It’s all fun in the sun—until you turn lobster red. Here’s how to heal your skin.

By Taylor Eisenhauer
June 06, 2018
Ralf Nau/Getty Images

Staying outdoors too long during the summer months is easy to do—the extra hours of sunlight, the warm air, and the beckoning of the ocean invite you to linger for just five more minutes. But too much sun exposure can lead to a gnarly sunburn and even long-lasting skin damage.

Ideally, you’d keep your skin covered and apply SPF liberally to avoid getting burned at all. But we get it—impromptu lengthy soaks in the sun happen. Below you’ll find seven tips for treating sunburn quickly, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

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1. Head inside

As soon as you notice you’re burned, go indoors. Limiting more sun exposure should be your number one priority, so if you can’t get out of the sun completely, it’s best to cover up your skin by putting on protective clothing or finding a pocket of shade.

2. Cool down

Turn down the heat when bathing or showering. Hot water won’t feel great on your burned skin anyway, and the cooler water will help soothe the pain. The AAD also recommends applying moisturizer to your skin while it’s still slightly damp to ease the dryness.

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3. Moisturize

Relieve discomfort immediately by applying moisturizer with aloe vera or soy in it. Natural ingredients add a layer of protection to your skin while it’s healing. If your skin starts to feel itchy, apply hydrocortisone cream (drugstores have plenty of over-the-counter options). Avoid using products with ingredients like benzocaine—they can irritate your skin or even cause an allergic reaction, according to the AAD.

4. Turn to your medicine cabinet

Taking an anti-inflammatory, like aspirin or ibuprofen, can help reduce redness and swelling and possibly speed up the recovery process.

5.  Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

It’s always a good idea to drink plenty of water in hot months, but when you’re treating a sunburn, you should drink extra H2O to soothe skin and promote healing.

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6. Leave blisters in peace

Popping any blisters that appear on your skin’s surface increases the risk of infection. It’s best to leave them alone and let your skin heal on its own. (Note: Blistering indicates second-degree sunburn; consider consulting a doctor or dermatologist.) Likewise, resist the temptation to pull any peeling skin off your body. Let the skin naturally slough off, or gently wash it away during a shower with a soft cloth and mild soap.

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7. Cover up

While your skin heals, cover yourself up with loose-fitting clothing when you are outside. The AAD recommends tightknit fabrics that don't allow any light to show through. Keep your face protected by using a facial sunscreen or wearing a wide-brimmed hat or baseball cap.