Top Ten

How to Cool Down Sunburned Skin

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Sunburns sometimes happen, even to the most diligent of sunscreen wearers. Fortunately, there are a variety of different ways to nurse a burn at home, using ingredients you may already have in your kitchen or on your bathroom shelves. To find out the best at-home remedies, we asked two top New York City dermatologists for their recommendations.

How to Treat a Sunburn at Home

1. Aloe Vera

Perhaps one of the most common ways to treat a sunburn, aloe vera gel can do more than provide the skin with cooling relief. The gel also has anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe sunburned skin, says Dr. Debra Jaliman, a board-certified dermatologist and author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist. Keep a bottle of aloe vera in your beach bag this summer—or, even better: use the gel from the actual plant—and apply when needed.

2. Hyaluronic Acid 

If you experience a sunburn on your face, Melissa Doft, M.D., a board-certified plastic surgeon in New York City, suggests applying a facial serum infused with hyaluronic acid, “to help the skin heal faster.” As a hydrating substance produced naturally by the body, hyaluronic acid can help moisturize and plump sun-parched skin without causing further irritation. 

3. White Vinegar

To help relieve some of the pain and inflammation from the burn—and prevent potential infection—Dr. Jaliman suggests applying white vinegar to the affected areas. “Because white vinegar is composed of acetic acid, it can help relieve the pain and inflammation, and act as an antiseptic,” she explains. 

4. Baking Soda

Another important thing to keep in mind when treating a sunburn at home is your skin’s natural pH level. To help balance the pH of burned skin, Dr. Jaliman suggests making a cold compress composed of baking soda and water and applying to sunburned skin for 15 minutes.

5. Green Tea

In addition to baking soda compresses, Dr. Jaliman also suggests giving green tea compresses a try, as they contain polyphenols, “which are anti-inflammatory.” To do so, simply steep green tea leaves and soak a clean washcloth in the steeped tea. Allow the compress to cool in the fridge before applying to sunburned skin for 15 minutes.

6. Greek Yogurt

Thanks to lactic acid, Greek yogurt has anti-inflammatory benefits and can be used to soothe and moisturize sunburned skin. “Greek yogurt is strained more times than traditional yogurt [and] as a result, it is thicker and has a higher concentration of probiotics,” says Dr. Jaliman. “Recent studies have found that topical application of probiotics decreases skin sensitivity and redness,” she adds. To soothe a sunburn at home with yogurt, you can apply plain, organic Greek yogurt to the face and body as a mask and rinse after 15 minutes.

Other Sunburn Remedies with Calming Ingredients

If you’re not into at-home remedies and are looking for a topical treatment that can soothe and nourish sunburned skin, Dr. Doft suggests reaching for topical treatments that are formulated with soothing, nourishing and replenishing ingredients, such as aloe vera, hyaluronic acid and cucumber extract. Don’t know where to start? Consider some of the products below. 

  1. Herbivore Botanicals After Sun Skin Soothing Aloe Mist (8 oz.)
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    Herbivore Botanicals After Sun Skin Soothing Aloe Mist (8 oz.)

    After-sun care is all about adding moisture back into the skin’s barrier. One way to do so is by replenishing the complexion with a hydrating facial mist. This one boasts post-sun savior aloe vera and peppermint essential oil for a cooling, soothing sensation plus lavender, which is an excellent anti-inflammatory ingredient that helps target redness.

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  2. Peter Thomas Roth Cucumber Gel Mask (5 fl. oz.)
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    Peter Thomas Roth Cucumber Gel Mask (5 fl. oz.)

    Cucumber is one of the most hydrating—not to mention cooling—skin care ingredients available and this face mask is chock-full of its moisturizing abilities. If you’re in need of some serious R&R after a beach day, this aloe vera–based gel mask hydrates, soothes and improves overall skin elasticity.

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  3. Bioderma Photoderm After-Sun (16.7 fl. oz.)
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    Bioderma Photoderm After-Sun (16.7 fl. oz.)

    In addition to moisture-loss, the skin might experience feelings of overheating after time in the sun—and this product is made specifically with that uncomfortable sensation in mind. Formulated with allantoin and ginkgo biloba to soothe heated skin and a mixture of glycerine and shea unsaponifiable to rehydrate and prevent after-sun dryness, this elixir leaves the skin feeling deeply nourished after a hot summer day.

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  4. IMAGE Skincare I MASK Hydrating Hydrogel Sheet Mask 5 count
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    IMAGE Skincare I MASK Hydrating Hydrogel Sheet Mask 5 count

    Featuring two powerhouse after-sun ingredients—aloe vera and hyaluronic acid—this sheet mask is like a drink of water for your complexion. Cooling and soothing, this product is a must after some fun in the sun.

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Beauty Reporter

Jessie Quinn

Jessie Quinn is a writer and editor with work published in NYLON Magazine, StyleCaster.com, Girlboss.com, Marvel.com, and more. She is a graduate of Academy of Art University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fashion Journalism. Originally from Los Angeles, she currently resides in Brooklyn—her home for the last five years. In Jessie’s free time, you can find her creating content for her beauty blog, Hair Skin Kale, testing out DIY beauty recipes, exploring her neighborhood, or binge-watching episodes of Friends. Her background in fashion has taught her that beautiful skin never goes out of style. Follow her on Instagram.