What not to do when you have a sunburn: A step-by-step guide to speeding up the recovery process

What not to do when you have a sunburn: A step-by-step guide to speeding up the recovery process

Wake and bake

Text: Emily Heng

Editor: Jolene Khor

In the lifelong battle between man versus scorching heat, we grudgingly admit that the latter almost always emerges triumphant. Exceptions occur when we're adequately armed with sunscreen and we carry out sun protection measures with strict discipline (consider: wide floppy hats, sunglasses, and an extraordinarily tall friend to duck behind). Failing that, we're forced to wear battle scars in the name of sunburns.


The inclination to slather on every hydrating product in our arsenal might not be as good an idea as you might suspect. In fact, there's a lot more to a speedy recovery than applying aloe vera, and keeping hands off your flaking dead skin. Below, a guide to what not to do and what to keep away from when the affliction hits. Godspeed, everyone.

1. Ditch topical pain relievers, especially those with ingredients ending in "-caine"
Looking through that extensive ingredients list might be a pain, but it'll probably hurt a lot less than the stinging and irritation that come with applying off-the-counter topical pain relievers on burned areas. Benzocaine and Lidocaine are common culprits — they are known to cause further irritation and allergic reactions. Abort!



2. Avoid moisturising creams that contain petroleum
Lotions and creams are good for soothing red, blistered sunburns, but if they contain petroleum, steer clear as petroleum has heat-trapping properties similar to oils. Robert Friedman, M.D., a dermatologist at New York University's Langone Medical Center recommends a hydrocortisone cream for those without any non-petroleum creams on hand.



3. Run from vinegar
According to old wives' tales, compressing vinegar on sunburnt skin is a good idea, but in reality, it cannot be further from the truth. Not only does the practice burn like hell (due to its acidic nature), it also dries skin out and exacerbates flaking. Avoid like the plague, please.



4. Do not take a cold shower
While cold water serves as a relief, the continuous blast of it against scorched skin can cause a considerable amount of pain. Cold baths — if possible — provides a more soothing experience.



5. Shelve your usual soaps and shower gels
Chemical-laden formulations may escalate drying, flaking and peeling. According to Dr Friedman, a few scoops of baking soda in the tub will cleanse skin without stripping it of its natural moisture (whatever that's left of it anyway). For those without a tub, look for gentler bar soaps that contain oatmeal or aloe.



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