Despite the number of times we’ve been warned to slip, slop, slap, sometimes we ignore the advice — or simply forget — and end up getting burnt. Sunburn can be very uncomfortable but, in most cases, it can be treated at home. While these remedies will help with some of your discomfort, there is no cure for sunburn: Your skin just needs time to recover on its own.
When you’re sunburnt, chances are the last thing you want to do is go anywhere near the sun, but we’ve put this on the list anyway. To prevent your skin from getting any worse, it’s a good idea to stay indoors as much as possible. If you do need to head outside, cover up as much as possible with hats and long sleeves — trust us, you’ll be sorry if you don’t!
Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen can help with swelling and other sunburn symptoms, so give them a go. Swallowing a tablet is a quick fix, so don’t expect miracles. If you’re the type of person who tries to avoid medication whenever they can, herbal remedies can work just as well.
Hydrate your body and help it get back on track by drinking plenty of water. Sunburn leads to lost fluid, so drinking water will speed up your recovery and feed your system exactly what it needs. If water gets boring, fresh juice and fruits like watermelon are also great options. Of course, when trying to flush your body with as much water as you can, it makes sense to avoid alcohol and caffeine.
Aloe vera is the single most effective thing to put on your skin when you have sunburn. Available in gel or cream form, aloe vera has powerful healing properties that help soothe and moisturise the skin. It has a cool sensation when applied to the body, which can be very comforting when you’re feeling red raw. If you don’t have any aloe vera, cold compresses are a good alternative. On the flip side, avoid using body butters, oils or strong ointments on sunburnt skin — these will only irritate your skin even more, and who wants that?
It’s not the most fun thing in the world, but showering with cold water will do wonders for treating your sunburn. Along with easing pain, it will also cool your body down at a time when it needs it the most. While we’re on the subject of showers, ditch body scrubs and heavily scented soaps in favour of the mildest one you can find. QV is always a classic choice.
Sunburnt skin is incredibly sensitive, so try to wear loose-fitting clothes made of natural materials, such as cotton or silk. Fabrics like polyester are a little harsh on the skin when it’s in such a sensitive state. As weird as it may feel to cover up when your skin is heating up, it’s a good idea to wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when you’re heading out. Remember, the sun is still there on the cloudiest of days, so it pays to be careful!
If your skin starts to peel, resist the temptation to scrub or strip the dry parts off. As gross as it may look, the best thing to do is leave peeling skin alone. The skin underneath the peel is super sensitive and needs time to heal, so forcing it won’t do you any favours. (The same goes for blisters: If you get blisters as a result of sunburn, do not try to "pop" them. Let nature take its course and heal your body in its own time). If it’s really bothering you, try moisturising the area every time you get the urge to give the peel a helping hand. As a bonus, the moisturiser will help to relieve any itchiness or dryness when your skin does get better.
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