How to Recover Fast from a Sunburn
Summer is in full swing, and with longer days, bonfires, weekend getaways, and (hopefully) afternoons spent by the pool comes the inevitable: sunburn.
While we should all do our best to avoid the dreaded burns to begin with -- after all, 90% of skin damage is caused by sun-related photodamage -- there are some times when it’s just unavoidable.
The good news? Just because you get a burn doesn’t mean you have to deal with peeling and days of lobster-colored discomfort. Here’s how to recover from a sunburn fast.
1. Don’t Forget Sunscreen
When it comes to sunburns, the best thing you can practice is prevention. That means sunscreen, hats, and clothing to help prevent sunburns from forming.
When you’re looking for the right sunscreen, there are a few rules of thumb to follow:
- Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen, as these formulations offer protection against UVA and UVB rays. Standard sunscreens don’t; they only protect against UVB rays, which cause the reddening of the skin. UVA rays reach the deeper layers of the skin and damage collagen and elastin, making you look older faster.
- You can choose a physical sunscreen - which works by scattering UV rays - or a chemical sunscreen, which absorbs UV rays. Either is a suitable option, but you’ll want to avoid problematic ingredients like oxybenzone, octinoxate, avobenzone, and retinyl palmate.
- Try formulas that contain other skin-soothing ingredients like aloe vera, vitamin E, and green tea. These provide hydrating and antioxidant benefits to the skin to prevent skin dehydration and sun-related damage.
Use these points to help you identify the best sunscreen for men and keep your skin safe and healthy.
If the sunscreen didn’t cut it - or you simply forgot - you’ll need some major hydration to help calm that angry, red glow. This is more important than you might think; dryness and dehydration are uncomfortable and exacerbate peeling and skin damage concerns.
Steer clear of thicker creams and oils like petroleum, coconut oil, or repairing lotions. They seal in heat emanating from the skin, making your sunburn feel even worse.
Instead, opt for light gels and water-based moisturizers with healing ingredients like:
- Aloe: It cools the skin and soothes pain. Choose a high-quality aloe product that doesn’t contain alcohol, since it will dry your skin out and make the sunburn worse.
- Hyaluronic acid: A molecule naturally found in our skin, hyaluronic acid is a powerful humectant that sucks water into the skin from the surrounding environment, giving you calm, moisturized skin.
- Green tea: Green tea contains tannic acid and theobromine, two compounds that relieve pain and heal damaged skin. Plus, it has tons of antioxidants, which can help with cellular damage caused by UV ways.
Find them all in a powerful nighttime anti-aging cream here.
And don’t forget to hydrate from the inside, too! Sunburns draw fluid to the skin’s surface and slightly dehydrate the rest of the body (not great). Drinking some extra H20 will counteract this redistribution and help you feel better, faster.
Next, cool down the skin. Start with a cool shower. The cold water can reduce inflammation while providing some instant relief.
When it comes to topical products, think refreshing ingredients with high water content like aloe and cucumber. Alternatively, both yogurt and oatmeal can work wonders: oatmeal has natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, while yogurt or milk can create a layer of protein that can lock in moisture and allow the skin to heal.
4. Ditch the More Intense Ingredients
When you’re recovering from a sunburn, the last thing you want to do is apply any harsh exfoliators, acne medications, or toners. This may seem counterintuitive, particularly when it comes to exfoliation. After all, if you’re peeling from a sunburn, it’s a good idea to get rid of that peeling skin, right?
If you take this route, you can harm your already-sensitive skin and cause rashes, blisters, and more irritation. Not great.
Instead, keep these ingredients in your medicine cabinet for a couple of weeks and try a healing, hydrating, and repairing skincare regimen. This should include:
- A gentle face wash that won’t strip away you skin’s natural oils or introduce harsh actives (you can check out one with aloe, coconut, and geranium here).
- A soothing moisturizer with all-star hydrating ingredients like aloe, jojoba oil, and hyaluronic acid (extra points if it’s also an SPF - especially during your morning routine).
- A repairing night serum that will give your agitated skin the TLC it needs with ingredients like stem cells, vitamin C (another free radical fighter), MSM, and hyaluronic acid.
- Booster serums that give your skin an extra dose of whatever it might need. You can try a hyaluronic acid booster for more hydration, a vitamin C booster for more damage-fighting power, or a peptide option to rebuild your skin’s proteins.
5. Avoid Tight Clothes
Finally, you’ll want to avoid any tight or abrasive fabrics. The idea here is simple: any rubbing on your skin is going to encourage more inflammation and over-exfoliation. And that’s the last thing your skin needs. Instead, break out the oversized tees and pajamas, and let your skin rest until it’s all healed up.
Here’s to a happy, healthy summer!