It was a fun beach weekend, filled with hours tanning on a breezy beach under blissfully sunny skies. You probably applied one coat of SPF 15 sunscreen each day to make yourself feel protected but forgot about second coats during your afternoon naps.
The next day, you awoke with an angry burn, followed by days of even more tingling pain and – you guessed it – flaky, peelable skin.
Peeling that sunburn is harmless – satisfying, even – right? It can't actually hurt you, since the damage is already done? Wrong. You might give yourself a secondary infection that could scar, says Dr. Susan Weinkle, affiliate clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Florida.
And don't even think about using a lint roller, as some dark corners of the internet suggest. Peeling of any kind breaks the skin's barrier, inviting germs to settle in and inflammation to take hold, Weinkle explains.
Of course, not all peels are alike.
"There are different levels, sometimes it's a very superficial peel, where you're just kind of peeling off the top layer called the stratum corneum, and sometimes the burn can be deeper," Weinkle says. "It depends on the level of the burn or how deeply it peels off."
Regardless, sunburn is nothing to brush off. In fact, Weinkle says just seven severe sunburns in your lifetime can significantly increase your risk for skin cancers like melanoma.
"You have to think of a sunburn as a wound," Weinkle says. "You've wounded your skin, and so you have to do things to help it heal."
And how can you help it heal? Keeping the skin lubricated or hydrated (Weinkle recommends using an ointment like Aquaphor) will make you less prone to pick at the affected skin, potentially removing more epidermal cells than would have fallen off naturally.
Applying cold-brewed tea bags, which contain soothing tannic acid, to affected areas can also help dull the pain of acute sunburn.
10 at-home remedies for sunburn to try:
Sunburn: 10 Easy And Surprising At-Home Remedies
Sunburn: 10 Easy And Surprising At-Home Remedies
Remedy #1: Tea Bags
While many people have tried putting tea bags on their eyes to reduce puffiness, they can also be helpful at providing sunburn relief.
Simply soak black tea bags in cool water and place them on the sunburnt areas — whether the eyelids or anywhere else.
Love to Know writes, “Black tea will remove the heat, pain, and sting of your skin, all while leaving a toasty warm glow.”
Remedy #2: Cucumbers
It might look silly, but the cooling power of a cucumber can be extremely effective against painful sunburn.
You can either place slices directly on the burn, or mash it up in a blender and apply the paste.
Everyday Roots writes, “However you do it, the swelling, redness, and pain should diminish soon.”
Remedy #3: Oatmeal
According to Livestrong.com, “Oats are high in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which makes them perfect for soothing irritated, itchy sunburned skin.”
All you have to do is cook the oatmeal like normal and allow it to cool before applying. Don’t rub it in, but simply let it sit on the sunburn until you are ready to rinse it off.
Remedy #4: Yogurt
When you are in a pinch and the only thing handy is yogurt, you are definitely in luck!
Cosmopolitan suggests you let the cold yogurt sit on your sunburn for about 10 minutes.
They say the yogurt “contains a lot of probiotics that will help restore your skin’s natural barrier.”
Remedy #5: Potatoes
According to Everyday Roots, “Potatoes have been known as a pain reliever throughout the years, working particularly well on minor skin irritations and soothing scratches, bites, and burns, as well as possibly reducing inflammation.”
So just grate up some potatoes, place them in a blender, and dab the paste on your sunburn with a cotton ball to find the relief you seek!
Remedy #6: Strawberries
Similar to cucumbers, strawberries can be placed on your sunburn in sliced form or in mashed paste form. Both can be effective in relieving pain.
Sunburn Treatment Pros writes, “Strawberries have tannic acid, which can help take the sting out of a sunburn.”
Remedy #7: Milk
Dabbing milk on your sunburn can be extremely helpful in fighting it.
Self.com writes, “The fat, protein, and pH of milk have a soothing anti-inflammatory effect on the skin.”
They even suggest mixing the milk with ice water to provide colder, soothing temperatures for the burn.
Remedy #8: Ice
One of the fastest and most effective ways to ease your sunburn pain is with ice (or at least icy temperatures).
Prevention.com suggests anything from an ice pack to a bag of frozen vegetables in order to provide relief!
Remedy #9: Honey
Honey may be a sticky solution, but it is also an effective one!
According to Parents.com, “The sticky stuff’s been used as a topical burn salve since Egyptian days.”
Dr. Kathi Kemper tells Parents.com, “Studies suggest it may work better than some antibiotic creams at speeding up healing, reducing infection, and minimizing pain.”
Remedy #10: Water
And perhaps the most important tip of all? Drink tons and tons of water!
Sunburn Treatment Pros writes, “Whenever your skin is sun damaged, you will need to drink as much water as possible to keep your skin hydrated.”
They suggest “eight glasses a day, eight ounces a glass.”
Each of these unique at-home sunburn hacks can help to ease the pain and set you on a path to healing even faster.