Once you have identified that you have sunburn (the first sign of sun damaged skin), it will be important to determine how severe the damage to the skin really is. Burns are classified into three degrees. First degree burns merely redden the skin – the most common sign of sunburn. Second degree burns cause swelling, pain and blisters filled with water. Third degree burns result in more severe damage to the skin and are more prone to infection – third degree burns must be treated by a doctor.
What to do immediately following a sunburn
It’s important to know that the sunburn continues to develop for 12 to 24 hours after the initial damage takes place. All sunburns need to be cooled as soon as possible to dissipate the heat simmering in the lower layers of the skin and to reduce the inflammation.
DO NOT cover the skin with thick salves or ointments (butter is the worst) – these only trap the heat and cause more damage.
Apply a cold compress as soon as possible to red skin. A cold compress with equal parts of water and milk applied with a clean cloth soothes and moisturizes sunburned skin. Or try applying a cold press of with apple cider vinegar or colloidal oatmeal.
DO NOT soak the skin in water or immerse yourself in a tub of water or shower for a long period of time – this inhibits the skin’s healing process.
Aloe vera gel is very effective in reducing inflammation and cooling the skin. Simply apply gel from freshly cut aloe vera leaf applied to sunburned skin. Aloe vera gel is also available in stores – it’s cooling effects can be enhanced if you keep the gel in the fridge.
Reversing the Signs of Sun Damage
There are a number of over the counter products, as well as treatments that can be done by a licensed skincare professional, to help reverse the signs of sun damage.
Alpha Hydroxyl Acid or Glycolic Acid – these remove dead skin cells from the upper layer of the skin and increases in growth of new skin cells. The result is a smoother texture.
Retinol – a pure form of Vitamin A, essential for healthy skin. Retinol encourages the removal of dead skin cells and the production of skin cells and stimulates the renewal of keratin. The result is a softer skin and reduced appearance of fine lines.
Copper/Copper Peptides – copper is necessary trace metal in the body that is responsible for power and flexibility of the skin. Copper is added to specific formations to enhance the skin’s elasticity and strength.
Antioxidants Vitamin C and E – these antioxidants fight oxidation (caused by sun exposure and other factors) and help repair damaged cells.
Tretinoin - a topical treatment requiring a prescription, Tretinoin is a derivative of Vitamin A that works at the cellular level to increase collagen productions. It can help decrease fine lines and wrinkles, fade brown spots and improve the overall texture of the skin.
Tazarotene- one of the newest products to have advantages in reversing signs of sun damage. It is a topical retinoid (Vitamin A) product initially used for psoriasis. It helps the skin to renew itself more quickly and can improve the texture of the skin.