You didn’t mean to, but it happened. You got sunburnt. Don’t worry—we aren’t on a witch-hunt here. We won’t get on our beauty soapbox and tell you just how much the sun damages your skin. No. All we want to do is take you by your red hand and tell you what to do next.
First and foremost, take a cool bath or shower. Set the water to a temperature that’s just below lukewarm, and relax for about 20 minutes. The cool water will ease the pain and stop your skin from becoming as irritated, says New York dermatologist Rebecca Baxt, MD. Also, don’t reach for any soap, bath oils or other detergents as you wash off. They could make the problem worse. If you are really burned, and have blisters forming on the top of your skin, opt for a bath instead of shower.
When your 20 minutes are up and you’re ready to dry off, make sure to let your body air-dry. Rubbing your skin with a towel will exasperate the irritation. Next up, using the pads of your fingertips, apply aloe to your sunburn. “Don’t ‘rub it in’ all the way, like you might with a regular lotion. Leave it a bit goopy and moist on top of the burn—this helps prevent the skin from drying out and becoming more irritated,” says Dr. Baxt.
If you have somewhere to be, you can also try to treat the inflammation with cortisone cream. “Cortisone creams contain a small dose of steroids that can work to reduce inflammation to your sunburn. You can find low-dose, over-the-counter tubes at your local drug store,” she says. You can also reduce redness with these inflammation fighters.
Finally, drink plenty of water. Sunburns can be dehydrating, so it’s important to counterbalance this by drinking a lot of water while you recover. Aim for 8 glasses of water a day.
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