Tuesday, 20 April 2021 11:26

Sunburn Blues: Coming Back from Short-Term Sun Damage

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There is almost nothing like a clear beautifulwarm, and sunny summer day at the beach with loved onesWhile skin care professionals do not want to rob their clients of this experience, it is a professional’s responsibility to ensure that clients are aware of the overall effects of sun damage (not just during the summer but all year round). Regardless of any given advice, clients are bound to get sunburned and may seek outprofessional help for pain, relief, and skin healing. A skin care professional should understand how the skin burns, the side effects that come from it, how to consult with and assess theseverity level of a sunburn, how to determine the proper course for treatment, and the do’s and don’ts while the skin is healing.


Skin care professionals must review the sun’s rays, along with the short-term versus long-term skin damage tounderstand how to help clients get relief. In the ultraviolet spectrum, the sun emits UVA, UVB, and UVC rays. UVC rays virtually do not affect the skin. UVA rays are present at full strength all year-round and contribute most to long-term damage and aging of the skin, thus earning its nickname, aging rays. UVA exposure can cause melanocytes to go into overdriveas a defense and protection mechanism, causing skin discoloration that is scientifically known as hyperpigmentation. This process may also cause pigmented acne blemishes and current scarring to become darker or more prominent. These ultraviolet rays can easily breakdown the skin’s vital support proteins, such as collagen and elastin, causing prematurely sagging skin, fine lines, and wrinkles. In the long-term, the skin’s natural water reservoir, hyaluronic acid, may also be depleted causing dehydration that leads to surface peeling and crepiness. The skin will then appear more mature than it is. 

UVB rays contribute to sunburns, known as short-term skin damage. Unlike UVA rays, UVB rays are stronger in the summertime and typically are at their peak strength between 10 a.m. and four p.m. The most common and visible side effect of UVB exposure is skin burning manifested by erythema, often accompanied by overall surface irritation, swelling, itching, dehydration, and skin peeling. Cumulativeexposure will make the skin darken (tanning) among other side effects. As a preventive measure, it is especially important to educateclients about the dangers of (unprotected) overexposure to the sun, and that if extreme or repeated erythema is achieved with the skin, long-term effects can be devastating.  



Once clients get a sunburn, how can skin care professionalshelpWith the onset of COVID-19, many clients are seeking virtual careConsider offering clients a virtual consultation to assess skin damage and guide them through the proper course of treatment. Perform a virtual video meeting through a mobile phone or using multiple other options, including the many free platforms available. For the best communication outcome,both parties will need a stable and secure internet connection, as well as quality sound and camera devices. Additionally, the client could send a few well-litmakeup-free selfies from different angles prior to the virtual meeting topre-assess any skin damage. During the actual consultation, ask the client the following questions:

  • When were you last exposed to the sun? This should show how long they have had the sunburn and if they have been out in the sun since.
  • How often do you receive this much sun exposure? This will prompt any recommendation for sunscreen for future and daily prevention and recommendations for repairing treatments to reverse any previous or accumulating sun damage.
  • How would you describe your skin type? When overexposed to the sun, typically, normal to dry lighter skin Fitzpatrick photo-types have a higher proneness to burning and peeling, while acneic skins may develop scarring more easily and possibly discolor. Discuss these questions with the client and offer self-care products and professional spa treatments, accordingly.
  • How often do you receive general or standardsun exposure? General or standard sun exposure is considered to be around 30-minutes a dayor less. This timing is sufficient when driving to and from work or running short errands. While sunscreen is always advised, clients who are exposed to more than 30-minutes a day are considered at a higher risk of both short-term and long-term sun damage, including skin cancers.
  • What are the symptoms you have that are concerning you? This will help determine if the client needs to be referred for medical attention. The client may simply say that skin sensitivity is their top complaint, which is quite common with burned skin. On rarer occasions, a client may report blistering or open wounds, which could indicate a second-degree burn. If the client reports the latter, refer them to a physician and instruct them to not peel or pick at the blisters due to the risk of infection and scarring. If the client reports nausea, fever, flu-like symptoms, or chills, refer them to a physician immediately, as this may be a sign of polymorphic light eruption, also known as sun poisoning. For severe symptoms of polymorphic light eruption, a medical professional may prescribe a dose of steroids, pain medication, antibiotic cream, or intravenous fluids to provide relief.
  • On a scale of one to five, five being the worst possible pain and one being a little uncomfortable, what number would you rate your discomfort? This will help determineif the client needs medical attention. If a client states a five, refer them to a physician.
  • What treatments have you already attempted? This may rule out some possible recommendations that have not worked for them. This is also an opportunity to educate the client on the benefits of professional treatments and self-care products versus using over-the-counter alternatives.



After the consultation, offer the client the best assessment and proper course of treatment to provide them with immediate relief. Remember that any professional recommendations should always include a combination of spa treatment, self-care, skin care, and lifestyle tips to achieve the best results. 


