A sunburn is the worst-case summer-skin scenario. While you should be diligently applying and reapplying sunscreen to prevent them from happening, we get that sometimes, mistakes happen. Once you’re burned, there’s no going back. But how you move forward can impact how quickly you heal.
Sun-burnt skin is sensitive and hot, so the products you typically use might not be helpful. If they’re too thick or include harsh ingredients, they can actually cause even more harm, says Jeffrey Fromowitz, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Boca Raton, Florida.
4 post-sunburn products to use, according to dermatologists
To soothe a sunburn, “use topical corticosteroid creams and cooling gels like aloe vera,” he says. “Don’t use petrolatum or heavy ointments acutely as it can trap heat in the skin.”
Topical corticosteroid creams, like hydrocortisone, are steroids that soothe irritated and itchy skin by calming inflammation. This Vanicream 1% Hydrocortisone Anti-Itch Cream ($10) is perfect for sensitive, sunburnt skin as it’s free of potential irritants like dyes, fragrance, masking fragrance, lanolin, parabens, and formaldehyde releasers.
Aloe vera gel is packed with water, which is great because sunburnt skin tends to be severely dehydrating. Plus, it has anti-inflammatory properties, promotes circulation, and prevents bacteria growth—all things that help to heal burns. While some aloe gels contain drying ingredients, the Aloderma Pure Aloe Vera Gel ($12) is free of aloe powder concentrate, alcohol, parabens, mineral oil, and sulfates. Meaning it will leave your skin nice and moisturized.
It’s key to avoid more sun exposure, but if you have to go outside, Sonya Kenkare, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Chicago, says to use a fragrance-free mineral sunscreen, because many chemical sunscreens include alcohol which will sting on sun-burnt skin. The La Roche-Posay Anthelios Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 ($25) uses zinc and titanium dioxide to block UV rays, and also includes the brand’s signature thermal spring water, which can be super soothing on sunburnt skin.
If your sunburn has left you in pain, Dr. Fromowitz suggests that adults take Asprin ($15), as it’s better at managing pain from sunburns than other pain killers. Kids, however, should stick to Tylenol.
Get more derm-approved sunburn tips:
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