Sun protection is something we all need to take seriously: we’re often reminded to wear SPF, bring a hat, and stay in the shade whenever possible.
But sometimes, our sun protection isn’t perfect. For instance, we may forget to reapply sunscreen, or skip it altogether, or we’re not wearing a formula that’s strong enough.
Bottom line: sunburn happens sometimes, and it’s never fun.
And like any wound or irritation on our skin, time is going to be a factor. However, there are natural ways to help speed up the healing process.
1. Sun Exposure
It’s probably no surprise to anyone that sunburn starts with sun exposure.
And sun exposure can happen fast. If you’re in direct sunlight without sunscreen, sunburn can actually occur in as little as 15 minutes!
Catching sunburn early on can be tricky though, because it’s not as prominent as it will be in the next few hours. That’s why prevention is so important when it comes to sunburn. So always wear SPF, even if it’s for a quick walk with your dog, or to step out and grab your mail!
2. Here Comes The Burn
Typically, sunburns aren’t too obvious at first, but they’ll probably make their presence known in the next 2 hours. As your skin cells on the surface become inflamed, skin appears red, and feels irritated and hot to the touch, marking the onset of sunburn.
In the first few hours of sunburn, the most important thing to do is hydrate and take measures to cool down, since your skin is going to draw fluids from the body to heal itself.
3. Sore, Burning Skin
After about 6 hours, sunburn will typically become sore and may sting more intensely, and blisters may form as the immune system protects the skin. Your skin may also feel more sensitive to heat, especially in a hot shower or bath.
For the next few days, use lukewarm water and soothing ingredients to ease irritation:
Chamomile’s been used for centuries in folk medicine for their soothing effects, high antioxidant content, and sweet, delicate scent.
- Aloe Vera
Aloe vera may be one of the most classic ingredients for treating sunburn, and for good reason! Aloe vera, with its hydrating and anti-inflammatory properties like aloin, can soothe and cool sunburn effectively.
- Green Tea
Green tea is another classic ingredient for soothing inflammation. It's skin-friendly and packed with antioxidants like tannic acid and theobromine, which can boost damaged, irritated skin.
4. The Peeling
After about 48 hours, most sunburns will feel significantly less uncomfortable than those initial 6 hours as the skin sheds off those dead, damaged cells to reveal the new ones underneath.
Unfortunately, that means your skin is going to peel a bit, and it may be tempting to pick at the dead skin. However, experts recommend that you don’t do this, as it may risk more irritation. Instead, allow the process to ride itself out and support it with a good moisturizer.
For a lot of people, this is the hardest phase, not only because the process is so close to being over, but the urge to pick can be intense. Your skin is working double-time to heal itself, so be patient with it and be kind to yourself.