What you need to know about sunburn blisters

Dermatologists recommend using SPF 30+ sunscreen that is broad-spectrum (protects against both UVA and UVB light), water-resistant, and contains at least 8% zinc oxide, as well as SPF 15+ lip balms.

Whichever term you use, photosensitive skin is more susceptible to ultraviolet rays than normal. Photosensitized skin will burn, and possibly blister, when exposed to the sun or other UV rays, like tanning beds.

A topical steroid cream like 1% hydrocortisone can help relieve any itching and keep inflammation under control, Dr. Goldenberg says.

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I live in NH. For the last 3 summers,my skin has gotten really itchy and I have had rash-like bumps. For the last 2 summers, my chest got really, really itchy, So this summer, before I got any exposure to the sun, I slathered zinc oxide all over my chest (and do so every day now) and my chest doesn’t get itchy at all. However, now it’s my back that’s really itchy. It’s almost as bad as poison ivy. I think maybe, that my back got a little bit of sun exposure in late June, but since then, I wear a T shirt all the time. Can sun poisoning make you really itchy? I’m a 71-year old woman and I’ve lived 90% of my life in either Massachusetts or NH, and I’m of English and Irish descent.

“Sun blisters develop when the skin becomes so inflamed that connections between skin cells become disrupted,” explains Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “This leads to splitting of the skin, which ultimately fills with serous fluid.”

Pay attention to your body if something doesn’t look or feel right on your skin.

Are Your Meds Making the Sun Extra Harsh on Your Skin

Sunburn Blisters

Photosensitivity reactions can happen quickly, even after just a few minutes of sun exposure so they can take you by surprise. So, you’ll definitely want to be proactive in protecting your skin from UV rays.

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Wear Sunscreen Every Day

Extended, unprotected exposure to the sun can harm the skin for a myriad of reasons such as skin cancer and aging, but photodermatoses, or “sun poisoning”, is a slightly less common but still dangerous effect of sun exposure. Many patients use the term “sun poisoning”, but what does it really mean? We asked dermatologist Dr. Robin Travers to explain the skin condition and its symptoms.

These are also OTC ingredients that are not only found in anti-blemish skincare products but in anti-aging and skin brightening products too. Look for alpha hydroxy acid, lactic acid, tartaric acid, or glycolic acid in the ingredient list.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

How to Get Rid of Sunburn Blisters Safely, According to Dermatologists

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If you’re going to be spending the day outdoors at the park, by the lake, or at the beach, make sure you reapply your sunscreen often (every 2 hours, or every 40 minutes when swimming or sweating). For added protection, wear a wide-brimmed hat or sit under an umbrella or in the shade.

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Stay Out of the Sun Whenever Possible

Sun poisoning is similar to severe sunburn, which can lead to patient confusion if symptoms go beyond those they may usually get from a day in the sun. Here are five different forms of the condition and their respective symptoms.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a prescription benzoyl peroxide medication (like BenzaClin or Onexton) or an over-the-counter product you picked up at the drug store. Benzoyl peroxide can cause photosensitivity too.   A plethora of anti-blemish skincare products contain benzoyl peroxide, so make sure you check the active ingredients of the acne treatment products on your shelf. 

With a bit of care, you can use your acne medications and keep your skin sun-safe too.

Acne Medications That Make You More Sensitive to the Sun

Is It Normal To Get Blisters After A Sunburn?

If you just have a few blisters, Dr. Zeichner recommends covering them with a bandage to avoid accidentally traumatizing them. “They will heal all on their own in the overwhelming majority of cases,” he says. It’s also a good idea to cover the area when you go outside. Wear tightly-woven fabrics (like soft cotton) for max protection and comfort, the AAD says.

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Monitor it carefully if it pops

“If you have any questions or concerns, ask the doctor who prescribed the medication,” Messenger says. “Your doctor may know how to handle the side effect and would tell you if and how urgently you might need to see a dermatologist.”

3. Diagnosing and Treating Sunburn Blisters Your doctor will diagnose sunburn blisters based on the appearance of the affected skin. Your doctor will also ask about how long you’ve been in the sun and whether you’ve used any sun protection for your skin.
Regarding treatments, sunburn blisters can often be treated at home by:
Drink plenty of water: Sunburns will dehydrate you, which can prevent the blisters from healing. Place a cold, damp compress on the blister to release the heat from the skin. Apply aloe vera moisturizer to the burn. Moisture will help blisters heal faster. Do not break blisters: This greatly increases the chance of infection and can cause damage to the skin leading to scarring. Take ibuprofen (Advil) to reduce swelling and discomfort significantly. Avoid sun exposure until the blisters heal. If blisters burst on their own (don’t break them intentionally), keep the area clean and cover with loose gauze after applying antibiotic ointment. Keep the area covered with ice to speed healing.
When cleaning the blistered skin, use cool water, do not scrub and use a mild antibacterial cleanser to remove excess secretions, taking care not to rub too hard. Do not dab a cotton ball on the blister because the tiny fibers can stick to the wound and increase the chance of infection.
If blisters are more severe, your doctor may prescribe corticosteroids to treat swelling and itching. Your doctor may also prescribe a topical burn cream to help the skin heal faster.
4. How to prevent blistering from sunburn? The best way to prevent sunburn blisters is to protect your skin. When going outside, it’s best to wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Remember to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours when outdoors. Wear protective clothing to protect your skin, such as a wide-brimmed hat that covers your face.
Checking medication before going out in the sun is also very helpful. Certain medications, such as antibiotics, can increase your chances of getting burned. Both oral and topical acne medications can significantly increase skin sensitivity to the sun.
If sunburn is suspected, cool as soon as possible to reduce the extent of the burn. Stay indoors or in the shade, replenish body fluids and rinse skin with cold water if possible.

Five different forms of sun poisoning and their symptoms

How to Treat Sunburn Blisters Safely, According to Dermatologists

If you need relief from irritated skin and minor sunburns, Ren suggests taking cool showers, using plain petroleum jelly or moisturizer containing aloe vera, and drinking plenty of water.

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Drink lots of water

But it’s not just sunburn. Photosensitizers can cause an itchy rash, scaly bumps, or other red, inflamed irritation too. You may also notice changes in your skin’s pigmentation, as darker (or lighter) spots and splotches.

This won’t necessarily speed up the blister healing process, but taking aspirin or ibuprofen may help reduce swelling, redness, and pain if you’re super uncomfortable, the AAD says.

What you need to know about sunburn blisters

Sun Poisoning on Face

“There are many ingredients in over-the-counter skin care products that might further irritate the skin and cause sensitization that leads to an allergic reaction,” Ren says. “Try to avoid products containing fragrance additives, formaldehyde, lanolin, oxybenzone, or methylisothiazolinone. Sunscreens containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are less likely to cause skin irritation.”

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Cover the blister up

Photosensitivity can be caused by a host of different things: perfumes, plants, and fruits (citrus are common ones) and certain topical an oral medications, including those used to treat acne.

You should not pop a sun blister (more on that later), however, if one does pop open, the Mayo Clinic recommends very carefully cleaning the area with gentle soap and water. Apply antibiotic ointment and cover the exposed skin with nonstick gauze or a bandage. Keep a close eye on it: If a rash forms or it starts to feel worse, see your doctor ASAP.

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