Nobody is perfect — not even a beauty editor. We may preach the gospel of
SPF and slather on the stuff with fervor, but sometimes we slip up. We openly admit that there have been times when, despite our best efforts, we've gotten sunburned — whether it was because of the medication we were on or just that we waited a bit too long to reapply.
So, now what? We asked the skin-care pros how to treat the burn and start healing your skin, ASAP.
Immediately After Your Burn "The first thing to do is get out of the sun as soon as possible," says dermatologist Karyn Grossman, MD. "It's amazing how many people who are sunburnt go back out [into the sun]." It's true — just think about how many times you may have gotten a little pink on vacation, and then hit the sand in your bikini the next day. "Your skin has already told you, 'That's enough,'" Dr. Grossman says. "It's time to stop." This doesn't mean you have to sit indoors while everyone else is out frolicking in the ocean. Go outside — but cover up everything. "Stay under an umbrella, wear a hat," she says. "You need to be totally covered, so your skin gets no more sun." Once you're out of the sun, Dr. Grossman suggests taking a cool bath spiked with some milk. "Milk proteins help calm your skin," she says. Not into it? Draw yourself an oatmeal bath, which is also super-soothing. (Gold star if you combine the two.) "Also, pick up an over-the-counter cortisone cream and an aloe gel, and apply as needed," she says. "You'll also want to stock up on Advil or Ibuprofen. It decreases inflammation while helping to decrease the pain."
Aveeno Active Naturals Soothing Bath Treatment Single Use Packets, $5.99, available at Walgreens.
Coola ER+ Radical Recovery After-Sun Lotion, $32, available at Sephora.
Up & Up Hydrocortisone Maximum Strength Cream with Aloe, $3.17, available at Target.
In The Days Following Your Burn Again, stay the hell out of the sun unless you're covered up. Got it? Good. Now, stay hydrated. That means drinking a ton of water, but also keeping your skin quenched. "Try an eczema-relief cream — like the ones from Aveeno or Eucerin — or some coconut oil," says Dr. Grossman. But wait a day or so — putting something like coconut oil on your skin when you've just gotten burned could actually trap heat in the top layer, making the inflammation worse. When it comes to your skin-care regimen, Dr. Grossman says to strip it down to the bare essentials. "Stay away from exfoliation and active ingredients," she advises. "Your skin has already been traumatized." And if you blister or peel, leave it alone. Your skin is doing its thing to heal itself. Trust the process.
Eucerin Eczema Relief Body Creme, $10.43, available at Walmart.
Aveeno Eczema Therapy Cream, $13.49, available at Ulta Beauty.
Kopari Coconut Melt, $18, available at Sephora.
In The Years Following Your Burn Time for some real talk: Just because your sunburn has healed doesn't mean you're in the clear. Sun damage sticks around long after the redness fades, so you're going to want to continue treatment in the longterm. "While you can't undo previous sunburns, there are products you can use on the skin to help improve the overall texture, quality, and color of the skin," says dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD. He recommends incorporating retinol and antioxidant-rich products (like Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Serum and SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic) into your skin-care routine, to stimulate collagen production, lighten sunspots, and minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. But if you want to bring out the big guns, Dr. Zeichner says that resurfacing lasers like Fraxel are extremely effective in improving the tone and texture of damaged skin — and they may even reduce your chances of developing skin cancers in the future. "If you make a mistake and burn, own it and be a part of your solution," Dr. Grossman says. "Then learn from it, so you don't do it again." Sure, it could lead to wrinkles and age spots, but every sunburn you get also increases your risk of skin cancers. As Dr. Grossman reminds us, "It's a health issue, not a vanity issue."
Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Serum, $23.99, available at Ulta Beauty.
The Ordinary Resveratrol 3% + Ferulic Acid 3%, $7.90, available at The Ordinary.
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