Be aware that no sun cream can give you 100% protection, even one with very high SPF and if applied correctly. Nobody should rely on sun cream only, and certainly not use it as an excuse for excessive sun exposure. The first and foremost measure should always be sun avoidance (eg sit in the shade instead of direct sun etc.). Second measure is protective clothing (eg UV protective beach wear for children, long dresses for women, wide-rimed hats, etc.). Of course you would still want to wear SPF, but don’t rely on it solely.
Another common reason why we might burn on holiday despite using a high SPF is that we often don’t’ actually use sun creams correctly. In daily use, we tend to vastly underestimate the amount we really need to achieve the SPF stated on the pack, which means that we rarely reach that SPF on the pack. The other reason is that in order to keep the protection factor high, we need to reapply every 2 hours (and after sweating and swimming!), something else many people don’t’ do enough.
With all these protection measures, hopefully you will be able to avoid a sunburn this holiday! Because … if you notice your skin getting red, it’s too late – never ever let it come to that! The redness comes with a delay and the maximum redness will only become visible after 24 hours. So if you notice your skin getting red, get out of the sun asap, as the worst is still to come!
Once your skin has burned, there are no quick fixes to reverse the damage. You have damaged your skin and you can’t take it back. Whatever you now apply to cool the skin, only makes it feel less uncomfortable, but won’t actually make much difference for the damage you have inflicted on your skin. It’s too late for that, so don’t let it come to that!
However, for very mild redness, some Aloe Vera gel can be soothing (no oils please or anything occluding!) … or good old-fashioned Quark applied topically (there you go, my German roots are coming through…)
To help the burn go a little quicker, you could also apply a topical steroid cream such as 1% hydrocortisone cream, which is available in the chemist over-the-counter. You could also consider taking 2 x 500mg Aspirin (the earlier the better…), if you don’t have any contraindications (of course always ask your doctor first!), as this is an anti-inflammatory.
So how long will it take for a sunburn to go? Well, a sunburn will reach its maximum after 24 hours and after that gradually go down in the next few days. However, even when the visible redness is gone, the cellular damage stays for good and can’t be undone (it’s a cumulative process – your skin ‘remembers’ every sunburn and ‘clocks’ them up, until there is a tipping point reached, and you might develop visible damage.
And don’t even think about going back into the sun after your skin has burned, assuming that your skin is hardened now and doesn’t need as much protection!
Stay safe and have a wonderful holiday!