Sunburn can be a painful reminder of forgetting sunscreen on a hot summer day. Sunburn is either first-degree or second-degree burn of the skin, depending on the duration and severity of exposure to the sun’s UV rays. Many people take a cool shower to relieve the burning of the skin, but then feel it made their sunburn look worse. However, a shower won’t actually make sunburn worse and in reality can actually help it.
The reasons why a shower may make a sunburn look worse varies. It takes at least two hours after prolonged, unprotected sun exposure for the first signs of redness to appear. It takes almost 24 hours before the full extent of the damage is visible. Since most people shower after being at the beach or pool or having been at some other outdoor activity, a shower may appear to have made a sunburn appear worse simply because of the time that has lapsed.
Another reason why a shower may make a sunburn look worse is because most people with sunburn take cool showers. Cold water closes the pores of the skin, which in turn traps in the heat and can make the skin appear redder. While a cool shower feels best, it may make your sunburn look different and trap the heat. A warm shower will not close the pores and the heat can escape. Hot showers should be avoided with sunburn.
There are several reasons why a shower can be good for sunburned skin. The water helps hydrate the skin and keep it clean. With proper care, most sunburns resolve with minimal if any short-term complications. Keep the skin well moisturized, but do not apply petroleum jelly, butter, or any other lubricant that blocks pores. Aloe is one of the best treatments for sunburn. Many skin lotions and gels contain aloe. Cool compresses made with towels or wash cloths will also help alleviate the pain.
Drink plenty of fluids to replace lost moisture and avoid dehydration. Do not avoid showers, even if you think it makes your sunburn look worse. Clean skin will prevent infection, which is rare but can occur, and moisturizing after a shower will help prevent peeling. If you experience severe sunburn or extreme pain or your sunburn is accompanied by symptoms such as vomiting, dehydration, or dizziness, you should call your doctor.