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Once beach season arrives, even those who religiously slather on the SPF can get burned from time to time. Maybe you miss a spot at the edge of your bathing suit, forget to do your back, or end up spending more time in the sun than you intended. It happens. More than 1 in 3 U.S. adults gets sunburned each year.

But once you’re burnt, you’ll need to properly care for your skin and the aftermath of the sunburn. From peeling to blisters and itchiness to redness, sunburns can wreak havoc on our skin and dehydrate us.

Here’s what you need to know about sunburns and what products you need to soothe your skin ASAP.

When you get sunburned, your skin and your skin cells undergo various processes after being overexposed to the sun’s strong rays.

“Physically, we observe redness and pain that are directly proportional to the severity of sun exposure,” says New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Macrene Alexiades, founder of MACRENE actives. “Your skin will feel warm to the touch. If severe, you may experience nausea, fever, and chills.”

Underneath the skin, however, there’s even more going on. According to Alexiades, ultraviolet B (UVB) rays directly damage DNA by inducing the formation of mutations. In response, the skin generates a DNA repair response, which causes pain, dilated blood vessels, and swollen, blistered skin.

Over the long term, sunburns may cause skin cancer. Board certified dermatologist Dr. Hadley King explains that 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers and about 86 percent of melanomas are associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.

“UV radiation is a proven human carcinogen,” King says. “On average, a person’s risk for melanoma doubles if they have had more than five sunburns, but just one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life.”

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, there are more than 63,000 new cases of melanoma, a serious type of skin cancer, each year.

Be sure to talk with your doctor or a dermatologist about your risk of developing skin cancer. They can also do a physical exam to screen for any warning signs and provide you with steps for how to do a regular self-exam at home.

If you get a sunburn, you want to take care of your skin as best as you can to relieve any pain and discomfort you feel. King suggests the following do’s and don’ts for treating a sunburn:

Our list of recommended products is based on a mixture of high 4- or 5-star ratings, bestselling items, and recommendations from healthcare professionals.

By scouring reviews from customers and chatting with healthcare professionals, we’ve rounded up our favorite 15 products to help relieve sunburns.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $20
  • $$ = $20–$64
  • $$$ = over $64

Best gels and lotions

Maui Island Secret Burn to Brown Formula

  • Price: $
  • Best for: mild to moderate sunburns on your face or body — reviewers say they have used it all over with consistent results

This gel contains sunburn soothing aloe vera, which is known for its anti-inflammatory, skin protection, antiseptic, and wound healing properties.

It also includes coffee extract and green tea extract, both of which Alexiades says can significantly reduce redness. In particular, the tannic acid and theobromine in green tea are known for healing damaged skin when applied topically.

However, some reviewers say that their burns didn’t actually turn into tans as the product name suggests.

Burt’s Bees Aloe & Coconut Oil After Sun Soother

  • Price: $
  • Best for: painful or itchy sunburns, as well as a skin protectant to potentially stave off peeling

This lotion is formulated with aloe vera and coconut oil, which work in tandem to soothe a sunburn and moisturize the skin. It also contains glycerin, a humectant that King says can help bind water to the outermost layer of the skin, locking in even more hydration.

That being said, some reviewers don’t particularly care for the smell. Some also think that the lotion is just a bit too sticky.

Fruit of the Earth Aloe Vera Cool Blue Gel

  • Price: $$
  • Best for: instant cooling and pain relief post-sunburn

This aloe vera gel contains 1 percent lidocaine, which is an anesthetic used for pain relief. It’s ideal for easing discomfort after a sunburn, especially while you sleep if you’re having trouble relaxing in bed with your sheets touching your sensitive skin.

However, some reviewers say the gel is sticky and it may stain your clothes. Some suggest letting it dry first before getting dressed or crawling between the sheets.

Eucerin Advanced Repair Cream

  • Price: $
  • Best for: peeling sunburns that need extra moisture and repair as skin heals

This hydrating lotion is made with ceramides — fatty acids found in skin cells that make up 50 percent of the outer layer of our skin — which help strengthen the skin’s moisture barrier. This cream also contains amino acids that work to prevent dryness.

Some reviewers say they were hoping for a thicker cream and found this one to be too light and liquidy for their taste.

Best body wash

Aveeno Skin Relief Fragrance-Free Body Wash

  • Price: $
  • Best for: painful skin that needs extra moisture and gentler ingredients than what you would find in traditional soaps or body washes

This body wash contains Avena sativa (oat) kernel flour, which Alexiades says can help soothe sunburnt skin. Its fragrance-free formula makes it a milder cleansing option for sensitive, just-sunburnt skin.

Something to note is that some reviewers say that even though the product is marketed as fragrance-free, it still has a scent. So, it may not be sensitive enough for all skin types and conditions.

Best for pain and inflammation

Cortizone 10

  • Price: $$
  • Best for: super painful and itchy burn areas like the edges of your tan (er, burn) line

This topical anti-inflammatory is dermatologist recommended for reducing pain and itchiness. It contains 1 percent hydrocortisone, which is the maximum strength available without a prescription.

That being said, this topical cream is more for targeted areas than for your whole body. You may also need a lotion that can provide more coverage for the rest of your sunburn.

Silver Biotics Silver Gel

  • Price: $
  • Best for: areas where your skin is blistering or your sunburn is particularly severe

Alexiades recommends this product, which provides instant sunburn pain relief. Some studies have also shown that colloidal silver can prevent infection as well.

