- Sunburns can be itchy and painful – and they increase your risk of skin cancer.
- You’re unlikely to fade a sunburn overnight, but cool compresses and aloe can help.
- Make sure to moisturize if your skin becomes dry and flaky.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
It’s hot vax summer, and that means sunburns are back with a fiery vengeance.
If you’ve been spending your days in the park or at the beach, chances are you’ve gotten some extra sun exposure that could leave you with a burn.
Sunburns occur when the UV radiation from sunlight inflames your skin cells, causing painful itching and soreness. That exposure to sunlight also changes the genetic makeup of your skin cells, increasing your risk of getting certain skin cancers.
There are several remedies you can use to soothe a minor sunburn, but if your sunburn is severe to the point of blistering, you should consider seeing a doctor for treatment.
While you’re unlikely to fade a sunburn overnight, here are some tips for getting rid of redness as quickly as possible.
Cool the skin down with a shower or compress
When your skin feels hot, your first move should be to cool it down. Taking a cold shower or applying cool compresses can help, New York dermatologist Marisa Garshick told Insider.
The American Academy of Dermatology also recommends taking cool baths or showers to help with sunburns. If you leave a bit of water on your skin and apply a moisturizer afterwards, it will trap the water and help ease dryness.
Some dermatologists suggest soaking a compress in milk and ice cubes instead of water. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital, said the proteins from the milk will help coat and protect the skin.
Lotion will also help soothe the skin
Topical lotions can also have a cooling and soothing effect, Garshick added. She recommended using aloe vera or a menthol-based lotion to get that cool feeling.
Aloe is also known to reduce inflammation and prevent peeling.
However, it’s also important to avoid any creams that contain a lot of fragrance, since they can be irritating to sensitive skin, Garshick said.
Follow up with moisturizer and anti-itch creams
Aloe and Vaseline intensive care lotions are ideal for sunburns because they can be spread over the skin easily without applying too much pressure, Zeichner told Insider.
But once you can handle a regular lotion, it’s important to continue to moisturize the skin.
“Sunburned skin has the tendency to lose moisture and dry out easily as the skin barrier is compromised,” Garshick said. “By moisturizing the skin, with a gentle cream or lotion, it helps to hydrate and strengthen the skin barrier and can be calming on the skin.”
If your sunburned skin becomes flaky and dry, you can upgrade to a thicker moisturizing ointment, Garshick said. She and Zeichner both recommended using an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream if there are any particularly itchy areas.
Take an anti-inflammatory pill if necessary
If your sunburn is particularly painful, you may want to take aspirin or acetaminophen to “address the burn from the inside out,” Zeichner said.
Garshick added that ibuprofen is another good candidate reducing inflammation and alleviating any pain associated with a sunburn.
Drink water and stay out of the sun
It’s especially important to stay hydrated while dealing with a sunburn. The burn draws your body’s fluid toward the skin’s surface, so you should offset that loss by drinking plenty of water, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
Staying out of the sun will also help you avoid dehydration and further injury. The skin is even more sensitive to the sun after a sunburn, Garshick noted, so you should slather on some extra sunscreen and stay in the shade whenever possible.