The first step to soothing searing skin? Hop into a chilly shower or a bath. The cold water will fight off swelling from the heat and lower your skyrocketing body temperature. But, leave the soaps alone and the bath gel in the bottle for now, as harsh cleanser may just further irritate your skin.
And if you just can't stand to submerge yourself in an icy bath, cover the affected areas with a cold compress or fill a spray bottle with ice water, and spritz your sunburned skin for soem relief.
There is a reason the aloe vera plant has been around since the prehistoric times. The gel that oozes out of this cactus contains active compounds which fight pain, infection, inflammation, and can prevent the dreaded post-burn peeling.
If you happen to have an aloe vera plant on your windowsill, clip off a couple of leaves and pop them into your fridge. After an hour or two, peel off the top layer of the leaves, give them a squeeze, and rub the gel directly on your sunburn. Or, buy the bottled version (try Fruit of the Earth Aloe Vera 100% Gel) and store in your fridge for a refreshing treatment for toasted skin.
Read more: Dealing with sunburned, peeling skin
Some people are allergic to aloe, so test out a small patch of skin before applying it all over your body. Out of aloe? Grab some non-perfumed and non-dyed moisturizing lotion instead. Just don't go for the petroleum jelly or products containing benzocaine or lidocaine. These products can worsen symptoms, clog your pores, and even prevent healing.
Raid your pantry for this sunburn remedy -- which sounds good enough to eat!
Add 1 cup of instant oatmeal, 1 cup whole milk, 2 tablespoons honey, and 2 tablespoons aloe vera gel to a lukewarm-to-room temperature bath (hot water will send you screaming with pain, so avoid it!) and soak in it.
The anti-inflammatory effects of the oatmeal mixed with honey's antiseptic abilities, the soothing power of milk, and pain-fighting aloe create a magically delicious DIY treatment.
Regular brewed cold black tea (its tannins treat pain) or milk also work to soothe skin. Simply keep these liquids refrigerated in a spray bottle and spritz as needed. And for blistering skin, mix up a saline solution by boiling eight cups of water for five minutes, then add a teaspoon of salt. Let it cool completely before applying to your skin with a compress.
When to get help
If a bad sunburn causes painful blisters, makes you feel faint or dizzy and you have difficulty breathing, feel clammy and nauseated, or you have a fever and the chills, head straight to the doctor. You could have sun poisoning.
Continue to soothe your sunburn like you would a hangover or headache: Drink plenty of water and pop ibuprofen or aspirin, as needed. Moisturize every day to minimize peeling.
And while the burn is at its worst: put yourself in a dark, cool room and try to sleep away the pain.
How smart are you about the sun? Take this quiz to test your sun smarts. Then, read up on tips to protect your skin in the sun this summer!