Of course you understand the importance of sunscreen, but sometimes, no matter how diligent you were with reapplying, you still end up getting too much sun. While the damage of a sunburn can’t be undone (sadly), there are things you can do to speed up the healing process and soothe your red, inflamed skin. We asked Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in the department of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, about the best way to feel better fast.
Work from the inside out
So you’re on the way home from the beach, and one look in the rearview mirror tells you that you’re in trouble. As soon as you realize your skin is a little too red, take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pill like ibuprofen or aspirin, Dr. Zeichner recommends. This can help stop inflammation and redness from getting any worse and ease pain.
Once you get to a shower, rinse off with cool water to soothe skin and remove any chlorine, salt water or sand that may be lingering and causing more irritation. Have a bath? Even better! Add a cup of whole oats to the cool bath water for extra calming power.
The sun zaps moisture from the skin, so be sure to replenish it regularly over the next few days with a rich moisturizer. Zeichner recommends looking for ones that contain aloe, glycerin or hyaluronic acid like Sun Bum Cool Down Aloe Spray ($12, nordstrom.com). If it’s a small area like your nose, neck or ears, try a 1% hydrocortisone ointment like Cortizone 10 Hydrocortisone Anti-Itch Cream Plus 10 Moisturizers ($9, walgreens.com) to reduce inflammation. Hot tip: Keep your moisturizers in the fridge for an extra refreshing treat.
Use a DIY compress
Try using a cool compress soaked in skim milk, egg whites or green tea. The proteins in milk and egg whites coat and calm the burn while green tea reduces inflammation.
Not only does the sun take away the moisture from your skin, it also dehydrates the rest of your body as well, which is why you may also feel extra tired after a long day in the sun. Counteract the sun’s damage by drinking lots of water and eating water filled fruit like watermelon, honeydew melon, cantaloupe, or grapes.