Sunburn is no fun at all. It goes without saying that prevention is (much) better than cure. But it can happen to the best of us, even when we're cautious. So, what to do when it strikes? While you can't undo the damage, there are some ways to limit it and ultimately make it less painful.
Here are 7 ways to soothe sunburnt skin:
Stick some aloe vera in the fridge
Aloe vera is great for three reasons: it's anti-inflammatory (so will reduce redness), antibacterial (so will keep the area sanitised) and it's cooling (even better if you stick it in the fridge). There's some debate as to whether aloe can actually heal, but there's no doubt that it has excellent soothing properties. If you can get your hands on the actual plant, great; if not, try Banana Boat's Aloe Vera Gel.
Moisturising regularly will help to limit peeling. But it's important to avoid ingredients that will cause irritation, so opt for a fragrance-free formula and steer clear of ingredients like petroleum, benzocaine and lidocaine, as they act like a barrier and trap heat in your skin. A moisturiser with a spritz applicator, like E45 Intense Recovery Fast Acting 24H Spray, is brilliant, as it requires the least contact – great for sore, stinging skin. Just mist it on and leave it to sink in.
Have a soothing bath
Depending on your water pressure (mine's feeble), your shower may sting as the water hits your skin. So, run a bath instead, making sure the water is just cooler than lukewarm (this will take the heat out of the burn). For extra relief, add a sachet of Aveeno Soothing Bath Treatment, which contains calming colloidal oatmeal powder, packed with anti-inflammatories and antioxidants. Admittedly, it smells like porridge, but its soothing abilities are second to none.
DRink lots of water
Burns can draw fluid away from the rest of your body towards the skin's surface. It's why often, when you've been burnt, you'll feel dehydrated or light-headed. So, it's important to drink lots of water. S'well water bottles are an office favourite, as they come in lovely designs and keep your drink chilly for 24 hours.
Choose an effective aftersun
An obvious one, but a good solution nonetheless. However, not all aftersuns are made equal. Like aloe vera and moisturiser, they can help to soothe and make your skin feel more comfortable, but often they'll do little to help with the damage caused to skin cells. Ladival's clever DNA Repair After Sun contains photolyase enzyme, which assists with the restoration and regeneration of skin cells damaged by the sun.
Switch paracetamol for ibuprofen
Paracetamol will help with pain or tenderness, but ibuprofen is better, as it's an anti-inflammatory, so will help take down any redness or inflammation, as well as managing pain. Doctors advise taking these for 48 hours after exposure, provided there are no contraindications. (Top tip: supermarket own-brand tablets do the same thing and cost less than most well-known brands).
Calm your scalp
Although it may be peeling, it's important not to confuse a burnt scalp with dandruff. Since dandruff is caused by an overproduction of oil, the ingredients (such as salicylic acid) used to treat it are similar to spot treatments. Great on spots, but irritating on burnt or damaged skin in potent quantities. Try instead something calming, like Phyto Phytoappaisant Soothing Treatment Shampoo, which contains chicory extract to help rebuild skin's natural microflora, as well as passion flower and shitake to soothe.