As summer days wane and we move to another glorious autumn in Boulder, we are drawn to outdoor activities. It is natural to want to enjoy the sunshine on our skin before we have to wrap up under countless layers to stay warm. But, this warm touch of the sun on our skin can be deceiving, and we need to stay vigilant about protecting ourselves from sunburn and sun damage. Even if you don’t realize you are getting too much sun, sunburns can happen and they, as well as tans, lead to increased visible signs of aging and can lead to skin cancer. Despite how much you think you are protecting your skin, sometimes you get sunburned. To learn some tips for treating a bad sunburn, keep reading.

First Steps

The first things you should do are along the same lines as how you would treat a burn from a pan or oven. This means removing yourself from the possibility of more burn. If you notice that you are getting burned, get out of the sun! Sure, you can slather on more sunscreen or put on a UV shirt, but the proverbial cow is out of the barn as far as the sunburn is concerned and you need to be sure that no more damage occurs. Go inside, not just in the shade, since ambient reflection can burn too. Cooling off your skin is the next step. Just as you’d rinse a burnt finger under cool water, it’s a good idea to jump in a cool shower to cool the skin. If it’s a small area, use a wet washcloth; it won’t limit the burn, but it will limit the pain.


A sunburn will respond well to anti-inflammatories, both oral and topical. Ibuprofen is the go-to oral anti-inflammatory. Take it as directed and remember that its efficiency increases over a time, so take it for at least 24-hours before you expect its full power to relieve the pain. Topical anti-inflammatories such as witch hazel can be applied to the skin. Epsom salt can be applied as a cold compress. Simply dissolve the Epsom salts into water, let it cool, soak a washcloth in it, wring it out, and apply it to the skin. Other people swear by apple cider vinegar, and others lavender or calendula applied topically. Try a few remedies, and see what gives you the most relief.


Most people know to grab a tub of aloe vera to hydrate their skin from the outside, but it is also important to remember to drink extra water when you have a sunburn. Drinking drinks with electrolytes will help to make sure you don’t get dehydrated and will give your skin what it needs to heal.

See a Doctor If…

If you skin blisters from the sunburn, or it is accompanied by symptoms of heat stroke or infections such as chills, fever, or dizziness. Also, because sunburn can lead to skin cancer, always remember to keep an eye out for new moles or changes in existing mores and make an appointment with a dermatologist if you notice any changes. It’s a good idea to have an annual skin check up at a dermatologist in any case. If you have any concerns, call Kallgren for an appointment today.