20 Quick Things to Do When You Have the Worst Sunburn Ever

You coated your entire body in SPF 30 before you left the house. But you were having so much fun swimming, playing beach volleyball and eating turkey burgers, you forgot to reapply and ended up with a monster sunburn. Shoot. Try these 20 tricks to feel better fast.

This Is the Highest SPF You Should Wear, According to a Dermatologist

sunburn water
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1. Hydrate

Before you do anything else, drink a giant glass of water. It’s the fastest way to heal your red, irritated skin—so make sure you’re getting at least eight glasses a day.

2. Make a cold compress

Rinse a clean washcloth in cool water and wring it out. Voilà, instant cold compress.

3. Take a bath

Take a cool bath with a few drops of chamomile essential oil. Ahh, so soothing.

4. Apply Hydrocortisone cream

Rub on some one percent hydrocortisone cream. You can buy it at any drugstore and it does wonders for itching, pain and swelling.

sunburn aloe
Laura Wing and Jim Kamoosi

5. Make aloe ice cubes

Just squeeze some aloe vera gel into an ice cube tray and pop it in the freezer, then keep them on hand for instant sunburn relief.

6. Opt for a cucumber mask

If you don’t have aloe on hand, pop a cucumber in the blender and spread the pulp over the burn. Soo hydrating.

7. Try yogurt

Yogurt: It’s not just great for gut health. If you got sunburned, try rubbing some on the affected skin. The lactic acid found in yogurt has anti-inflammatory effects.

8. Or milk

According to Healthline, the nutrients—proteins, fat, amino acids, vitamin A and D—found in milk can help calm and soothe the skin.

sunburn fan
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9. Crank up the air conditioner

Turn up the AC or use fans to keep your skin as cool as possible.

10. Apply teabags

Got burned eyelids? Soak two teabags in cool water, lie down, shut your eyes and place the teabags on top.

11. Take an ibuprofen

Pop an ibuprofen to reduce swelling, pain and redness. An aspirin will also do the trick.

12. Turn to vitamins

Take a vitamin E supplement daily. It’s an antioxidant that can reduce inflammation.

sunburn legs
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13. Don’t forget to moisturize

Moisturize your parched skin with coconut oil. (But don’t go back in the sun, OK? It can make the burn even worse.)

14. Bathe in oatmeal

You read that right. Though it makes for a delicious breakfast, a cool colloidal oatmeal bath can also calm the skin and prevent post-sunburn itchiness.

15. Avoid peeling your skin

Resist the urge to peel your sunburned skin. Instead of picking at it, drink another glass of water and apply more aloe and coconut oil. Repeat, repeat, repeat until the sunburn is gone.

16. Wear loose-fitting, lightweight fabrics

Give your sunburned skin adequate breathing room by not suffocating it in tight clothing. Instead, wear loose clothing that won’t stick to your body and breathable fabrics such as cotton for maximum air circulation.

sunburn remedies shade
Stephen Lux/Getty Images

17. Avoid the sun

When you’re trying to soothe a sunburn, the main priority is to mitigate irritation. Avoid being in the sun while your skin is healing because it may exacerbate the burn. If you have to go outside, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends you wear sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher.

18. Apply some witch hazel

Dampen a cloth with some witch hazel and place it over affected areas. Its anti-inflammatory properties will give some much-needed relief.

19. Make a cornstarch paste

You can also mix cornstarch with cold water to make a soothing paste for your skin.

20. Avoid any “-caine” products

Stay away from products that end with “-caine” (i.e., benzocaine and lidocaine) since they can further irritate the skin or cause an allergic reaction.

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Freelance Editor

From 2015-2020 Lindsay Champion held the role of Food and Wellness Director. She continues to write for PureWow as a Freelance Editor.

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Resident Hufflepuff, Beyonce historian, self-proclaimed tea sommelier

Steph is a native of Zimbabwe who is both enamored and genuinely baffled by the concept of silent letters. From 2020 to 2022, she served as Associate Editor at PureWow covering...