What to do if you get sunburned

Dermatology Clinical Lead at Bupa UK
12 June 2019

You may have thought you’d protected your skin and put enough sunscreen on, but now you’re out of the sun and your skin is red and sore. In fact, research has shown that most people put on less than half the amount of sunscreen they need to give enough protection against skin damage from the sun.

If you get sunburned it means you’ve had too much exposure to the harmful rays of the sun. Your skin will be red, tender, may sting and feel tight and hot. If it’s severe, your skin may blister.

Parasols on the beach

An infographic explaining how to treat sunburn

Click to open a PDF version of sunburn infographic (0.4MB)

Cover your skin

Cover your skin with light clothing so it’s not exposed.

Seek shade

Come out of the sun and stay inside where it’s cool.

Stay hydrated

Drink cold water – keep taking sips. You need to drink more water to keep hydrated as when you’re sunburned your skin draws fluid to the surface of your skin and away from other parts of your body.

Cool off

Have a cool shower or bath. Or gently sponge the sunburnt skin. Just do this for ten minutes at a time – you can do it again if it helps ease the soreness. Pat your skin dry, and you can leave your skin with a bit of water on it.

Consider taking medicine

If you need to you can take over-the-counter painkillers to soothe and ease discomfort.

Apply moisturiser

Assess your skin – if it’s not blistering then you know that it’s mild sunburn, in which case you can put on some soothing lotion, such as a moisturiser, after-sun cream or you can try aloe vera. Applying cream on top of your damp skin locks the moisture in which can help with dryness.

See a doctor

If the skin has developed blisters this means the burn is severe and you’ll need to see a doctor.

If you’ve got sunburn it’s really important you do everything you can to stay safe in the sun and not let it happen again.




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Dr Stephanie Munn
Dermatology Clinical Lead at Bupa UK

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    • Sun screen. British Association of Dermatologists. www.bad.org.uk, published 2013
    • Sunburn. St John Ambulance. www.sja.org.uk, accessed 16 May 2019
    • How to treat sunburn. American Academy of Dermatology. www.aad.org, accessed 16 May 2019
    • Sun burn. BMJ Best Practice. bestpractice.bmj.com, last reviewed April 2019
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