Many of us have been left lobster-red and squealing in pain from a sunburn after forgetting to reapply sunscreen often
or not using enough to protect our delicate skin. We often turn to aloe vera for instant relief.
dermatologist Dr. Young Lee
explains that once sunburn has occurred, the affected skin cells have been completely damaged or “killed” by the sun’s rays. Therefore, nothing, including aloe vera, “cures” sunburn.
“The skin has to regrow and renew itself,” says Dr. Lee. “Aloe vera can help cool and soothe the skin to make it feel better symptomatically, but it does not cure the burn itself.”
If you want to use an aloe vera product for symptomatic relief, it is best to use a moisturizing lotion that contains aloe vera, Dr. Lee adds. Moisturizing the skin overall can help with healing. If using aloe vera gel, avoid those with alcohol, which can dry out tender skin.
Dr. Lee suggests that if you have a severe sunburn, applying a cold, damp towel to the skin will help relieve the heat. You should then moisturize the area. If you have systemic symptoms — meaning you feel sick overall (dizziness, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, fever) — then you should see a doctor because these can be signs of a severe sunburn, which is commonly referred to as sun poisoning.
“The best thing to do is avoid getting sunburned in the first place,” says Dr. Lee. “Use sun-protective clothing; apply a thick layer of broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 every two hours; and stay in the shade.”
“Sunburns significantly increase your risk of skin cancer, but they also increase your chances of dyspigmentation (abnormal skin color) and wrinkles,” adds Dr. Lee. “Prevention is key.”