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Unprotected sun exposure puts you at risk of many of the signs of aging, as well as increasing the chances of falling victim to skin cancer. While the signs of aging may be something you want to avoid or hold off as long as possible, skin cancer can be deadly and you want to stay protected anytime you spend time in the sunshine. However, life happens and sometimes that means getting a sunburn.

Sunburn is a radiation burn to your skin caused by UV ray exposure from the sun or a  tanning bed.

While a mild sunburn isn’t going to ruin your life, sun-damaged skin is uncomfortable and can be quite painful. For that reason, it’s a good idea to treat it and not just leave it in the hope it will heal itself. There is a range of options for this purpose, with several that can be carried out at a medical spa by trained and experienced medical professionals, all of which are better than just applying a layer of an after sun lotion.

The Symptoms of Sunburn 

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To properly treat the issue, you need to recognize you have sunburn though it’s a hard-to-miss condition. Understanding what you’re up against is the best way to choose the most effective treatments for your individual healing process.

The risk of a sunburn goes up during the hotter summer months when you naturally spend more time outdoors and the sun is brighter and stays out longer. That means vigilance is even more important when you’re engaging in summer activities, like hiking, biking, boating, swimming or spending the day at the playground with your kids. Every skin type is at risk of sunburn. While lighter skin burns faster, even those with darker skin tones are at risk. Here are the most common signs you are suffering from a sunburn:

  • Red or itchy skin
  • Pain or inflamed skin
  • Blisters
  • Skin that radiates heat
  • Flaking or scabbing
  • Pigmentation changes
  • Sun poisoning – nausea, headache or fainting

These are all signs that you need to take action right away to prevent skin damage and preserve its healthy glow. Over time, sunburns can interfere with your beautiful skin and lead to dark spots, brown spots, sun spots, cold sores, uneven texture, fine lines and wrinkles.

Sunburn and Skin Conditions

Something else to consider is that sunburn can worsen some skin conditions.

Take acne, for example. At first, it may seem that the effects of sun exposure are positive, relieving symptoms, drying up the skin and also tanning the skin helps to camouflage breakouts but the effect is temporary. Exposed lesions or scabs can be made permanently darker, leaving you with worse scars, particularly on fair skin. Also, the sun’s ultraviolet rays may create new breakouts as well as increase redness and inflammation. 

Rosacea is also adversely impacted by sunburn. Rosacea-prone skin can be subject to uncontrollable flushing and redness after just a few minutes of exposure to strong sunlight. 

Treating Sunburn

Prevention is the best course of action, but treating sun-damaged skin right away can help minimize the effects. 

Some treatments are meant to be used on sunburned skin, while others can help counteract the appearance of long-term and repeated sun exposure. It is best to undergo these treatments under the supervision of a physician, though it’s important to keep in mind that none of them are going to prevent the development of skin cancer or cure it if it’s already occurred. They can, however, turn back the hands of time and erase some of the signs of premature aging that go along with too much time spent in the sun without sunscreen

Skincare Products 

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A medical spa is an excellent choice for finding products that you can add to your skincare routine to soothe and heal sunburned skin. Medical spa-approved suncare products are designed to make the recovery process more comfortable, promoting the growth of healthier skin cells while also minimizing damage caused by the sun.

Aloe vera is the premier choice and can be used on its own or in conjunction with other ingredients to treat sunburn. Consider undergoing an aloe facial or using aloe vera oil on your skin. Using these products as part of your daily routine in the days following the sunburn can help alleviate the symptoms and protect your sun-exposed skin at the same time. 

Formulations containing retinol are another option. Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A that is beneficial for collagen production, as well as encouraging skin cell turnover. The result is younger, fresher skin. While retinol should not be used in the active healing phase, it can hep with the post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation that can occur after a sunburn. You must build a tolerance to retinol so products should be used sparingly at first, then increased as your skin gets used to the ingredient. Retinol isn’t always recommended for sensitive skin, so follow instructions for use very carefully. 

Also useful is vitamin C. Being an antioxidant, it has good wound-healing properties. It is most powerful when combined with vitamin E in skincare products.

