It happens to the best of us: the bottle was empty, you had none with you, you just plain forgot. Going without sunscreen, even for just a few minutes on a scorching summer day, can leave you with a look closer to “lobster” than “bronzed sun goddess”—definitely not flattering. But is it fixable? Is there a way to make sunburn fade faster, or to cover it up so you can keep wearing cute sundresses without being mistaken for a crustacean in costume?
As with most beauty blunders, shading yourself scarlet is something that can be remedied. But first you need to figure out whether the burn is merely a blemish or a true health hazard. Severe sunburn—accompanied by blistering skin, instense pain, fever and a headache—may require medical attention. Put down that bottle of aloe and dial your doc.
If, on the other hand, you’ve got a crimson complexion, rosy red shoulders and night-versus-day tan lines—take heed. Here are a few fast fixes you can try to begin repairing your skin:
Fight the flames
Sunburn is a first-degree burn to the skin’s outermost layer. Ouch. The first sign may be redness, but within hours of exposure, you’ll start to feel the effects of inflammation—warmth, puffiness and pain. Cool down by covering up with an ice-cold, wet wash cloth for 10 to 15 minutes several times a day, or dip cotton balls in witch hazel and dab gently on burned areas.
Raid the fridge
After a long day in the hot sun, the last thing you may feel like doing is eating—but head to the kitchen anyway. Several staples can help soothe your pain and may speed healing. (Plus you’re probably dehydrated. Pour a tall glass of water and drink up!) Make an oatmeal compress by wrapping dry rolled oats in gauze and soaking in cold water. Toss the oats and apply the gauze to your skin, repeating every few hours. Or try a cornstarch concoction: mix enough with water to form a paste and slather it on. Tea, which contains tannic acid—a natural astringent—also calms and cools. Simply soak tea bags and let rest on your eyelids, forehead or cheeks.
Stay away from soap
Now is no time for a bubble bath! Soap can dry and further irritate sunburned skin, so stick with a short soak in straight-up cool water. A cup of apple cider vinegar or a generous sprinkling of baking soda can be added for extra relief. When finished, pat yourself dry with a soft towel and apply Kiss My Face Olive & Aloe Moisturizer. Aloe is, of course, well known for its sunburn-soothing effects, and olive oil helps lock in the moisture your skin needs to heal. (Quick tip: Keep it in the fridge for a cool rubdown—ahhhhh.)
Don’t pick peels
If peels appear, which they very well might (peeling is your body’s way of getting rid of dead, damaged skin), do not pick or pull at the pieces. Healing skin is delicate and can become infected easily if scratched or torn. Try exfoliating with an Earth Therapeutics Bamboo Benefits™ Anti-Bacterial Complexion Towel, which is not only textured to gently buff away flakes but naturally anti-bacteria for germ-free cleansing.
After skin settles, it’s perfectly safe to apply makeup to tone down that traffic-stopping tint. Smooth a pigmented natural foundation such as Ecco Bella FlowerColor (which is aloe-based) over your entire face, using a concealer stick to spot-cover darker splotches, say, on your nose. Follow with a puff of yellow-toned bronzer to help neutralize redness—but stay away from shimmery finishes, which tend to accentuate the burn.
The absolute fastest way to treat and conceal sunburn? Don’t let it happen in the first place! Visit Vitacost to browse hundreds of natural sunscreen options.
The Beauty Boss blogs are compiled by our staff editors Rebecca Chopin and Katie Kaleita, who work closely with the Vitacost.com beauty department experts to bring you the most relevant, up-to-date information on natural beauty and anti-aging tips and trends.