It happens to the best of us: at the pool on a gorgeous summer day, we take a dip to cool off, get out, and get too distracted to reapply sunscreen. Hours later, we check the mirror and see scorched, tender, less-than-happy skin.
Whether it’s the peak of summer or you’re on your way to Bora Bora (we’re jealous!), sunburned skin happens from time to time—and you’ll thank yourself later if you can study up on how to get rid of one in a pinch.
In this crash course on sunburns, we’ll cover how to save (and prevent) sizzled skin so you can soak in the sunshine without getting burned.
What Happens When You Get A Sunburn?
We know that sunburns are a reaction to the sun’s harsh rays, but what’s actually going on in your skin when sunburn occurs?
Put simply, when the sun hits your skin, UV rays damage your skin cells. Sunburn manifests differently for every person’s skin. Regardless, to repair the damage, your immune system sends blood to the site of injury, causing the inflammation we recognize as sunburn.
How to Recover From A Sunburn in 7 Days
There’s no way to reverse the clock on UV damage, but there are measures you can take to give your skin what it needs to heal.
To help fast-track your skin’s recovery process, follow these 6 steps:
1) Drink plenty of water – Whether your sunburn is mild or severe, your skin needs your help to stay hydrated while it repairs itself. Drinking plenty of water may also help with any severe symptoms you have, like headaches or nausea.
2) Temper your skincare routine – During this refractory period, you’ll need to adjust your skincare routine to something more soothing. Switch cleansers, serums, and creams formulated for ultra-sensitive skin (psst! ingredients like cucumber seed and ginger root are allies here!).
3) Take a cool bath – The American Academy of Dermatology recommends taking a cool bath to ease the pain of a sunburn and lock in extra moisture. If you can, let yourself air dry once out of the tub so your skin can absorb an extra dose of moisture.
4) Use an aloe vera moisturizer – Aloe vera is renowned for its reparative properties—and for good reason. The plant has natural cooling properties that can soothe skin that feels warm or hot to the touch. It’s also been shown to reduce inflammation.
5) Add oatmeal to baths and lotions – Oatmeal contains anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties that help soothe irritated skin. Sprinkle some in your cool bath, or invest in a calming, oatmeal-infused lotion.
6) Leave peeling and blisters alone – As tempting as it may be to nudge peeling skin and blisters along, resist the urge to do so. Peeling is your skin’s way of healing itself at a quicker rate, so avoid rushing it along and let it work its magic in its own time.
How Long Does Sunburn Last?
Going home with a sunburn after a lovely day spent outside is never ideal. It can put a damper on everything from your date night glow-up to nixing your nightly skincare ritual for the next few weeks (catch you later, retinol).
So how long does sunburn last before you can carry on with life as usual? It depends on how severe your sunburn is in the first place. Below, we’ll help you identify which type of sunburn you may have, and how long it may take for your skin to rejuvenate.
Mild sunburns are the most common type of sunburn. Individual skin tones may react differently to sunburns, so pay attention to how your skin feels rather than what it looks like.
If you’re dealing with a mild burn, you may experience:
• Tender, stinging, or sensitive skin
• Skin that feels tight
• Dry or itchy skin
• Pink, red, or discolored skin
Mild sunburns typically take 3 to 5 days to heal.
Moderate sunburns are slightly more painful than mild ones. If you’ve suffered a moderate sunburn, you may observe any of the mild sunburn symptoms as well as:
• Burning skin or skin that feels warm to the touch
• Skin redness
• Skin blisters
• Peeling skin
Moderate sunburns usually repair within 5 to 7 days.
People with severe sunburns may experience any of the mild or moderate sunburn symptoms, as well as:
• Painful eyes
Severe sunburns may take 1 to 2 weeks to heal completely, but it’s important to see your dermatologist or healthcare provider to ensure you’re taking care of your skin on the road to recovery.
How To Prevent Sunburn?
There’s no better way to heal a bad sunburn than to prevent getting one! You can’t avoid sun exposure, but you can still protect yourself from UV radiation and sun damage.
The next time you’re enjoying the outdoors, protect your skin with these tips:
• Use a broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher formula to protect against both UVA rays and UVB rays
• Apply all over your body every day—even on those gloomy overcast ones!
• Reapply often if you plan on being outside all day. If your sunscreen isn’t waterproof, double up every few hours
• Wear protective clothing like hats or lightweight clothing that covers your body to minimize sun exposure. Time to break out that straw sun hat from the back of the closet!
Can you get sunburned even on cloudy days? Surprisingly, yes. So make sure to apply SPF even when it’s overcast. So what helps sunburn? The best way is to apply a calming agent like our DeliKate® Recovery Cream formulated with peptides and ceramides that soothe stressed skin.
Soothe Stressed Skin with Kate Somerville
While you can’t heal a blistering sunburn overnight, taking care of your sunburn requires a pinch of patience and soothing products that can help to restore your skin naturally. Kate Somerville’s DeliKate™Collection is expertly formulated to calm irritation, reduce redness, and improve the skin barrier after UV damage.
Whether you’re jetting off on vacation or salvaging your skin at home, keep our stressed skin savers on hand to rescue your skin and kiss the worst of your sunburns goodbye. But in case you get severe sunburn after your trip, better visit a skin care clinic to have it treated by our Skin Health Experts.
Mayo Clinic. Sunburn. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sunburn/symptoms-causes/
Medical News Today. How long does a sunburn take to heal? https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319793#how-long-does-sunburn-last
American Academy of Dermatology. How to Treat Sunburn. https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/injured-skin/burns/treat-sunburn
National Library of Medicine. Aloin Suppresses Lipopolysaccharide-Induced Inflammatory Response and Apoptosis by Inhibiting the Activation of NF-κB. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6017010/
National Library of Medicine. Anti-inflammatory activities of colloidal oatmeal (Avena sativa) contribute to the effectiveness of oats in treatment of itch associated with dry, irritated skin. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25607907/