A common misconception among my desi patients is that they are immune to sunburn. In fact, I want our ethnic skin readers to realize that brown skin can burn. Unfortunately, brown skin burns can occasionally be worse than burns in lighter skin tones for two main reasons:
- The individual does not realize that burning is occurring until a significant burn occurs
- Not only does the burn and subsequent peeling occur, this burn then causes irregular discoloration (namely light and dark spots) that persist for months.
Thus, it is best for our brown skin readers to aim for prevention. However, if you do experience a sunburn, here are a few dermatologist approved tips :
- Immediately start hydration: As your cells are dehydrated from the sun exposure they cannot begin the renewal process needed to efficiently heal the burn. Hydration will keep the cellular machinery working to efficiently heal the skin from the inside.
- Start an anti-inflammatory medication such as aspirin or ibuprofen immediately: These actually stop the release of inflammation from the cells, helping to minimize the redness and discomfort. One caveat is to not take these medicines if you are still in the sun, as they can actually increase the burn potential!
- Cooling agents such as aloe vera, cool compresses soaked in milk, or immersing yourself in colloidal oatmeal soaks will soothe and hydrate the skin
- If blistering develops, do not pop the blisters. They act as a natural bandage and skin protectant — instead, gently cover them until they burst.
- If you develop a high fever, confusion, or significant blistering, call your MD immediately — you may require admission to the hospital as well as IV fluids and oral or topical steroids.
- If there is itching associated with the burn, one of my favorite over the counter agent is called Sarna sensitive skin (with camphor and menthol). It is even more soothing if placed in the fridge and put on cold! If the itching is severe, call your derm. A dermatologist can prescribe over the counter topical steroids that will lessen the inflammation and reduce the redness.
These tips will help skin quickly heal from a sunburn. Sunburns, particularly blistering sunburns, are a significant risk factor for the development of skin cancer. So, lets all aim for prevention!