any treatment for pre-sunburn?
July 3, 2013 2:19 PM   Subscribe

You've just been out in hot direct midday unclouded sun somewhere with a stupid high UV index and stupidly forgot sunscreen. You were out long enough to suspect you might have given yourself some sunburn, but you don't know for sure - yet. Is there anything doable immediately post-exposure (but prior to observing an actual sign of burn) that might help the skin fight the burn in any way that is not just pain-alleviating?

I suspect the treatment is the same as after knowing for sure you have the burn, but I'm still curious.
posted by bitterkitten to Health & Fitness (17 answers total)
Cool water, antioxidants, and something for inflammation. Moisturizer.
posted by adipocere at 2:31 PM on July 3, 2013

Yes, anti inflamatory. And heavy duty moisturizer. It will probably hurt anyway, but both of those things should knock the discomfort down a little. Maybe something like Solarcaine? But the damage is already done. All you can do is (via moisturizer) help the skin not dry out too much.

I personally like to take a lot of cooling showers (or swims in the pool) to take some of the heat out of it, but I don't know if this is a net positive or negative.
posted by gjc at 2:40 PM on July 3, 2013

I really like Burt's Bees After Sun Soother for when I inadvertently overexpose myself, it's cooling and moisturizing on the surface at least. No idea if it's doing anything below the surface (I doubt it) but it does cut the discomfort and redness quite a bit and best of all, it's not sticky. My SO, who normally scoffs at any form of skin care, now swears by it after he slapped on some of mine after an all day outdoor event.
posted by jamaro at 2:54 PM on July 3, 2013

Aloe vera gel, especially after it's been in the fridge for a while.
posted by rtha at 3:15 PM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]

A couple of aspirin and a bath in tepid water with a cup of baking soda to sooth the skin.
posted by Carol Anne at 3:25 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've heard from friends that using a burn gel, like Water-Jel burn dressings, is really helpful for sunburns before they get bad. Might be kind of spendy for your whole back, though.
posted by Ouisch at 3:32 PM on July 3, 2013

I'd second the cool water/shower advice. It may be an old wives' tale, but I was always told not to shower after sunbathing because it would arrest the tanning process prematurely. So if you want to arrest the burning process prematurely, perhaps consider a cool shower.
posted by Temeraria at 3:36 PM on July 3, 2013

I use Cetaphil (in the tub) and ibuprofen.
posted by Medieval Maven at 3:56 PM on July 3, 2013

posted by professor plum with a rope at 4:58 PM on July 3, 2013

I use ibuprofen (anti-inflammatory) and a cool shower, both of which help the pain as well as seeming to alleviate the eventual sunburn.
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:55 PM on July 3, 2013

Seconding teabags.
posted by The otter lady at 7:00 PM on July 3, 2013

I agree with cool showers and anti-inflammatories, and drink a lot of water!
posted by Specklet at 7:54 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Apple cider vinegar.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 8:15 PM on July 3, 2013

Ice and NSAIDS, just like for any other burn. Or, if ice isn't viable, a cool shower or cold wet towel.
posted by windykites at 8:21 PM on July 3, 2013

Oh yeah, and honey, honey is good for burns. So's aloe and calendula.

Please consider not putting anything on a sunburn that you wouldn't put on a regular burn from a hot pan or something. It's the same thing.
posted by windykites at 8:25 PM on July 3, 2013

It's a burn. Treat it like a burn. Have a cool (but not freezing) shower.
posted by chiquitita at 10:22 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

The recommendation usually is that as soon as you suspect you have gotten too much sun, but before you actually have the burn showing, to start taking aspirin or ibuprofin with dosage according to package directions, i.e. 2 regular aspirin about every four hours. I'm pretty fair and burn easily, so I usually do this for about 24 hours after the overexposure. Also, a cool bath or shower after exposure can't hurt either.
posted by gudrun at 7:08 AM on July 4, 2013

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