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The Ultimate Guide: How to Get Rid of a Sunburn

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Ah, the joys of summertime: long days at the beach, outdoor adventures, and soaking up the sun's warmth. However, there's a downside to excessive sun exposure - the dreaded sunburn. It happens to the best of us, even with the most diligent sunscreen applications. But fear not, because in this comprehensive guide, we will explore how to get rid of a sunburn, alleviate discomfort, and promote healing.

Understanding Sunburn

Before delving into the remedies and treatments, it's crucial to understand what happens to your skin when it gets sunburned. Sunburn occurs when the skin is overexposed to the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. UV radiation damages the DNA in your skin cells, triggering an inflammatory response.

The symptoms of sunburn typically include:

  1. Redness: The skin turns red and can become swollen.
  2. Pain and discomfort: Sunburned skin feels hot and painful to the touch.
  3. Peeling: After a few days, the damaged skin may start to peel.
  4. Itching: Sunburned skin can be itchy and uncomfortable.
  5. Blisters: Severe sunburn can lead to the development of blisters.

Now that you know what you're up against, let's explore how to get rid of that sunburn and promote healing.

Immediate Actions

When you realize you've been sunburned, it's essential to take immediate steps to minimize damage and alleviate discomfort. Here's what to do:

  1. Get out of the sun: The first thing you should do is get out of the sun to prevent further UV damage.
  2. Hydrate: Sunburn can dehydrate your body, so drink plenty of water to help your skin recover.
  3. Cool down: Take a cool (not cold) shower or bath to lower your body temperature. Alternatively, you can apply cool, damp compresses to sunburned areas for relief.
  4. Moisturize: Apply a gentle, alcohol-free moisturizer to your skin while it's still damp. This helps lock in moisture and ease dryness.
  5. Over-the-counter pain relief: Non-prescription pain relievers like ibuprofen or aspirin can help reduce pain and inflammation associated with sunburn.
  6. Avoid tight clothing: Wear loose, breathable clothing to prevent further irritation of sunburned areas.

Home Remedies for Sunburn

After you've taken immediate action, you can turn to several home remedies to further alleviate sunburn symptoms and promote healing:

  1. Aloe Vera: Aloe vera gel is a natural sunburn remedy known for its soothing properties. Apply pure aloe vera gel to sunburned areas for relief.
  2. Cold Milk Compress: Soak a cloth in cold milk and apply it to your sunburn. The proteins and fat in milk can help ease the pain and discomfort.
  3. Oatmeal Bath: Add colloidal oatmeal to a cool bath and soak for 15-20 minutes. Oatmeal can provide relief from itching and inflammation.
  4. Tea Bags: Brew some tea (black or green), allow it to cool, and then apply the tea bags to your sunburned skin. The tannins in tea can help reduce inflammation.
  5. Cucumber: Slice a cucumber and apply the cool slices to your sunburned skin. Cucumbers have anti-inflammatory properties that can provide relief.
  6. Honey: Honey is a natural humectant, which means it helps lock in moisture. Apply a thin layer of honey to your sunburn and leave it on for 30 minutes before rinsing off.
  7. Baking Soda Bath: Add baking soda to a cool bath and soak to relieve itching and irritation.

Over-the-Counter Sunburn Products

There are several over-the-counter (OTC) products specifically designed to provide relief for sunburned skin. Look for products containing the following ingredients:

  1. Hydrocortisone cream: This anti-inflammatory cream can help reduce redness and itching.
  2. Lidocaine: Topical products containing lidocaine provide numbing relief to alleviate pain and discomfort.
  3. Antioxidant creams: Some OTC creams contain antioxidants like vitamin E and vitamin C, which can help repair damaged skin.
  4. Pain relievers with aloe vera: These products combine pain relief with the soothing properties of aloe vera.

It's essential to follow the product's instructions carefully and consult with a healthcare professional if you have any concerns or allergies.

Prescription Medications

In severe cases of sunburn, a healthcare provider may prescribe medications to manage pain, inflammation, or infection. If you experience the following symptoms, consult a healthcare professional:

  1. Severe blistering: Large blisters or blisters covering a significant portion of the sunburned area require medical attention.
  2. Infection: If your sunburned skin becomes infected (signs include increased redness, swelling, and pus), you may need antibiotics.
  3. Severe pain: If over-the-counter pain relievers don't provide relief, your healthcare provider may prescribe stronger pain medication.

Preventing Future Sunburns

While treating a current sunburn is essential, preventing future sunburns should be a top priority. Here are some sun safety tips to keep in mind:

  1. Use sunscreen: Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30, even on cloudy days. Reapply every two hours and after swimming or sweating.
  2. Seek shade: When the sun is at its peak (usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.), stay in the shade as much as possible.
  3. Wear protective clothing: Cover up with long-sleeved shirts, pants, and wide-brimmed hats.
  4. Use sunglasses: Protect your eyes from UV rays by wearing sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection.
  5. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration, which can worsen sunburn.
  6. Be mindful of medications: Some medications can increase your skin's sensitivity to the sun. Consult with your healthcare provider about any potential side effects.
  7. Educate yourself: Understand your skin type and susceptibility to sunburn. Fair-skinned individuals are generally more prone to sunburn.


Getting rid of a sunburn and promoting healing is a multi-step process that involves immediate actions, home remedies, OTC products, and sometimes even prescription medications. However, the best approach is always prevention. By following sun safety tips and protecting your skin from harmful UV rays, you can avoid the pain, discomfort, and long-term skin damage associated with sunburns. Remember that if you experience severe sunburn symptoms or have concerns about your skin's condition, it's essential to seek medical advice and treatment.


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