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The Quickest Ways to Soothe Sunburn

Ok, so you didn't use enough sunscreen. You can't undo the damage, but you can make it a bit more manageable.

Even the most UV-aware amongst us get burned sometimes. If you did a stupid thing (i.e. not wearing enough sunblock or not reapplying often enough) and now you feel stung by the sun’s rays, there are some steps you can take to mitigate the damage.


What You Should Have Done

Let’s start at the beginning, when there was still time to prevent the five alarm fire your skin is currently feeling. If you're planning to spend the day outside, take your skin’s temperature every few hours. As in, check if it’s starting to turn pink or even a bit tan.

If it is, put an end to the sunshine and seek shelter immediately. Get under a giant umbrella, throw a long-sleeved shirt on, or just go home.


Hit the Medicine Cabinet

If you didn’t pay close enough attention and now you’re crispy, it's time to go into emergency skin saving mode, and you can start by raiding your medicine cabinet. Take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory like acetaminophen or ibuprofen right away to help calm irritation.

Then slather yourself in 1% hydrocortisone or aloe vera to further reduce that burning sensation.


Chill Out

It seems obvious, but literally chilling down your skin helps take down the heat. So draw yourself a cold bath and pour in a healthy dose of a colloidal oatmeal soak, which will temporarily reduce irritation. Follow that up with cooling moisturizers, which tend to use eucalyptus, aloe, and menthol to take the temperature down a notch. For an added chill, store them in your fridge.

Your skin is also probably dehydrated, which can exacerbate your discomfort, so those aforementioned lotions help with that. But you might also want to add a thick shea or cocoa butter cream into the mix to help reduce the inevitable skin shedding that's soon going to follow.


Note that this regimen is fine for most spent-a-little-too-long-at-the-beach burns, but if you notice any serious blistering, consult a dermatologist immediately for additional treatment.

And do not — I repeat, do not — get hands-y with your peeling skin.

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