There are three degrees of severity for sunburn: In the case of mild sunburn with severity level 1, the skin is irritated and reddened. The affected areas are slightly warmed. You may also have a mild burning sensation and itching. However, the skin recovers in about three days. Our tips can help if you have mild sunburn.
Get out of the sun
"The first thing to do when you have sunburn is to get out of the sun", recommends Dr Silke Schmitt Oggier. It's not enough to go under a sunshade, because the UV rays can still reach the skin there. A hotel room or other enclosed space is a better choice. Drink liquids at room temperature, not very cold drinks.
Cool the skin
You should cool the affected areas as soon as you can. You can do this by applying damp towels and compresses or having a cooling shower.
Important: If you feel very overheated by the sun or have cardiovascular disease, it's better not to take a shower so as to avoid circulation problems.
Cooling compresses: Soak linen or cotton cloths in cool, clean water and place on the sunburn for about two hours.
After-sun lotions are ideal for applying to sun-stressed skin and better than general body lotions. Tip: After-sun lotion can be stored in the fridge for added coolness.
Home remedies for sunburn
You should avoid these popular home remedies:
- Aloe vera
Aloe vera is a desert plant, so it's easy to understand why it makes a fantastic moisturiser for redness and pain. Aloe vera gel provides the skin with vitamins and minerals that encourage healing. If you have an aloe vera plant at home, you can cut a piece of it off and apply the gel-like liquid which exudes from it to the affected area. Alternatively, you can source aloe vera gels or lotions from pharmacies and drug stores. It's not uncommon to find aloe vera in after-sun lotions.
- Cooling compresses with black tea
Mild black tea can be used instead of water for cooling compresses. It is rich in antioxidants and tannins which soothe the skin.
- Vinegar and lemon juice are not suitable, even though many people think they are. They can irritate already stressed skin or trigger infections.
- Caution is also advised with carrot juice: While it's true that carrot juice has a relatively high beta carotene content and can therefore boost the skin's built-in protection, it is not really effective against sunburn.
After initial damage limitation
Drink lots of fluids
Drink at least 1.5 litres of water throughout the day to compensate for moisture lost due to sunburn and to prevent circulatory problems. Spraying affected areas with thermal water (available from pharmacies) can relieve feelings of tightness in the skin.
Take a break from the sun
It's a good idea to take a break from the sun until the redness has subsided. This means shade, light-proof clothing and sunscreen with a high sun protection factor (at least SFP 30). Don't forget good sunglasses! Your eyes will also suffer in strong sunlight, which is intensified by water and bright sand.
Make-up tends to be counterproductive where sunburn is concerned. It irritates the skin and retards the healing process. That's why it's better to do without make-up temporarily.
Consult a doctor in the following cases:
In the event of second or third degree sunburn (with blistering) or if you have persistent pain or circulatory problems including dizziness, nausea or severe headaches, it is essential to consult a doctor. Babies and young children with sunburn should always be examined by a doctor to enable professional assessment of the severity of the burn and/or rapid diagnosis and treatment of sunstroke.