How to Recover From Sunburn Faster

Summer is in full swing, and that means we’re spending more time in the sunshine!

While a little bit of time in the sun is necessary for our health – both physical and mental – it’s important to protect our skin from damage. Just 5 total sunburns in a lifetime drastically increase the risk of melanoma, and skin cancer is the most common kind of cancer in the United States.

Even with careful protection, though, sunburns can happen.

Here are 5 tips to help you minimize the damage, manage the pain, and recover from sunburn faster.


1: Get Out of the Sun!

The first thing you should do when you feel a burn coming on is to get out of the sun!

Don’t just apply more sunscreen or put on a tee shirt. A white cotton tee shirt only has a SPF of 7, so that’s clearly not enough.

Find shade if that’s the only thing available, or go inside if you can. Give your skin a break so that you can stop damaging it and allow it to start recovering.

2: Cool Off

Sunburns make your skin feel hot, and just like other burns, the first treatment for a sunburn is cold water.

Ice packs, cool showers, or cold compresses help cool your skin and prevent some of the pain associated with sun damage.

It’s not going to prevent your sunburn from turning red or peeling, but if you jump into a cold shower quickly, preferably before your skin even turns red, you’ll shorten your recovery time.

3: Stay Moisturized

The classic sunburn treatment – aloe vera – does more for your skin than just soothing your pain, although that part is important, too.

Sunburnt skin dries easily, and that strips your skin of some of its defenses and makes it more difficult to recover. By keeping moisturized with gentle products like pure aloe vera, you protect and heal your burn.

Be careful with moisturizers and lotions.

Most commercial moisturizers, even those marketed as sunburn cures, contain products that irritate the skin and prolong the damage.

Avoid lidocain! It might seem like it helps because it soothes some of the pain associated with sunburn, but it actually damages your skin more and prolongs your sunburn.

4: Fight Inflammation

Part of the reason your skin hurts after a sunburn is because of the inflammation.

Eat anti-inflammatory foods like cauliflower, garlic, and ginger while you’re recovering from a sunburn, and if you want pain relief, take pain relievers that decrease inflammation.

Managing the inflammatory response helps your skin heal.

5: Hydrate

As always, drink plenty of water to help your skin function at its best.

Skin is one of the last organs to benefit from proper hydration, so if you’ve been mildly dehydrated for a long time (like most people) you’ll need to increase your water consumption and maintain that level of hydration for a long time before you see a difference.

Sunburnt skin has trouble holding onto moisture, so you lose hydration faster with a sunburn.

Try water infused with cucumber, lemon, and/or ginger if plain water isn’t your thing.

Kimberly Parry