My personal hang-up with sunscreen is that my cranky, acne-prone skin has trouble vibing with the stuff, and for many years, I deemed the sunscreen-induced breakouts I experienced far worse than the future potential of sun damage. (Damning words, I know.) Over the years, I’ve gotten a lot better about regular sun protection, largely in part to newer and better formulas, but I’m still not perfect, especially when I’m in a different climate than my skin is typically used to and forget to modify my sunscreen routine as needed.
You probably already know where this tale is headed, but this is exactly where I went wrong a couple of months ago. I was enjoying a weekend in Palm Springs with a friend, forgot to up the sunscreen ante, and I ended up with one of the worst facial burns of my life. I was red, itchy, peeling, freckled, the whole shebang, and scarily, it occurred to me that other than the age-old advice of applying aloe on a burn—which I’ve always done on my body but never my face—I didn’t really know how to take care of my burn to ensure I didn’t aggravate the situation further. Of course, I knew enough to stay away from some of my favorite exfoliating products and retinol, but to be honest, I was kind of at a loss. So I was inspired to write this piece and reach out to an expert who could load me up with info in case—god forbid—this ever happened again. Below, New York–based dermatologist Orit Markowitz, MD, is sharing all of her best info about what a sunburn actually is, how to treat it like a pro, common mistakes and misconceptions, and more. Keep scrolling!