Don't let a sunburn ruin your trip!

By Lauren Wellbank
May 05, 2020
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You've been looking forward to your honeymoon for months—if not years—which makes a nasty sunburn all the more devastating. Not only does it hurt, but it puts a damper on the well-laid plans for fun you've been working on. While the best thing you can do is take proper precautions from the start, there are a few things you can do after a sunburn occurs. We talked to dermatologist Dr. Heidi Mullen about what to do—and how to deal—with a sunburn on your honeymoon.

First, Understand What Causes Skin to Burn

Sunburn is your skin's reaction to too much sun exposure. The speed and severity of your skin's reaction vary due to the melanin in your skin. "Melanin, which is made by your body, protects the deeper layers of your skin from damaging sun rays and is what gives your skin its color," Dr. Mullen says. The amount of melanin you have in your skin will dictate whether your skin burns—or tans—after sun exposure.

Remember That Not All Sunscreens Are Created Equal

Make sure you pack a broad-spectrum sunscreen in your honeymoon luggage. Broad-spectrum coverage protects your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. And don't pack anything with an SPF lower than 30—sunscreens with an SPF of at least 30 will protect for you from 97 percent of the sun's harmful UVB rays—anything lower than that may not. Avoid user error by applying your sunscreen thickly, evenly and all over (maybe ask your new spouse to help you with the hard-to-reach places). The average application should consist of a "shot glass" sized amount of sunscreen, or 1.5 ounces, and you'll want to make more than one application. "Reapply sunscreen every two hours or so, and if you find you are sweating or enjoying the water, reapply sunscreen even more frequently," Dr. Mullen adds.

Treating a Sunburn

If, despite your best efforts, you still manage to get a sunburn you can treat it quickly, easily, and, in most cases, without a doctor's help according to Dr. Mullen. "As quickly as possible, apply cold, wet compresses to the sites or take a cool shower for about 10 minutes." If that doesn't help, you can use over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, which can help with pain, inflammation, and swelling.

Apply petroleum jelly based products to the skin two to three times a day to help the sunburn heal faster (and minimize unsightly peeling). And stay away from topical antibiotic ointments, herbal ointments and home remedies—like applying toothpaste or butter to the burnt skin—because those types of treatments can exacerbate your sunburn, increase healing time, and even lead to infection!

Get Back Out There

Getting a sunburn doesn't mean that you are doomed to stay inside the rest of your honeymoon. You can still enjoy some time outdoors with your new spouse, you just need to make sure to protect your sunburned skin from further damage. Dr. Mullen suggests using sun protective clothing and spending as much time in the shade as possible. And don't forget to apply sunscreen to your already sun damaged skin. "Look for a mineral-based sunscreen, as sunburned skin is usually more sensitive, and mineral-based sunscreens tend to be less irritating to the skin."

When to See a Doctor

Although most sunburns are only first-degree burns, Dr. Mullens advises that if you think your sunburn is more severe, you should go the emergency room to have it examined.

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