How To Remove Sunburn From Face Quickly

There’s a reason why it’s the go-to after-sun product. Pure aloe vera gel — whether out of a bottle or straight from the plant — contains cooling and soothing properties. It can also potentially promote wound healing, according to the Mayo Clinic. And in test tube studies, the aloe plant has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.

How Quickly Can You Heal Sunburn?

According to the National Cancer Institute, about a third of American adults experience sunburn each year, and more than 33,000 of these burns require emergency room visits.

If you have pale skin or spend a lot of time in the sun, you’re at an increased risk of getting burned. In general, more severe sunburn takes longer to heal than milder cases.

Other factors that determine how quickly you heal include how well you manage your sunburn and whether you have a condition that slows down wound healing, such as diabetes or arterial disease.

There are no magical cures for sunburn, but there are a number of ways you can support your body’s natural healing process.

Let’s take a look at the most effective ways to heal sunburn faster.

To heal from first-degree sunburn, you need to give your body time to replace the skin that was damaged. First-degree sunburn only affects the outer layer of the skin. The skin will typically just look red and may begin to peel after a few days as the skin begins to replace itself.

There’s a limit to how fast your body can heal itself, but you can maximize the healing process by:

  • getting plenty of rest
  • staying hydrated
  • moisturizing your skin

Other tips to support the healing process and relieve symptoms include:

  • Take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Taking an NSAID such as ibuprofen immediately after you notice sunburn can help decrease inflammation and pain.
  • Get lots of sleep.Sleep restriction disrupts your body’s production of certain cytokines that help your body manage inflammation. This disruption can negatively affect your body’s ability to heal itself.
  • Avoid tobacco use. Smoking or using other forms of tobacco can impair your body’s natural healing process by promoting inflammation throughout your body. Quitting can be difficult, but a healthcare professional can help you create a cessation plan that works for you.
  • Avoid additional sun exposure. Exposing sunburn to more ultraviolet (UV) rays can further damage your skin. If you have to go out, try to cover your sunburn with clothing and wear sunscreen.
  • Apply aloe vera.Aloe vera contains a substance called aloin that reduces inflammation . Aloe vera can also moisturize your skin and prevent peeling.
  • Cool bath. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends taking a cool bath or shower to soothe your skin. Afterward, leave a little moisture on your skin when you dry off and then apply a moisturizer to trap in water.
  • Apply hydrocortisone cream. Hydrocortisone creams are used to treat swelling, irritation, and itchiness. Apply hydrocortisone cream to manage swelling and pain. You can get 1 percent hydrocortisone over the counter, or if necessary, your doctor can prescribe a stronger ointment.
  • Stay hydrated. Sunburn draws moisture away from your skin. Drinking plenty of fluids and electrolytes can help rehydrate your skin.
  • Try a cold compress. Applying a cold compress to your skin — but not directly on a sunburned area — for short intervals not long after the burn happens may help draw away excess heat from your skin and reduce inflammation.
  • Try an oatmeal bath. An oatmeal bath may help soothe your skin and reduce irritation. You can make an oatmeal bath by mixing a few tablespoons of baking soda and about a cup of oats to a cool bath.

Applying essential oils like chamomile, sandalwood, peppermint, or lavender, as well as diluted apple cider vinegar, may help heal sunburns. However, these methods haven’t been scientifically proven. If you choose to use these methods, it’s important to follow recommendations regarding safe skin application.

Keep in mind that you won’t be able to get rid of sunburn overnight even if your burn is mild. Most instances of first-degree sunburn should still take at least a week to heal, even when properly treated, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. More severe sunburn may take weeks or even months to heal.

Severe burns

Sunburned areas are typically first-degree burns. You would have to spend much more prolonged time in the sun to get second-degree or third-degree sunburn from the sun. These are much more serious.

Second-degree sunburn will reach the second layer of the skin, which is the epidermis. These sunburned areas typically result in blistering. Third-degree sunburn reaches the fat below the skin and can destroy the nerves. As a result, you may not actually feel pain.

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You are also more at risk for:

If you or someone you know experience second- or third-degree sunburn, you should not treat it at home. Consider these types of sunburn a medical emergency and seek immediate medical treatment.

How to treat sunburn

Your skin can burn if it gets too much sun without proper protection from sunscreen and clothes. To help heal and soothe stinging skin, it is important to begin treating sunburn as soon as you notice it. Follow these dermatologists’ tips to help relieve the discomfort.

