Make no mistake - I'm not letting you off the hook for getting too much sun! But hey, we're all human. So if you find that you're experiencing that itchy, painful sensation of sunburn, try these fixes:
1. Go retro with an old-school home remedy: cool (but not cold) milk compresses. The proteins in milk give skin a protective coat that prevents water evaporation. The skin needs moisture for the healing enzymes to work properly. These will soothe skin and take the sting away.
2. Take ibuprofen (400 mg every four hours) until the redness goes away. Just as this anti-inflammatory can minimize the swelling of a sprained ankle, it can reduce the inflammation of burned skin.
3. Speaking of anti-inflammatory agents, you can also start drinking green tea or pomegranate extract or juice. Both have soothing anti-inflammatory benefits - better yet, they're both strong antioxidants, which means that they can help mitigate some of the unseen damage that UV exposure is doing to your sunburned skin.
4. In fact, you can't get too many antioxidants, particularly when skin has taken a UV beating. Be sure to eat three servings of fruits and veggies every day (particularly antioxidant powerhouses like berries) to prevent damage.
6. Don't forget the old post-beach classic: For the first days of discomfort, use a topical product with aloe, an anti-inflammatory standby, to soothe and cool sunburned skin. Sea and Ski's After Sun Therapy is my personal favorite.
7. When your skin begins to peel, moisturize, moisturize, moisturize - at least three times a day.
8. But as tempting as it can be, do not pull off flaking skin, which can exacerbate the peeling. Let it fall off naturally.
9. Also, do not exfoliate or use glycolic acid, retinoids, or salicylic acid (a.k.a. beta hydroxy acid) until all peeling has stopped. Your skin is too delicate during the peeling phase to use these ingredients, which accelerate cell turnover (a process your body is already taking care of naturally).
10. The most important thing you can do, of course, is make sure that you never get sunburned again! Now's the time to pick up a good broad-spectrum sunscreen (that's one that blocks both UVA and UVB, the two types of ultraviolet light that can damage skin) like Neutrogena Dry-Touch Sunblock or Aveeno Continuous Protection Sunblock.
And don't forget to reapply often - sunscreen is not a once-a-day proposition! You'll need to slather it on every hour that you're in direct sunlight, or after swimming or sweating heavily.