Moving on from skincare products, let’s look at medical spa treatments for sunburn. 

Chemical Peels

A chemical peel can help reverse signs of aging, but may also reduce the risk of skin cancer by removing suspicious spots that may become cancerous if not treated. It is best to have a chemical peel after a sunburn has healed.  

This procedure utilizes acids that remove the superficial layers of skin to reveal fresh, new skin underneath. It also works to boost cell regeneration, which improves the feel and appearance of your body and facial skin. At the same time, your skin will absorb products more easily, which allows your skin routine in the days after treatment to continue targeting sun damage, producing the youthful glow you are after. 

There are three types of peels – superficial, medium and deep. If you want to target deeper layers of skin, a medium or deep treatment is necessary. Recovery time depends on the depth of the peel and can take just a few days and up to a couple of weeks. Follow aftercare instructions carefully to achieve the best results. 

Laser Treatments

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Laser therapy is an effective treatment for counteracting the signs of sun damage. Again, it is not a cure or treatment for skin cancer. However, if you want to erase fine lines, wrinkles, pigmentation changes or uneven skin texture, laser resurfacing is one of your best options. This non-invasive procedure works by removing the top layers of skin and boosting skin cell production. The result is smoother, younger-looking skin.  

There are several non-invasive laser therapy choices and the one you choose depends on the results you want to see. Each is great for treating sun damage, but can also take care of other skin issues, such as broken capillaries and skin laxity. 

There is minimal recovery with virtually no downtime afterward. It’s also low-risk and allows you to return to normal daily activities almost right away. 


This treatment makes use of pulsed light to stimulate collagen and remove damaged layers of skin. It essentially brings pigmented skin to the surface so that a microdermabrasion product can be used to slough it off, revealing the clean, young skin underneath. 

Recovery time is just two to five days and will result in peeling. A microdermabrasion treatment at this point helps remove the dead skin cells and hyperpigmentation so that your skin looks younger and healthier. 

Microdermabrasion Facial 

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A microdermabrasion facial is an excellent option for smoother skin and is a fairly gentle treatment for restoring your complexion and encouraging the growth of healthy skin cells. This type of procedure isn’t quite the same as using an exfoliating product at home, though it is similar in principle. 

There are two types of microdermabrasion – diamond and crystal – determined by the material that does the exfoliation job. The treatment must be undertaken by medical estheticians who are trained to perform it correctly and efficiently. Both diamond and crystal microdermabrasion are considered non-invasive and cause light discomfort and results can be seen in just a week. 

Microdermabrasion can also reduce pores and treat the appearance of acne scars so you can target a variety of skin issues with one treatment. 


This is an ideal choice for individuals with sensitive skin. It’s done by using a sharp blade, which is applied to the skin to remove dead skin cells and facial hair. Dermaplaning has increased in popularity in recent years due to celebrity exposure and is a pain-free way to get immediately smoother skin. It can also help reduce the appearance of premature aging associated with sun exposure, which includes skin discoloration, acne scars and wrinkles. 

There is no downtime with dermaplaning and you can return to your normal daily routine immediately. There are tools for performing this treatment at home, but for safety reasons, it’s a good idea to have a professional do it for you. 

Preventing Sun Damage or Sunburn 

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The best way to prevent the signs of skin aging and reduce your risk of skin cancer is to avoid getting sunburn in the first place.

 UV rays tend to be at their strongest between 10:00 and 16:00 in continental USA and you can check your local UV index to see the strength forecast of UV rays for the day. If the index is 3 or more, you need to avoid too much direct sun exposure. 

By spending time in the sunshine in a safe and mindful way, you can prevent the damage that it causes and protect your skin health and your general health at the same time. 

A sunscreen product is the best way to do this, whether it’s a medical-grade sunscreen or one that you buy over the counter. Either way, choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays and be sure you use it correctly. It takes about an ounce of sunscreen to adequately cover your entire body. You also need to reapply sunscreen every two hours and anytime you get out of the water. 

Use Zadeh MD skin products for all of your skin needs, including for sun protection and skin repair after sun damage. Get in touch with the Z Center for Cosmetic Health today for more information about products and treatments for your sunburnt skin.