Your skin can burn if it gets too much sun without proper protection from sunscreen and clothes. To help heal and soothe stinging skin, it is important to begin treating sunburn as soon as you notice it. The first thing you should do is get out of the sun—and preferably indoors.

Once indoors, these dermatologists’ tips can help relieve the discomfort:

  1. Take frequent cool baths or showers to help relieve the pain. As soon as you get out of the bathtub or shower, gently pat yourself dry, but leave a little water on your skin. Then, apply a moisturizer to help trap the water in your skin. This can help ease the dryness.
  2. Use a moisturizer that contains aloe vera or soy to help soothe sunburned skin. If a particular area feels especially uncomfortable, you may want to apply a hydrocortisone cream that you can buy without a prescription. Do not treat sunburn with “-caine” products (such as benzocaine), as these may irritate the skin or cause an allergic reaction.
  3. Consider taking aspirin or ibuprofen to help reduce any swelling, redness and discomfort.
  4. Drink extra water. A sunburn draws fluid to the skin’s surface and away from the rest of the body. Drinking extra water when you are sunburned helps prevent dehydration.
  5. If your skin blisters, allow the blisters to heal. Blistering skin means you have a second-degree sunburn. You should not pop the blisters, as blisters form to help your skin heal and protect you from infection.
  6. Take extra care to protect sunburned skin while it heals. Wear clothing that covers your skin when outdoors. Tightly-woven fabrics work best. When you hold the fabric up to a bright light, you shouldn’t see any light coming through.

Although it may seem like a temporary condition, sunburn—a result of skin receiving too much exposure from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays—can cause long-lasting damage to the skin. This damage increases a person’s risk for getting skin cancer, making it critical to protect the skin from the sun.

For questions about your sunburn or to learn how to better protect your skin from the sun, see a board-certified dermatologist.

Have a skin, hair, or nail problem?

No one understands your skin better than a board-certified dermatologist. Partner with the expert for the best care.

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13 Fast Ways to Treat Sunburn and Reduce Redness at Home

Get rid of a bad burn with these quick cures for pain and itching.

How To Remove Sunburn From Face Quickly

By Caroline Picard Updated: Jul 17, 2022

applying suntan cream on the beach

Photoboyko // Getty Images

It’s probably happened to most of us at some time or another: We get a little careless with the SPF and miss a spot, or we don’t have someone with us to hit that unreachable spot on our backs, or we smooth sunscreen on our arms but forget to do our shoulders when we whip off our t-shirt to go swimming. And then, yow: evening comes and our skin is getting redder and redder, and oh-so-sore. And a few days later, we look in the mirror and see super-unattractive peeling skin, or icky-looking blisters.

The bad news: While the color may eventually fade, a sunburn causes lasting damage. “It’s difficult to make sunburn go away,” says Mona Gohara, MD, associate clinical professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine. “It is literally a toxic injury to the skin that requires time for healing as the cells regenerate. It’s also important to remember that although the rash of the sunburn may fade, the damage lasts a lifetime, sometimes doubling the risk of skin cancer with just one burn. Judicious sun protection year round is an essential part of skin health.”

When you get repeated exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun’s rays, it increases your risk of skin cancer, as Dr. Gohara points out. Even one blistering sunburn during childhood or adolescence can nearly double a person’s chance of developing melanoma, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). At particular risk of skin cancer are those who burn easily; people with blond or red hair; those who use tanning beds or who have gotten lots of sun exposure; or people who have a weakened immune system. But skin cancer can affect people of all skin tones; in fact, it’s often diagnosed later in people with darker skin tones, says the AAD, because it can be harder to spot.

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Sunburns also add to premature aging, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation (SCF). Says Dr. Gohara, “Sunburn can cause increased freckling and uneven skin tone long term, hyperpigmentation, and free radical damage, which wreaks cosmetic havoc on the skin— these pesky little chemical particles weaken collagen, ultimately accelerating premature aging.”

The good news: When it comes to promoting the healing and easing the ouch of a sunburn, there are plenty of home remedies you can try. Keep reading to learn how you can make that redness go away faster, plus some of top-tested sunscreens from the Good Housekeeping Institute that will save your skin the next time around.

How to get rid of sunburn on your face and body fast:

1. Take a cool bath or shower.

Keep the temp low and then lather on moisturizer as soon as you get out, the AAD advises. The cool H20 may help ease the pain and reduce the inflammation caused by the sunburn, and the lotion will help trap moisture and make your skin feel and look less dry. The SCF suggests avoiding harsh soap, which can further irritate the skin.

