What to Do for a Sunburn

Here are some drugstore items for a sunburn.  Take these with you when you travel – hydrocortisone 1%, Advil/ ibuprofen tablets (200mg), zinc paste (usually 20%), and aloe gel (if you find it helpful). The minute you notice that you or a loved one is getting burned, get them out of the sun pronto! Or, if you just can’t get out of the sun, then truly cover the area, remembering that a white teeshirt doesn’t block all the rays.


If it’s a small to medium area, apply hydrocortisone 1% about every 2-3 hours while awake for the first 1-2 days. Take ibuprofen (antiinflammatory) if ibuprofen is okay with your doctor. Use the zinc paste at night before bed or alternate it with the aloe gel. If a large area is burned, call your doctor and start with a cool bath for 20 minutes. Remember, any cream can cause an allergic reaction, so if you are getting worse, stop it and call your doctor for help.

Do not go out in the sun again until it’s healed. Summer can be so much fun if vacation isn’t ruined with a sunburn!

Dr. Irwin

 Have you seen SkinTour’s articles on medical dermatology issues?

Acne in Depth, Melasma In Depth (melasma is that brown splotchiness on the face triggered by homrones and light), Rosacea in Depth (rosacea in persistent redness across the nose and cheeks in adults)Hair Loss in Depth (by guest dermatologist Dr. Peter Goldman)

Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

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Hi, I’m Dr. Irwin. I believe that consumers deserve a medically trained and unbiased skin care advocate.

  • All our content is written and researched by myself.
  • My medical office in Seattle has treated thousands of patients for 15+ years.
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