6 Ways to Quickly Recover From a Sunburn

Bad sunburn? Here's what to do

Bad sunburn? Here’s what to do | Source: iStock

Even when you’re careful, sunburns happen. There is nothing that can ruin your day or week-long beach vacation faster than skin that is painful to the touch and lobster-red. A sunburn is the result of damage from ultraviolet (UV) rays, which do more than turn your skin bright red. When you get too much sun, free radicals are released leading to premature cellular death. Over time your DNA can become damaged leading to mutations and skin cancers

It pays to be careful and cautious in the sun. Limiting your time in direct sunlight, using sunscreen, wearing a hat, and hanging out in the shade are all easy ways to keep your skin under wraps. Unfortunately, mistakes happen. When you feel a sunburn coming on, get out of the sun immediately and give these recovery strategies a try. Your skin will thank you and before you know it your burn will turn to bronze. 

1. Cool down

Cooling off in the water

Cooling off in the water | Source: iStock

Dermatologist Jeffrey Brackeen, MD, who is a member of The Skin Cancer Foundation, suggests hopping in cool water at the first signs of a sunburn. If you’re near a pool, ocean, or lake, you’re in luck, but a cold shower works well too. Try to keep your time in the water minimal — the goal is just to cool off — and avoid any soaps, which can be drying and may irritate your skin even more. Once you’ve cooled off, continue treating your skin with cold compresses which will help remove the heat from your skin. Ice cold water on a clean washcloth will do the trick.

2. Take a fever reducer

Immediately pop an aspirin or ibuprofen. Not only will taking a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs) help numb the pain, but they combat inflammation. Just make sure to take a fever reducer as soon as you notice the pain as the benefit of NSAIDs decreases after 24 hours.

3. Aloe vera


Eat water-rich watermelon | Source: iStock

You’ve probably heard of or used aloe vera after sun exposure before, but you need to be careful when selecting a product. Anything with petroleum, benzocaine, or lidocaine will trap heat in the skin and further irritate the burn. Buy a product that is as pure as possible, or if you have access to it, use the leaves off an aloe vera plant. Aloe vera is a proven anti-inflammatory and will help prevent major peeling. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends lathering on a lotion with aloe in it to soothe your red, itchy skin.

4. Get hydrated

A sunburn sucks the moisture out of your skin leaving your body dry and itchy. Drinking lots of water will help get your system back to its regular hydration levels so it can focus on healing your sunburn. Consuming water-heavy fruits like watermelon, honeydew, and cantaloupe is a great idea as they’ll provide the water your body is craving and will give you the nutrients needed for your skin to regenerate.

5. Apple cider vinegar

apple cider vinegar in a vial surrounded by apples

Apple cider vinegar as a sunburn cure | Source: iStock

In addition to applying a cold compress to relieve the heat, a compress of apple cider vinegar will help to get rid of a sunburn’s inevitable sting. Take a clean washcloth and wet it with cold water. Splash some apple cider vinegar on the cloth and dab it directly onto your sunburn, allowing the vinegar to soak into your skin. The relief should be almost immediate.

6. Coconut oil

To prevent peeling, you’ll want to moisturize your skin right away. Once you’ve extracted the heat with a cold compress and stopped the stinging with apple cider vinegar, take some organic, cold pressed coconut oil and lather it liberally on your sunburn. Mixing in a couple drops of therapeutic-grade essential oils, like those from doTerra, can also be healing. Lavender is said to heal the burn, while peppermint cools the skin and releases any trapped heat. If you don’t have coconut oil, look for products that include clove, licorice, cucumber, and yucca these ingredients can help reduce irritation and redness.

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