Treatment Bags 

If the client prefers not to come into the spa to receive a professional spa treatment, a ready-to-go treatment bagmay be the best solution. This would include at-home self-care products (whether sample sizes, trial sizes, or full retail sizes) and handwritten or typed instructions, including easy to do tips for expedited relief. After-sun soothing gels, soothing and hydrating hyaluronic acid mists, gentle body moisturizers, bath soaks, and sunscreens would all be great product options to include in the bag, plus a bounce back card for spa dollars toward a professional treatment when they are ready to come back to the spa again. Research options for delivering to clients. If most of them live locally, widespread, or cross-country, the treatment bag can be shipped to their address based upon preferences and shipping rates. Consider offering curbside pickup or hand-delivering the products if the client lives close to the spa.


Spa Services 

When the client is ready to come into the spa to receive a treatment, contemplate including the same treatment bag as a complimentary gift or at a discounted rate, if purchased the same day as they receive their professional treatment. Professional spa treatments should include those which are extremely soothing, hydrating, cooling, and gentle. For a professional facial treatment, check with vendors regarding a hyaluronic acid-based treatmentmade for sensitive skinand inquire if the treatment is safe to use on a client who had recent sun exposure or who is experiencing a sunburn. Gently use soft four-by-four pads to remove any product instead of towels, to reduce skin irritation and discomfort. Use only cold or cool water during the entirety of the treatment to expedite relief and calm erythema. Applylight touch pressure during the facial and press products delicately into the skin instead of performing a classic relaxing massage, which could cause discomfort to sunburned skin. If the client has experienced any degree of full body or localized skin erythema as a result from sun exposure, consider a cooling and simple body wrap solutionquick, no-rinse body wrap provides nutrients, deeply hydrates, and reduces skin erythema and inflammation as well. For example, pure cactus and agave derivatives will provide vitamin B to support cellular health, mineralsto promote skin healing, and natural anti-inflammatoriesto provide clients with immediate relief. Water lily extract is known for expediting inflammation relief and soothing and healing sunburned skinAlso, consult with vendors on safe treatments and self-care products for clients experiencing pigmentation disorders or acne who have had recent sun exposure or sunburns. These treatments may include gentle, yet effective skin lighteners, such as diacetyl boldine and vitamin C, which can tackle on pigmented damage and minimize or prevent scarring.


Care Card Tips

Create a care card full of homecare tips to help clients avoid sun damage in the future, while promoting ideas on what to do if it happens again. Include this card in the self-care retail and send out a digital version as an e-blast to allclients. Additionally, post the tips on social media. 


Some tip ideas to include on the sunburn care card are include:

  • Keep skin moisturized by spraying with a hydrating, hyaluronic acid based soothing mist.
  • Apply an all-natural after-sun soothing gel.
  • Avoid all sun exposure untilskin is completely recovered, minimizing future exposure.
  • Avoid pulling onpeeling skin.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing.
  • Drink extra water.
  • Take only cool showers or baths until the skin is completely healed. Use a gentle body wash over soap.
  • Call the spa to inquire about repairing and soothing professional treatments for expedited relief and prevention of long-term sun damage.
  • Invest in a high-quality, broad-spectrum sunscreen to protectskin from UVA and UVB rays. Be sure to reapply sunscreen at least every two hours when outdoors.
  • If skin is acneic or hyperpigmented, lesions or pigmented spots may have become darker due to sun exposure. Consult with a skin care professional on safe products and treatments to aid in skin lightening. 
  • Avoid the use of any acids or exfoliation until skin is completely healed.



Last but not least, while the skin is irritated from sun exposure and is in the healing process, clients should avoid any products or treatments containing retinol or prescription retinoids, acids, or mechanical exfoliants, like jojoba beads or sea salt. Once all erythema, peeling, and open skin have completely healed, the client may carefully resume normal exfoliation regimens. Additionally, any medical procedures such as laser treatments or injectables should also be avoided until the recovery process has completed.



No matter which option clients choose, be sure each knows the importance of protecting their skin in the futureso that their short-term damage does not turn into long-term damageA thorough and daily application of a high-quality sunscreen is vital to ensure that the skin is being protected. Consider broad-spectrum sunscreen options in both tinted and non-tinted formulas to accommodate for all clients’ preferences. Offer samples and use these sunscreens at the end of facials and body care treatmentsto let clients experience their great benefits firsthand. Many high-quality sunscreen options provide additional benefits beyond sun protection, including antiaging ingredients such as vitamin C and collagen, natural anti-inflammatories for clients with rosacea or acnelike sea whip, and blue light protection from a variety of sources.

Carry and sell stylish hats, sunglasses, and cover ups to additionally help clients protect their skin against sun exposure. If boutique space is not available to house these items, consider an online store directly linked to the spa’s website and social media pagesor the option of a mail-in catalog from whichclients can order.


This may be a difficult time for the client, so it is important to offer any and all support possible. Once healed, the client will never forget the efforts that lead them to a full recovery. 

Melissa Morris HeadShotMelissa Morris has been a licensed skin care specialist since 2004. During her illustrious career, she has worked with some of the nation’s most renowned physicians, plastic surgeons, dermatologic surgeons, wellness experts, nutritionists, aestheticians, and trainers in the industry. Morris’ vast experience has gained her recognition as an industry leader and innovator in the management of medical and holistic wellness facilities and spas, protocol development, basic and advanced educational program implementation, and oversight. She has also developed and enhanced technical skills curriculum for the clinical spa, medical spa, and wellness industries. Currently, Morris serves as a director of education for the East Coast of the United States for Pevonia and Medicalia International, LLC.  


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