Avoiding sunburn should be easy— the key word there being should, of course. Because despite the vast selection of skin-specific sunscreens available at a drug store near you, each specially formulated to shield your skin during those blistering hot days of summer, it’s practically inevitable that sooner or later you’re going to get burned, and bad. Sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings. The good news, however, is that there are tried-and-true means to manage the situation.
From treating pain and itch to cutting back on damage and irritation, here are a handful of the best tactics to take some of the sting out of the less-than-ideal state of your skin:
1.) Get out of the sun
Before you even start to think about treating a sunburn, the first thing you need to do is make sure you’re not making it any worse. So if for some reason you haven’t had the good sense to get your newly roasted behind out of the sun yet, do so immediately. And keep it shaded until everything’s back to normal.
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2.) Meds are your friend
Once you’ve ensured that the situation won’t deteriorate any further, your next move should be to reach for an over-the-counter pain reliever or anti-inflammatory medicine, like aspirin or ibuprofen. Besides cutting the oncoming ache off at the pass, which you’ll be grateful for down the line, it'll also help to ensure that any swelling is kept to a minimum.
3.) Keep your cool
Now that you’ve got a medicinal line of defense in place, it’s time to start thinking about treating pain and inflammation from the outside in. The obvious answer? Cooling down the burned skin by any means necessary. Ice is one way to do that, so long as you make sure not to put it directly on the body. A cool bath or shower can also help. Just don’t linger too long, since that’ll cause skin to dry out even more. And trust us, you don’t want that.
4.) Layer on the aloe
Aloe for sunburn? Groundbreaking, we know. But it’s a lesson worth repeating, as study after study has shown that aloe can seriously reduce the amount of time your skin takes to heal wounds and sunburn. Just make sure you’re using a pure form of the stuff; formulations with additives may actually trap heat in the skin, making your burn worse in the long run.
5.) Go the DIY route
Don’t have any after-sun grooming products in your medicine cabinet? Not to worry— because there’s another room in your house you can look to for relief: your kitchen. That’s right, many of the same ingredients you use to make a meal can also be used to treat your lobster-like skin.
Take cornstarch, for example: Mixed with enough water to make a paste and applied to a sunburn, it’ll soothe red-hot skin in minutes. Same goes for baking soda. Additionally, you can craft killer compresses that cool and protect skin with either milk or oatmeal. And the astringent properties of white and apple cider vinegar can help make a cool bath even more therapeutic if you add a cup of either to the water. Point is, take stock of what you’ve got and go from there.
6.) Pay attention to moisture
To put it simply, sunburn dries the heck out of your skin. So on top of sunburn-specific treatments, you need to make sure your pelt is getting the moisture it needs going forward. Here’s what that entails: applying a ridiculous amount of moisturizer, avoiding harsh soaps, opting out of shaving for the time being, and drinking a whole lot of water. Because dehydration will only make matters worse.
7.) Sleep it off
Admittedly, this may be the most difficult piece of advice we’ve got, given that your sheets probably feel like sandpaper right about now. But the fact of the matter is that a good night’s sleep can seriously reduce your healing time. Pain keeping you up? Then try sprinkling a little cornstarch or talcum powder on your sheets to minimize friction.
Ambien might also do the trick.