The Best Way to Heal a Sunburn, According to a Dermatologist
‘Tis the season for forever-long beach days, sunset boat rides, and afternoons by the pool. You know you should be diligent about applying sunscreen (your mama, your grandmama, and your great aunt Susie have always harped on that), but enchanted by the idea of getting just a teeny bit of color (tan feet really do make a pedicure pop, and a little white dress looks best on sun-kissed skin, you know), you didn't reapply as often as you should have…or worse, you didn't put on any sunscreen at all…and now you're a regular lobster, with red, red skin that's been all but fried by the sun.
You got burned.
So what now?
"While truly that ounce of (sunscreen) prevention is worth a pound of cure, sunburns do happen," says New Orleans dermatologist Dr. Mary Lupo. And when you've been burned, she says, there are five things you can do to help treat the damage, ease the pain, and stop the itch.
First, Dr. Lupo says, "Load up on vitamin C orally as an antioxidant." Some studies show that vitamin C may help treat UV-induced damage to the skin.
She also suggests taking aspirin. "Aspirin is still the best anti-inflammatory for sunburns." Just be sure to take it with food, she notes.
Taking tepid-to-cool baths also helps, says Dr. Lupo. They're especially effective if you add Aveeno's oilated oatmeal treatment to the water.
You should also be treating your sunburned skin to some much-needed hydration. "Be sure to use emollients like CeraVe cream to rehydrate the skin."
Finally, to combat the itch that comes as your damaged skin tries to heal, Dr. Lupo recommends applying a topical lidocain cream, like Itch-X Anti-Itch Gel, or a menthol cream, like Sarna Original Anti-Itch Lotion, to the affected areas.
Of course, the best thing you can do is skip the sunburn altogether.
Apply a shot glass-sized amount of sunscreen every time you're in the sun, and be sure to reapply frequently and consistently, avoiding time outside during the most intense sun of the day, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. But, if you're not willing to give up those prime hours of ray-catching and you're going to be out in the sun all day long, take precautions and wear UV-protective clothing or plop yourself under an umbrella. Your skin will thank you later.
WATCH: What Should You Put on First: Sunscreen or Moisturizer?
What's the best skin care advice your dermatologist has ever given you? Share it with us in the comments.