How to Heal Sunburn

One common problem — four expert solutions.

The Dermatologist
Take an anti-inflammatory in the first 12 hours to reduce the ultimate damage and ease pain. See a doctor if you’ve got swelling or blisters, or if you feel sick. He may give you antibiotics to ward off infection. If not, stick to the pain pills, moisturize your skin and try soothing cold compresses. One bad burn boosts the risk of skin cancer, so see a dermatologist for skin checks.
David E. Bank, MD, Director, Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic and Laser Surgery, Mount Kisco, New York

How to Heal SunburnCatherine Yeulet / iStockphoto

The Plastic Surgeon
Treat symptoms with cold compresses and a moisturizer. Avoid the sun, or cover your burn when you do go out. If skin starts peeling, leave it alone, since picking it off can lead to bleeding and scars. If you notice either, wait 6 to 12 months to let the skin heal. Then a doctor may treat it with a chemical peel.
–Rod Rohrich, MD, Chairman of Plastic Surgery, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas

The Nutritionist
To help prevent burns, take beta carotene and vitamin E supplements before you go out in the sun. If you’re already feeling the pain of a burn, moisturize your skin using creams with vitamin E or flaxseed, chamomile, lavender or almond oils. All may help speed healing, prevent scarring and reduce irritation and inflammation.
–John Foreyt, PhD, Director, Nutrition Research Clinic, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas

The Beauty Pro
Drink lots of water; avoid hot showers or baths (heat dries out skin). Take a lukewarm bath with colloidal oatmeal, chamomile tea bags and a few tablespoons of baking soda to relieve pain. Moisturize with alcohol- and perfume-free lotion. If you see freckling or skin problems after you heal, an aesthetician can exfoliate and heal the skin with microdermabrasion.
Kelly Charron, Director, Spa Education & Development, Klinger Advanced Aesthetics

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