2. Apply aloe.

There’s a reason why it’s the go-to after-sun product. Pure aloe vera gel — whether out of a bottle or straight from the plant — contains cooling and soothing properties. It can also potentially promote wound healing, according to the Mayo Clinic. And in test tube studies, the aloe plant has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.

3. Use an ice pack or compress.

Wrap ice in a cloth before applying it directly to your skin, or soak a washcloth in cold water or milk and place that on the burn. The vitamins and antioxidants in milk can help your skin heal, says dermatologist Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, M.D., medical director of Mudgil Dermatology in Manhattan and Hicksville, New York.

4. Drink lots of water.

A sunburn draws fluid to the skin and away from the rest of the body, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Rehydrate by downing plenty of H20, or a low-sugar drink that has electrolytes. (Don’t try to hydrate by swigging margaritas, though; alcohol can make the problem worse.)

5. Don’t pop any blisters.

Severe and widespread blisters require a doctor’s attention, but if you get a few, leave ’em be. Opening them up makes them vulnerable to infection, the AAD says. If blisters pop naturally, the Mayo Clinic advises that you clean the open wound with mild soap and water and cover it with antibiotic ointment and a bandage.

sunburn beauty portrait

Ralf Nau // Getty Images

6. Protect against further damage.

If you need to go outside again, wear clothing that covers your skin and stay in the shade. Don’t forget to apply lots of sunscreen as well — at least a shot glass-full for the body, a nickel-size dollop for the face, says GH Beauty Lab Director Birnur Aral, Ph.D. Adds Dr. Gohara, “It’s important to use SPF on the burn so as to not stoke the fire with additional damage!”

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7. Try over-the-counter medications.

The pharmacy aisles can also help with the healing process, if you reach for the right stuff:

  • Take aspirin or ibuprofen: An OTC pain reliever like Advil can help reduce swelling and discomfort.
  • Rub on a hydrocortisone cream: A mild topical steroid like Cortizone-10 may speed up healing, according to the Mayo Clinic.

8. Skip heat-trapping products.

There are things you may be tempted to use on your skin that can make things worse because they trap the heat in. Not good. For this reason, the SCF says to avoid using oil-based lotions or petroleum products.

9. Also skip topical anesthetics.

Products like benzocaine — in fact, any products that end in “-caine” — are best avoided right now, because they can further irritate the skin.

10. Switch up your skincare regimen.

It’s best to skip some of your usual skincare steps for now. Exfoliators and scrubs will just add to the pain and could further damage your skin; same with toners. If you’re using an acne medication, you probably want to talk to your doc about whether it’s a good idea to take a little break.

11. Keep moisturizing.

The SCF suggests that you keep rubbing lotion on over the sunburned area over the next few days, to help keep the burned or peeling area moist.

12. Consider an oatmeal bath.

The Cleveland Clinic advises easing the discomfort of a sunburn by adding colloidal oatmeal to your bath water; it’s known to ease inflammation. Just take a break, lie back and say “aaahh.”

13. Or add baking soda to that bath.

The Cleveland Clinic also says a bath with baking soda can help with the ouch. It also has antibacterial properties, and in research was shown to reduce itchiness. Try a lukewarm bath with a half cup or so of baking soda.

When should you call a doctor for sunburn relief?

If you have blisters over a large area of your body, or you’re experiencing fever or chills, or feel loopy or confused, get medical help, says the SCF. If you notice that your sunburn is spreading, that could be a sign of infection, and you need to call your doctor ASAP.

How to prevent sunburn:

Prepare yourself for your next time in the sun: Shop these favorite sunscreens and stash bottles in your beach bag, purse and other key spots. Then don’t forget to apply a lot of it, often! Many people don’t realize how much they should use, or how often they should apply it. The SCF recommends reapplying sunscreen every two hours, or even sooner if you’re sweating a lot or have gone swimming. So don’t skimp!

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Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for his studies of ageing, genetics and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics NAS of Ukraine. His scientific researches are printed by the most reputable international magazines. Some of his works are: Differences in the gut Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio across age groups in healthy Ukrainian population []; Mating status affects Drosophila lifespan, metabolism and antioxidant system [Science Direct]; Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Increases Lifespan, Stress Resistance, and Metabolism by Affecting Free Radical Processes in Drosophila [Frontiersin].
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