7 Dangerous Things You Should Never, Ever Do To A Sunburn

by Ileana Paules-Bronet
Ileana is the Editor of Original Content. She lives in Queens, NY.

Spending time outside in the sun is arguably one of the best parts of summer. There’s nothing better than heading outdoors and soaking up the sun.

Whether you like to play games and sports outside or just like to sit in the sun and read a good book, almost everyone likes to get some rays.

The biggest problem with spending time in the sun is, you guessed it, sunburns.

Most of us don’t particularly enjoy putting on sunscreen — it’s greasy and sticky — but it’s essential for spending time outside, especially during the summer.

Unfortunately, many of us don’t wear sunscreen when we go outside. We either forget or we choose not to wear it. Plus, a lot of us actually make mistakes when we put on sunscreen.

What that leads to is a painful, red sunburn. Many people think they know the best way to take care of a sunburn, but some of the things you should never do to sunburns might actually surprise you. Read below to find out more!

Thumbnail Photo: Flickr / Kelly Sue DeConnick

What Is A Sunburn?

what is a sunburn
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According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “A sunburn is a reddening of the skin that occurs after you are exposed to the sun or other ultraviolet light.”

Some other symptoms, in addition to reddened skin, include tenderness, skin that is warm to the touch, blistering, and skin peeling days later.

Find out the things you should never do to a sunburn below.

Things You Should Never Do When You Have A Sunburn
#1: Don't Go Back Into The Sun

don't go back into the sun
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As the U.S. National Library of Medicine explains, sunburn signs may not start appearing until hours after sun exposure, so it’s important to stay out of the sun as soon as you start noticing symptoms.

Dr. Jillian Rowbotham of Rittenhouse Internal Medicine explains that it’s not a good idea to just apply more sunscreen and stay outside — instead, move into the shade or go inside to get out of the sun’s direct rays.

Additionally, if you’re still recovering from a burn, you should wait until it heals completely before exposing it to the sun again.

#2: Don't Try To Use It As A 'Base Tan'

sunburn base tan
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Many people like to get a bit of color in the summer to use as a “base tan,” but the idea that a tan can act as sun protection is a myth.

Dr. Rowbotham explains that having a tan will not actually protect against a sunburn, because tanned skin only has an SPF of less than 4.

Unfortunately, exposing your skin to sun, whether you tan or burn, leads to damage and increases your risk of skin cancer and premature aging.

#3: Don’t Ignore Mild Symptoms

don't ignore mild symptoms
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

If you’re having fun in the sun, it’s easy to ignore a slight sunburn to stay outside and keep enjoying yourself.

Unfortunately, most signs of a sunburn don’t appear until hours after exposure, so if you start noticing slight pinkness or mild pain, your burn may actually be a lot worse than you realize.

If you start noticing any signs of sunburn, get out of the sun or cover up right away.

#4: Don’t ‘Help’ Your Peeling Skin Along

don't peel your skin
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If your skin starts to peel after a sunburn, it might seem like a good idea to peel off the loose skin — but it isn’t.

Dr. Rowbotham explains that you should treat peeling skin very gently. Don’t ever try to peel it with your fingers or scrub it off with a loofah or exfoliant.

Instead, just keep your skin moisturized and let it heal on its own.

#5: Don’t Pop Blisters

don't pop blisters
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

If your sunburn is particularly bad, you may start to notice blisters forming on your skin.

It’s tempting to pop these blisters, but you should just let them be. Popping blisters can lead to infection and scarring. If a blister opens on its own, apply antibiotic ointment and cover it with a bandage.

Usually blisters will heal on their own, in about a week if they are left alone.

#6: Don’t Use Aloe (If It's Your First Sunburn)

don't use aloe
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

Some people have aloe allergies, so if it’s your first time getting a sunburn, don’t just slather aloe all over your burn. Instead, do a patch test on part of your body that isn’t burned to make sure you don’t have a negative reaction.

If you are not allergic to aloe, it can be a great substance to use to relieve sunburn pain.

#7: Don’t Assume It Will Heal Without Help

sunburn healing
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

Unfortunately, many of us just assume that sunburns will heal themselves, but sometimes it’s necessary to take extra measures to help them heal properly.

Moisturizers, cold compresses, and over-the-counter pain relievers/anti-inflammatories can provide a lot of relief from pain and help the burns heal.

How Can You Treat A Sunburn?

treat sunburn
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If you notice that you’re getting a sunburn, the first thing you need to do is get out of the sun. After that, use cool water — shower, bath, or wet towel — to help cool down your body.

Make sure to drink plenty of water; heat and sun exposure can dehydrate you.

Use moisturizers to keep your skin hydrated. Don’t use any home remedies like egg whites, butter, or petroleum jelly.

If your sunburn is very severe, make an appointment with your doctor.

If you have a severe sunburn, and also have a fever, nausea, vomiting, fainting, blurry vision, headache, or confusion, you may also have heat exhaustion — seek immediate medical attention if these symptoms occur.

How To Prevent A Future Sunburn

prevent sunburn
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

In order to prevent future sunburns, make sure to wear a generous amount of broad spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 15 anytime you go outside (even if it’s cloudy).

Make sure to reapply sunscreen every two hours, or after swimming or excessive sweating.

Don’t forget that clothing and hats can also provide sun protection — and make sure to wear sunglasses that have UV protection!

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