Part of summer means enjoying time in the sun for many people. Unfortunately, one fun day can lead to weeks of inconvenience that come with raw, burnt skin.
Even if you’ve done your part to protect your skin from UV rays, sometimes you still get sunburn. Whether you forgot to reapply your sunscreen, didn’t realize you could get burned on a cloudy day, or unexpectedly ended up in the sun without protection, sunburn is never fun.
However, that red, angry burn on your skin is neither comfortable nor attractive, so you’re probably wondering how you can get rid of sunburn quickly. So what can you do when you’ve ended up with a burn that you need to tame as quickly as possible? We’ve got the lowdown here.
Here’s How a Sunburn Happens
To better understand how to get rid of sunburn, knowing how sunburn happens is a good place to start.
A sunburn arises when your skin is overexposed to the sun, which results in a radiation burn from the sun’s rays. Sounds scary, right? Here’s how it happens.
1. Your skin can tolerate sunlight to a certain extent—after all, that’s how our bodies make vitamin D. However, skin cells become damaged when you get too much sun.
2. Once cells are damaged, the body responds with inflammation and redness. This is essentially your immune system’s reaction to the dying and damaged cells.
3. The affected skin cells will start to peel eventually—this peeling is the body getting rid of dead skin cells damaged by the sun. Your body is generating new skin cells underneath this layer.
After this process, your skin will produce more melanin—the pigment that gives your skin its unique color—to protect the skin from future damage. You will see this as a tan.
However, a tan doesn’t provide much protection against future burns, so preventative measures are still essential for sun protection. Don’t assume that a tan will protect you from getting sunburn or that it’s healthy for your skin.
How to Get Rid of Sunburn
Unfortunately, the only method to get rid of sunburn is to let your body go through its natural healing process. For up to three days after sun exposure results in a burn, inflammation and redness can increase. This is your body’s attempt to heal the radiation burn.
YOUR body will get rid of the dead cells on its own, but some of the damage to your cells from UVA and UVB rays will be permanent. This is why it’s so important to avoid sunburn in the first place. This long-term damage can increase your risk for skin cancer and result in permanent visual changes to the skin, most notably hyperpigmentation and wrinkles.
But is there a way you can treat sunburn to help it go away as soon as possible? While there isn’t a specific treatment per se for sunburn, here’s how to get rid of sunburn fast:
- First, stay out of the sun, or cover up if you need to go outside to avoid more sun exposure on top of that uncomfortable burn while your body is healing.
- Next, support your body’s natural healing process. Drink plenty of water, rest, and eat anti-inflammatory foods such as berries, tomatoes, and green leafy vegetables.
- You can also apply topical treatments to help soothe sunburn, such as aloe vera gel and cold herbal compresses.
- Wear light, loose clothing to reduce discomfort while your sunburn is healing.
- Avoid exfoliating, skincare acids, or harsh cleaners on affected skin until the area is fully healed. Yes, you heard right: avoid exfoliating even when the skin is peeling.
- Don’t pull at peeling skin. Instead, let it come off on its own.
How to Stop Sunburn Peeling
So you’ve got your burn, you’re doing your best to take care of it, and then—the dreaded peeling happens.
Your skin may start to peel off in large or small flakes, depending on the severity of your sunburn. Your body is shedding dead skin cells. This process is similar to the normal process of cellular turnover but amplified because of the healing induced by the burn.
If you’re wondering how to stop sunburn peeling, here’s some good news: it’s possible to minimize the peeling by keeping your skin moisturized.
However, it’s important to avoid oil-based moisturizers and instead use aloe-based ones, if possible. This is because oil-based lotions and moisturizers can trap heat in the skin and make sunburn even more uncomfortable.
Although moisturizing is important, don’t start using a heavy lotion or cream right away. Instead, use aloe gel to soothe a burn until the redness has toned down somewhat, then switch to an unscented lotion and apply as often as needed to soothe skin. Apply the lotion while the skin is still damp for best results.
If you have any blisters, don’t pop or pick at them. Although it’s super tempting, remember that opening up a fresh wound creates more work for your body to heal. So keep your skin moisturized, don’t exfoliate, refrain from picking and stay hydrated so your body can heal properly. And in the meantime, stay out of the sun as much as possible.
When to Contact a Professional
Sun poisoning, which is a severe sunburn, does exist. Sun poisoning will start like a sunburn, but the symptoms can be more intense. Many people experience a rash with swelling, blisters, a fever, headache, nausea, or rapid breathing. If you believe you have sun poisoning, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Check Out Our Top Sunscreen Picks
So now YOU know more about how to get rid of sunburn and what you can do to minimize skin peeling. However, the most important thing is to try and prevent sunburn from happening in the first place. So check out our top sunscreen picks for keeping your skin protected and stopping that painful burn from happening so you can enjoy the summer sun without worry!