amount of sunburn,” says Harley Street dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting. “It’s a sign of radiation injury from the sun’s UVB rays and is a risk factor for skin cancer. It should always be avoided, with a combination of seeking shade, covering up and diligent application of broad spectrum sun cream.” Prevention is always better than cure.

Of course, that’s no salve when the worst does happen, whether through negligence or accident. If you should find yourself overexposed this summer, follow Dr Bunting’s steps to reduce the redness – and your risk of something more serious.

1. Go inside

The second you notice you’re burning, get out of the sun. “It’s amazing how many people don’t act immediately on the appearance of sunburn,” says Dr Bunting. Redness means the damage has already started, so lingering will only make things worse. Even if it is your turn on the grill

2. Ice yourself

Like a normal burn, you can counter heat with cold. “Soak a face cloth in iced water and apply to the areas for five to 10 minutes,” says Dr Bunting. “Also take aspirin or ibuprofen and apply hydrocortisone cream.” This will help with the pain and the swelling

3. Moisturise

Sunburn saps your skin of moisture, so you need to put some back in to help it heal. “It’s important to support the skin with regular application of moisturiser, “says Dr Bunting. “Choose something bland and aloe vera-based. Applying it straight from the fridge helps soothe tender sunburnt skin. Leave blisters intact – they’re nature’s own natural dressing.

4. Have a cuppa

UVB rays create carcinogenic free radicals in your skin. Antioxidants can help prevent the damage they cause. “Drinking green tea can help prevent sun damage as it’s rich in antioxidants called catechins,” says Dr Bunting. “It might therefore be helpful to drink this at a time when sunburn may well have left skin antioxidant-depleted.”

For more info on how to deal with sunburn, watch Dr Bunting’s skincare video.

Illustration: Eric Chow