The Best Sunburn Remedies to Heal Your Skin, From Soothing Balms to In-Office Laser Treatments | Vogue
As stay-at-home orders loosen up, many of us are finally beginning to venture outside—just in time for summer and a scorching sun. Which is to say that an afternoon basking in the rays, whether on a secluded shoreline or in an under-the-radar pocket of a public park, may be as much of a shock to our bodies as it will be to our psyches. Of course, doubling down on sunscreen is the gold-standard approach, but even the best-laid protection plans have been known to go awry—maybe you forgot to re-apply SPF every two hours, or your favorite surf rash guard went missing from your beach tote. Whatever the reason, a painful burn is a powerful reminder not to let your efforts fall short again. As for how to help your skin recuperate from the negative effects of overexposure? Taking a swift, three-pronged approach can help minimize redness, swelling, and long-term damage.
Below, the best sunburn remedies to keep in your back pocket in the sizzling months ahead.
Pop an Aspirin
The first priority: Take an aspirin, or any other over-the-counter anti-inflammatory, as soon as possible. This will take the heat off your skin, and also ease the discomfort of a burn, says dermatologist Lisa Airan, M.D. “Go for the highest dose every four to six hours for the first 24 hours,” she advises. Next, apply cold compresses soaked in whole milk. “The fat and proteins in milk work really well to soothe irritation,” says Elizabeth K. Hale, M.D., dermatologist and senior vice president of the Skin Cancer Foundation.
Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize
Once the skin has cooled a bit, moisturize the area—obsessively. “There’s good data to suggest that supple skin recovers faster from trauma,” notes Hale, who adds that creams with antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, are especially beneficial post-sun allies. “Ultraviolet light triggers mutations in the skin that can lead to skin cancer and premature aging, but antioxidants counteract some of this UV-induced damage,” she says (her top pick for the face: Lifeline Daily Defense serum). Ceramides, like those contained in Dr. Brandt Xtend Your Youth Face Cream, are a smart way to fight dehydration caused by sunburn while reinforcing the skin’s barrier function. And don’t underestimate the simple but ultra-replenishing power of aloe, says pro surfer Quincy Davis, who is not a medical professional but does battle the sun on a daily basis. “In tropical places you can get it straight from the plant,” she says. Otherwise, she likes Epicuren’s “non-sticky” Aloe Vera Calming Gel, which she stores in the refrigerator, “so it’s extra refreshing.”
Lifeline Daily Defense Complex
Dr. Brandt Xtend Your Youth Face Cream
Herbivore Botanicals After Sun Skin Soothing Aloe Mist
Leave it to the Lasers
Of all sunburn remedies, the most potent relief, however, might come in the form of LED laser therapy, which tones down inflammation and promotes wound healing with pulsated doses of red light. As dermatologists begin to reopen their doors, Airan recommends one to two sessions with GentleWaves LED, noting that it’s calibrated to help injured skin recover quickly and can be done the moment you spot a burn. To counteract latent hyper-pigmentation and photo-damage, Hale relies on a resurfacing laser such as Clear + Brilliant. “But I would give the body a couple of weeks to heal and repair itself first,” she says. Also worth putting on hold temporarily: anti-aging creams with retinol or alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids that may be too harsh on sensitive, raw skin. As Hale points out, “While you’re in the acute stages of recovery, you don’t want to add insult to injury.”
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