Silver gel won’t make your sunburn heal faster — it just works for pain and as an anti-inflammatory.

Best for face and lip care

SkinCeuticals Hydra Balm

  • Price: $$
  • Best for: severely dry and sensitive post-sunburn facial skin

This face cream locks in moisture with aloe vera and squalene, an emollient that King says can help the skin barrier through hydration and by improving the overall texture of the skin. This product is a favorite for post-chemical peel relief, making it a good option for moisturizing the layer of new skin underneath a sunburn.

However, one reviewer says that the lotion is greasy and thick, so it may be better suited for nighttime application only.

Colleen Rothschild Vitamin C Treatment Complex

  • Price: $$$
  • Best for: restoring an even skin tone and brightening skin as a sunburn heals

King recommends this serum for its potent antioxidant properties, noting that vitamin C can help neutralize free radicals from UV radiation. Reviewers say that a little goes a long way, so you don’t have to use a lot to get the benefits.

But one reviewer says that the serum caused breakouts, while another says that it made her fine lines more pronounced.

Sun Bum Piña Colada CocoBalm

  • Price: $
  • Best for: overly chapped or sunburnt lips

This lip balm doesn’t contain petroleum like many other advanced lip care products, which King says you should avoid post-sunburn. The formulation of aloe, coconut oil, shea butter, and jojoba oil locks in moisture and promotes healing.

Reviews also say that this lip balm has a just-right consistency, and it won’t melt in your pocket on a hot day.

Since this lip balm doesn’t contain SPF, you’ll need to keep your lips in the shade or slather sunscreen on over this product. (But you shouldn’t be out in the sun post-sunburn anyway, right?)

Best all-natural options

L & I Apothecary Goat Milk and Honey Bath Soak

  • Price: $
  • Best for: alleviating redness and that tight post-sunburn sensation while you relax in the tub

King recommends soaking sunburnt skin in milk or plain yogurt to cleanse and moisturize, plus she says that the enzymes in dairy products can provide gentle exfoliation. The proteins, vitamins, and minerals are anti-inflammatory, too, she adds.

This bath soak provides these same effects with just three natural ingredients: goat milk powder, honey powder, and baking soda.

Many reviewers say they thought the price point was too high for the size of the bottle — especially since many people use a sizable amount of product in each bath.

Solar Recover After Sun Moisturizing Spray

  • Price: $
  • Best for: hard-to-reach sunburnt areas and for getting full coverage relief with easy application

With vitamin E, lavender, sesame, calendula, and chamomile, this all-natural spray contains soothing ingredients and is easy to apply. Reviewers say it also helps sunburns fade quickly.

This spray won’t stop blistering or peeling, so if you have a severe sunburn, you may need something stronger.

Best for babies and kids

Gilden Tree Gentle Touch Moisturizing Cream

  • Price: $
  • Best for: kids, babies, and anyone with super sensitive skin

This kids’ cream doesn’t just ease sunburns. It can also soothe diaper rash, bumpy skin, bug bites, and eczema with certified organic aloe vera, jojoba oil, and shea butter.

While the formulation is pretty clean — it’s fragrance-free, dye-free, paraben-free, gluten-free, and doesn’t contain petrolatum or mineral oil — some reviewers took issue with the fact that the product contains alcohol, which may cause irritation.

Best supplements

NatureWise Vitamin D3

  • Price: $
  • Best for: healing a sunburn from the inside out to supplement topical lotions or gels

According to King, research from 2017 shows that high doses of vitamin D — taken 1 hour after sunburn — can significantly reduce redness, swelling, and inflammation. This supplement provides 5,000 international units of vitamin D3 per serving, and reviewers like that the capsule size is small, making the pills easy to swallow.

That being said, certain prescription medication can interfere with the absorption of vitamin D, while others can increase vitamin D levels. Always talk with your doctor before taking any new supplements or vitamins.

Pedialyte Electrolyte Powder Variety Pack

  • Price: $
  • Best for: regaining hydration and staying hydrated while your skin heals

According to Alexiades, oral electrolyte supplementation is key to reversing fluid loss that occurs after a sunburn, and her favorite product for this comes from Pedialyte. Reviewers love these packets because they’re easy to add to glasses of water or a portable bottle for quick hydration.

Not everyone loves the taste of Pedialyte, even when you have a variety pack like this one that lets you sample all the flavors.

In the end, sunburns can happen to anyone — even if you’re trying to be careful about applying sunscreen or taking other precautions. While you don’t want to make a habit of spending too much time in the sun, treatments are available if you do get a burn.

Be sure to take care of your skin after the fact and make a plan for what you need to do to prevent a sunburn in the future. For example, check to make sure your sunscreen isn’t expired, invest in sun protective clothing, and bring an umbrella to the beach.

If you’re getting burned routinely or if you experience rashes or irritation from the sun or sun-care products, talk with your dermatologist so you can make a plan to keep your skin healthy.


Natasha Burton is a freelance writer and editor who has written for Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, Livestrong, Woman’s Day, and many other lifestyle publications. She’s the author of What’s My Type?: 100+ Quizzes to Help You Find Yourself ― and Your Match!, 101 Quizzes for Couples, 101 Quizzes for BFFs, 101 Quizzes for Brides and Grooms, and the co-author of “The Little Black Book of Big Red Flags.” When she’s not writing, she’s fully immersed in #momlife with her toddler and preschooler.