I never thought it would happen to me but, hey, who knew you can get sunburned in a shadow wearing SPF 50? As you already know, we went to Tulum for a wedding and the sun was quite harsh out there. As always, I applied my sunscreen religiously and everything seems to be normal… until we decided to schedule a foot massage. The masseuse exfoliated our feet with a coffee scrub for good 15 minutes. If was so relaxing that we immediately fell asleep right there, in the hammock area of our hotel. When our appointment was over, we went back to the beach and I reapplied sunscreen again… but it was obviously not enough.
That night, I didn’t sleep at all as I looked like a tomato and I couldn’t take it when the sheets were touching my skin. Ben experienced the same problem so we woke up pretty cranky the next morning. I took Tylenol, moisturized skin like crazy and avoided soap, but it was already too late. My shins were super discolored and achy and I had to come out with a solution on how to heal my sunburn fast.
Step 1: Aloe Vera
The first thing I did was going to the reception area of the hotel and ask if they can give me an Aloe Vera leaf. Most of the resorts there is a dedicated Aloe Vera bush for situations like that so don’t be afraid to ask. I cut the leaf in a few pieces to squeeze the juice out of them. Then I used clean hands to distribute juice on the damaged areas of my skin.
Step #2: No Sun
Even though I really wanted to walk on the beach, I decided not to do so and instead spent a day on our terrace that had an awning and was in a consistent shade. While some people would go back to the beach wearing sunscreen and covering a burned area with clothes, I think that it’s important to avoid rubbing your skin with sunscreen and then using soap-based products to remove it. Instead, I prefer just hiding from the sun and don’t apply any other products on my skin except Aloe Vera and a moisturizer.
Step #3: Water
Drinking water is beneficial for you, but it’s essential if you are dealing with a sunburn. When my sunburn happened, I drunk so much water that I needed to go to the bathroom every 30 minutes or so. And with every new glass I drunk I felt that I’m washing the toxins out of my body. Try it! Drinking lots of water make such a big difference when you are dealing with a sunburn.
Step #4: Take Anti-Inflammatory Drugs
Over the counter drugs like Advil and Tylenol are helping so much when you are dealing with a sunburn. (Disclosure: I’m not a doctor so make sure to consult with a medical professional before taking any drugs). Make sure not to mix drugs with alcohol—such combo is dangerous for your health.
Step #5: Moisturize
Have a bottle of Aloe Vera or any other soothing lotion (think oatmeal, witch hazel, cornstarch, and chamomile) on hand and reapply it every hour. By keeping your skin moist you are ensuring that it will not get peeled. Also, it feels so nice when you apply a cold lotion on a hot sunburned skin!
Step #6: My Sheet Mask Trick
This is a trick that I came out with this vacation and it really helped me! If you brought a sheet mask with you, put it in a fridge for 5 minutes and then apply on the sunburned area. That way, you’ll provide a temporary relief as the mask is cold and ensure that your skin is moisturized. I recommend avoiding masks that contain irritants like Vitamin C and salicylic acid. Instead, stick to those that contain Aloe Vera, chamomile, calendula, and green tea.
Step #7: Forget the Soap
For the next week or so avoid soap touching affected area as much as you can. It means don’t wash your face with a cleanser while taking a shower if you burned your legs or arms. Soap is the worst thing you can do for a sunburned skin as it makes your skin dry and provokes peeling. Don’t use any exfoliators for at least a few weeks after a sunburn as you could damage your skin even worse.
Step #8: Use Anti-Scar Oils
First of all, I have to remind you to never-ever use oil on a burned skin—you’ll make your sunburn even worse! The right time to start applying oils on a burned skin is when it’s fully recovered and no longer looks red and irritated. Meaning at least two weeks after the accident has happened. I recommend starting with Jojoba Oil as it’s such perfect moisturizer that seems to work for everyone. Then, I would proceed with Emu Oil as it’s an all natural solution for scars and burn recovering skin. You can also use less natural but still effective BioOil that you can find at any pharmacy.
Step #9: Learn Your Lesson
My sunburn experience taught me that SPF 50 is probably not enough for people with such pale skin like mine. This summer season I will continue using sunscreen and start applying a mineral SPF powder on top — I’ll make sure to report on how it goes!
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I hope my tips and tricks on how to treat sunburned skin helped you to heal faster. I also would love to hear that you’ve learned your lesson and will be more careful with the sun in future. Please make sure to check out my post The New Rules of Sunscreen where I explain everything about SPF. Also feel free to leave your questions in the comments area below and I would love to help you out!