What to Do When You Get a Sunburn (Oops!)
Summertime skin issues happen, but they shouldn’t stop you from enjoying outdoor activities — after all, unicorn and swan floats await! If UV rays managed to get past your sunscreen and crisped your complexion, there are a few tips to get back on track. Keep reading for the best post-burn treatments, because there’s nothing worse than looking (and feeling like) a lobster.
1. Use natural oils. “I always recommend cold milk compresses because the lactic acid is nourishing and reparative to help provide comfort to the skin and jump-start the healing process,” says Dendy Engelman, a dermatologist at Manhattan Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery. “There are also a few natural ingredients that aid in the healing of a sunburn, like chamomile oil (anti-inflammatory so it’s very calming and soothing for the skin), rosemary oil (which has soothing properties and is also a mild antiseptic), and lavender oil (a natural antiseptic, meaning it can help prevent infection),” Brit + Co Pick: Dr. Hauschka Moor Lavender Calming Body Oil ($29)
2. Opt for products with vitamin E. “Sunburned skin, if not treated properly, can lead to dry skin and pronounced lines and wrinkles,” warns Engelman. “Therefore it’s important to treat the sunburn with products that have ingredients like vitamin E, which helps the skin heal. I like Bio-Oil Multiuse Skincare Oil ($20) for treating sunburns because it contains vitamin E to neutralize free radicals. It’s also packed with vitamins A and E, which work with the skin to promote cell regeneration, and lavender oil, chamomile oil, calendula oil, and rosemary oil that help invigorate and condition the skin, ultimately providing calming and hydrating benefits that improve the appearance of new or old scars and stretch marks.”
3. Look for yogurt treatments. “I love using yogurt as a treatment,” says Garnier Consulting Aesthetician, Shani Darden. “The cool sensation provides instant relief and it’s packed with probiotics to help restore your skin. Brit + Co Pick: KORRES After Sun Greek Yoghurt Cooling Gel for Face and Body ($26)
4. Shop for healing aloe. “Aloe helps relieve skin irritation, itching, and inflammation,” adds Darden. “It’s very gentle and great for all skin types. And whatever you do, don’t go back out into the sun — even if you apply sunscreen. Give your skin a break. It needs to heal!” Brit + Co Pick: Vaseline Intensive Care Body Lotion Aloe Soothe ($4)
5. Choose super hydrating solutions. “Always hydrate your skin and yourself,” says Darden. “Sunburns often come hand in hand with dehydration, so be sure to drink a lot of water and use a hydrating mask to replenish your skin. I love the Garnier The Super Hydrating Sheet Mask (Sensitive) ($3) — it’s packed with hyaluronic acid and is quite moisturizing and soothing. I also love iS Clinical Pro-Heal Serum ($142), which contains vitamin E, along with vitamin C, olive leaf extract, and vitamin A, for healing properties. These are great options for your face!”
6. Keep anti-inflammatory products nearby. “While Tylenol will help alleviate the pain associated with a burn, it does not have the same anti-inflammatory effect as an over-the-counter ibuprofen like Advil,” says RealSelf Contributor Dr. Joel Schlessinger. “When you take ibuprofen, you aren’t just addressing symptoms like redness and swelling; you are also helping to prevent long-term skin damage. For best results, take it within four to six hours of sunburn to prevent it from becoming worse. Brit + Co Pick: Advil Pain Reliever/Fever Reducer Liqui-Gels Capsules – Ibuprofen ($4)
7. Consider witch hazel. “Individually wrapped ultra-soft cloths rejuvenate your skin with witch hazel,” says Engelman. “Treating a sunburn with witch hazel will lessen healing time and prevent the infamous skin peeling and flaking. Stick them in the fridge for an added cooling effect.” Brit + Co Pick: Dickinson’s Original Witch Hazel Oil Controlling Towelettes ($6)
8. Use a treated tinted moisturizer post burn. This product is specially formulated for redness-prone skin, and as a neutral-tinted moisturizer combats the appearance of redness, evens skin tone, and hydrates the natural protective skin barrier, leaving it soothed and balanced. Brit + Co Pick: Cetaphil Redness Relieving Daily Facial Moisturizer With Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 20 ($16)
9. Use face-specific products for sensitive areas. Engelman suggests using mild skincare products for your face and avoid exfoliating until your sunburn is healed. “Remember that the face area is significantly more sensitive than your body, so keep skincare gentle and use SPF daily on both your face and body, and cover up to avoid future sunburns.” Brit + Co Pick: La Prairie Cellular Swiss UV Protection Veil Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50 ($185)
10. Prevention is key. “The most important thing you can do for your skin is to protect it from the sun,” advises Darden. “Sun damage accelerates the signs of aging and is very hard to reverse later in life. Wear an SPF 30 daily (and a hat if you’re spending time outside during the summer).” Brit + Co Pick: Sephora Favorites Safe Sun on the Fly ($22)
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