10 Things NOT to Do After Getting a Sunburn

You didn't mean to get sunburnt, but now the damage is done. Avoid these mistakes that will make it even worse.

Wearing tight clothes

After you get a sunburn, you need to let your skin breathe. “Wearing tight clothing over sunburnt skin is an absolute no-no, because inflammation is setting in,” says Dr. Shereene Idriss, Cosmetic Dermatologist. “Your body is trying to respond to the trauma by increasing blood flow to the area to help with healing. This results in redness, warmth, and inflammation to the area.” Wearing tight clothes could amplify the response, which could lead to more intense swelling and blisters. Here's how to properly take care of your summer clothes.

Using scented aloe

Aloe has anti-inflammatory properties and is good for your skin after you get a sunburn. However, using a scented aloe can irritate skin even more. Stick to using fragrance free aloe or use aloe directly from an aloe plant. But the most beneficial treatment of all is to avoid sunburn in the first place. Watch out for these strange ways you can get sunburnt, even when you have sunscreen on.

Forgetting to hydrate

Halfpoint/ShutterstockAlways remember to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. It might seem like a challenge to get in the daily-recommended amount of water, but there are easy ways to do it. “Burns do more to your body than just cause pain. In fact, all burns draw fluid towards the skin and away from the rest of the body,” says Dr. Keith LeBlanc, Jr., dermatologist and founder of The Skin Surgery Centre. “So be sure to drink extra water, juice, and sports drinks for a couple days and keep an eye out for any signs of dehydration.”

Content continues below ad

Covering it up with makeup

phadungsak-sawasdee/ShutterstockEven though your sunburn might look really bad, avoid covering it up with makeup. The only way the burn will heal is if you let your skin breathe. “Introducing various make-ups through dirty sponges or brushes will only increase your risk for infection or allergic reaction, which will ultimately make it all uglier,” says Dr. Idriss. “For now, embrace the burn, treat it well, but next time learn to avoid getting there in the first place!” Avoid these other makeup mistakes that you might be making.

Peeling or scratching your skin

Myibean/ShutterstockWhen your skin starts to peel it means it's starting to heal and it’s important that you don’t mess with that process. “Let the flaking skin fall off naturally,” says Dr. LeBlanc. “Even better, generously moisturize your skin with the product of your choice. This will improve the appearance of the sunburn and help the skin to exfoliate naturally and evenly.” Try these unexpected ways that you can heal your sunburn.

Popping your blisters

SunyawitPhoto/ShutterstockSimilar to not peeling your skin, you should never pop blisters. That extra bubble of skin serves a very important purpose in protecting the wound. If a blister hurts really badly, apply a cream-based unscented aloe vera. Even better, follow this timeline to prevent getting a sunburn in the first place.

Content continues below ad


Voyagerix/ShutterstockUsing exfoliating products, or ones that contain glycolic acid, retinoid, or salicylic acid is extremely damaging to your skin, especially when it’s in a vulnerable sunburnt state. Once your skin has stopped peeling, wait around three days before using any of these products. And beware of these silent signs that your sunburn is actually sun poisoning.

Using alcohol based creams

Africa-Studio/ShutterstockMake sure that when you apply cream or aloe to your sunburn that it's not alcohol based. That would end do more harm than good. “Alcohol is known to strip away the natural oils in our skin. When applied over a healing burn, alcohol will decrease your skins' ability to heal itself,” says Dr. Idriss. Don't believe these sunscreen myths that make dermatologists cringe.

Not taking anti-inflammatories right away

goir/ShutterstockYour body’s response to being sunburnt is inflammation, and it's important that you take something to reduce that inflammation the minute you see signs of sunburn. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen or aspirin help reduce inflammation and pain. Sunburns generally take about 4-6 hours to develop and if you wait that long to medicate, the medication won’t be as effective.

Content continues below ad

Using a chemical based sunscreen

verona-studio/ShutterstockObviously you want to avoid spending time in direct sunlight after you get burned, but if you do have to go out, make sure you apply sunscreen —and keep reapplying for as long as you are outside. A mistake a lot of people make is using a chemical-based sunscreen. Putting chemicals on burnt skin can be irritating. Choose a sunscreen with an ingredients list showing a high concentration of zinc oxide (around 9% or 10%), which will be soothing to the skin.
View as Slideshow

Want to stay smart and healthy?

Get our weekly Health Reads newsletter

how we use your e-mail
We will use your email address to send you this newsletter. For more information please read our privacy policy.