The Best Way to Heal a Sunburn, According to a Dermatologist

woman wearing a bikini with a sunburn

We know how important sunscreen is, but sometimes, despite our best efforts, sunburns happen. We checked in with Dr. Heather Rogers, a Seattle-based dermatologist and creator of Restore Healing Balm (an all-natural, plant-based healing balm), for her best tips on healing a pesky burn.

1. Manage the Pain
To get temporary relief in the immediate aftermath, Dr. Rogers recommends taking  over-the-counter pain medication or a cool bath, or putting a cold, wet cloth on the burn several times a day. But, she adds, “Make sure you are careful not to get too hot or too cold. When your skin is sunburned, your body’s ability to control temperature is compromised.”

2. Moisturize (at the Right Time)
Apply an ultra-hydrating cream or ointment (like Restore Balm or Skincando’sCombat-Ready Balm). Note that your timing matters. Dr. Rogers advises that you should moisturize when skin is wet, “so it traps water beneath the skin’s surface to help it heal faster.” Try to do it as frequently as possible. 

3. Hydrate from Within 
Topical moisturizers are great, but they should be paired with internal hydration. Aim to drink eight to ten glasses of water per day to replace fluid loss and prevent dehydration. Also try to limit drinks that can dehydrate you even more, like coffee and alcohol. (Sorry.)

4. Don't Pick
If you’re unlucky enough to have a burn that’s bad enough to blister, do everything in your power to avoid picking at it. According to Dr. Rogers, “Blisters are nature’s bandage to heal raw skin underneath, so let blisters open on their own.” She also notes that “One blistering sunburn doubles your risk for developing skin cancer later in life, so if you have a history of one or more blistering sunburns, make sure to tell your dermatologist and be diligent about having your skin checked each year.” Roger that. 

5. Stay Out of the Sun, Obvi 
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s difficult to resist the temptation—especially if you’re on vacation. “Sunburned skin is even more susceptible to the harmful effects of UV rays so make sure to pack a hat and sun-protective clothing,” Dr. Rogers stresses.  

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sarah stiefvater

Wellness Director

Sarah Stiefvater is PureWow's Wellness Director. She's been at PureWow for ten years, and in that time has written and edited stories across all categories, but currently focuses...