Unfortunately, it is not a good idea to use a hot tub when you have sunburn. It's important to avoid exposing sunburn to any more heat. Stick to cool baths or showers, and use cooling moisturizers with aloe vera to help the skin heal instead.
In an ideal world, we'd always apply (and reapply) sunscreen as we're supposed to, and we'd never suffer the painful experience of red-hot sunburn.
But for whatever reason, if you didn't manage to diligently apply sunscreen on this occasion, you now need to be careful about the activities you engage in until it heals.
Why shouldn't you use a hot tub when you have sunburn?
Heat and sunburns don't mix
While some people may say hot tubs will help soothe your sunburn, that isn't actually the case.
The water in a hot tub is, of course, hot—and applying extra heat is the last thing you want to do when treating a sunburn (or any kind of burn for that matter).
A sunburn is like any other kind of common injury: it needs time to heal, and aggravating it will not help this process. Taking a good long soak in a hot tub while you have sunburn could even leave you with blisters.
To make matters worse, it could result in it taking longer for your skin to recover from the sunburn.
Hot tubs can make you dehydrated
Beyond the immediate painful sensation of hot water on your skin, hot tubs can also have a dehydrating effect.
An average normal body temperature is 98.6°F (37°C), but hot tubs are often set higher than this, at around 100-104°F (37.8-40°C). This causes your body to sweat, which can dehydrate you.
A sunburn can also have a dehydrating effect, because it draws water to the skin's surface to attempt to hydrate the skin while trying to heal.
For this reason, it's important to drink lots of water when you have a sunburn, and especially important to stay out of the hot tub so you don't put yourself at even higher risk of dehydration.
How long before you can go in a hot tub after a sunburn?
Most doctors recommend that you should wait until your sunburn has completely healed before using a hot tub. How long that will be will depend on how much sunburn you have and the severity of your sunburn.
While severe sunburn could take up to a week to heal, more mild cases of sunburn can take anywhere from 3 to 5 days to recover.
Patience can speed up your recovery
While you might be tempted to use a hot tub after the initial symptoms of sunburn start to subside, it's still recommended to stay out of the spa until it's fully healed.
Even if soaking in hot water might not make any lasting damage worse, it's probably going to make your sunburn hurt even more than it already does—and risk delaying the full healing process.
Sunburn is bad enough, so why do something that is not only going to make it feel worse, but also make it take longer for your skin to recover?
What should you do to heal a sunburn?
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends the following steps to treat a sunburn:
- Take frequent cool baths or showers to help relieve the pain.
- Use a moisturizer that contains aloe vera or soy to help soothe sunburned skin.
- Consider taking aspirin or ibuprofen to help reduce any swelling, redness and discomfort.
- Drink extra water to avoid dehydration.
- If your skin blisters, allow the blisters to heal on their own.
- Take extra care to protect sunburned skin while it heals.
Hanging out in a hot tub with friends or family is a great way to spend a summer afternoon, but if you have a sunburn, you need to exercise a little patience and wait until your sunburn has healed up. Even a very mild case of sunburn will feel much worse if you submerge it in hot water.
So, stay out of the hot tub and give your body the time to heal: apply sunscreen, cover up, and opt for relaxing in the shade with a nice cold beverage instead.