Summertime is filled with long days at the beach and countless hours in the pool. If you skimped on the sunscreen or forgot to reapply (don’t worry it happens to us all), chances are your skin can end up burned and take on a red and swollen look that’s unbearable. Rather than waiting it out, there’s a whole list of things you can do to heal your skin fast.
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“My best advice for a summer sunburn is to maintain adequate hydration levels,” says New York dermatologist Jody Levine, MD. That not only includes on a topical level, but also internally—you’ll want to up your daily intake of water so that your body stays hydrated on the inside.
To alleviate the symptoms of a sunburn, take an over-the-counter ibuprofen, like Advil, every eight hours for at least a few days. Ibuprofen acts like an anti-inflammatory to help reduce an swelling, peeling, itching or fever that can come along with a bad burn.
Apply a post-sun product.
When the skin becomes sunburned, it tends to feel hot both internally and externally. To help draw out some of that heat, an aloe-based gel or a cooling product can help. Try Korres After Sun Greek Yoghurt Cooling Gel ($26), which uses the age old remedy of healing sunburned skin with Greek yogurt, or Ligne St. Barth Aloe Veral Gel with Mint ($36). “You can also apply a small amount of a mild hydrocortisone cream (1%) along with the aloe-based cream to help with the swelling and discomfort,” says Dr. Levine.
Take a cold shower.
While you don’t want to try out your skin by exposing it to too much water, a cold shower can make any discomfort subside. You’ll definitely want to avoid bathing in any hot water.
Don’t wash with soap.
A true detergent-based soap can actually make your burn worse by drying out your skin and irritating it even more. Instead, use something that’s safe for compromised skin and doesn’t contain any surfactants, detergents or harsh cleansers. We suggest Avène Cleanance Cleansing Gel for Face and Body ($20).
Use a burn cream.
For years, dermatologists have turned to anti-redness and anti-inflammatory salves and ointments that help promote healthy healing in compromised skin. “I have patients use Biafine cream two to three times a day,” says San Franscisco dermatologist Vic Narurkar, MD. “It’s a product that has been very effective in reducing the redness and inflammation that comes with a severe sunburn.”
If all else fails, give an LED treatment a shot.
You wouldn’t think of a low-level LED light treatment as a way to assuage a sunburn, but it can help. “Gentlewaves, which is a low-level LED light source, has been shown to be effective in reducing erythema and inflammation, so we use it when needed.”