How to Prevent Sunburn

A dermatologist weighs in on the dangers of sunburn and ways you can prevent it.

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CLEVELAND – Spending more time in the sun? Don’t forget the sunscreen.

Shilpi Khetarpal, MD, a dermatologist with Cleveland Clinic, reminds us that sunburn can cause skin cancer and some people are at higher risk than others.

“Those with fair skin are most likely to develop skin cancer in their lifetime,” she said. “So, if you have red or blonde hair, light eyes, are someone that freckles easily, if you’ve had sunburn in your lifetime – those are all risk factors that will contribute to how likely you are to develop skin cancer.”

To avoid sunburn, check the UV index before venturing outside and avoid being out between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun is at its hottest.

When outdoors, wear sun-protective clothing, a hat and a good sunscreen.

A broad-spectrum sunscreen of 30 SPF or higher is recommended and one ounce is needed to cover the entire body.

Sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes prior to going out and every two hours afterward.

And remember, you can even get sunburned through windows or on a cloudy day.

A typical sunburn may feel warm, itchy or tender to the touch. It should flake or peel within a few days and heal in about a week.

“The skin is going to be very fragile because you’ve damaged a layer of skin,” explained Dr. Khetarpal. “So, make sure you avoid anything irritating, like anti-aging or anti-acne products. You really want to be gentle, so a gentle cleanser; and try and rebuild that barrier.”

Sunburns can be treated with aloe vera gel or petroleum jelly. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can also be taken for discomfort.

If the sunburn blisters on a large portion of skin, Dr. Khetarpal recommends seeing a dermatologist for additional care.

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