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How to care for your skin after a bad sunburn

Young woman's sunburned upper back, with white stripes where her bathing suit straps were.

(Photo: Flickr/Kelly Sue)

How to care for your skin after a bad sunburn

July 31, 2013

Q: I went to the beach last week and got really bad sunburn. It eventually turned into a tan but now my skin in peeling from every limb on my body. My shoulders, arms and legs are literally halfway peeled off. I'm very prone to scarring, and I really do not want to develop scars from this. What should I do?

A: This is a bad sunburn, but even so it should not leave any scarring. You may have slightly darker pigment as the skin heals, but this will resolve in a few weeks. For now I would recommend diluted vinegar soaks, followed by a moisturizer such as Cetaphil, and followed by Cortizone-10 ointment five minutes later in the morning and night.

Avoid any sort of soap while bathing, use a soap-free body wash instead. Calamine lotion can be applied intermittently during the day for symptomatic relief. Claritin (10 mg table) once or twice a day will help with any burning or itching, or Benadryl (25 mg tablet) three times a day, which is stronger.

All of these should be continued for 7-10 days at least and should help resolve the problem. Lastly make sure to keep the affected area protected from sunlight as much as possible, and use an SPF 50+ sunscreen while outdoors. Avoid sun as much as possible.

For the vinegar soaks -- mix half a cup of white vinegar in one liter of tepid water. Soak clean cotton or gauze in it and leave over the affected area for 5 minutes, and then gently wipe clean.

NOTE: All of the above are available over the counter without a prescription.

-- Answer from Dr. Nair, a dermatologist on JustAnswer.

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