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Our Top Tips for Sunburn Skincare

| Skylar Black

Our Top Tips for Sunburn Skincare

The Best Ways to Prevent and Treat Sunburn

Everybody wants the perfect tan, but that means that you risk getting a sunburn. There’s nothing more unpleasant than starting your vacation or simply enjoying some time outside and coming home with inflamed, itchy, and irritated skin.

Sunburns are caused by exposure to too much of a specific wavelength of ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun. When your skin is initially exposed to UV light, your body’s first response is to start producing melanin to protect you. Melanin is a dark pigment that appears in the outer layers of your skin, which is what makes you tan!

Sunburn Skincare Tips

However, if you’re exposed to too much UV light, you can pass the tanning threshold and end up with a sunburn. Depending on the severity and placement of the sunburn, it can take days or even weeks to heal. In some cases, sunburns can permanently affect your skin if it’s not treated properly. Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to make sure that your sunburn heals quickly and that you’re comfortable as the process progresses - here are our top tips for sunburn treatment.

Take a Cool Bath

As soon as you realise that you've been sunburned, it's important to get out of the sun and start treating it immediately. Most people's first port of call is cold water, and many dermatologists highly recommend this as the first step.

Cold water can help soothe inflammation and stop the sunburn from getting worse. Ideally, you should immerse yourself in a cool bath or take a cool shower, just under room temperature. As soon as you get out, gently pat yourself dry with a soft towel - don't rub too hard, or you'll irritate your raw skin even more! Leave a little bit of moisture on your skin and apply a moisturiser or sunburn cream over it to trap water and prevent dryness.

Cool Bath to Treat Sunburn

If you can't get into a cold bath or if your burn is really localised, you can create a cold compress by soaking a cloth in equal parts cold milk and ice water. The pH levels and proteins in the milk will help soothe the burn more than water alone.


Sunburns will dry out your skin and decimate its natural barrier, so the main sunburn treatment recommended by dermatologists is to moisturise the area regularly throughout the healing process. There are a wide variety of products that you can use as a sunburn cream, including:

  • Face or body creams that contain antioxidants like vitamin C and vitamin E - antioxidants can help fight some of the cellular damage from sunburns that has been linked to skin cancer! We love Sun Bum’s After Sun Cool Down Lotion, but any lotion or cream with antioxidant properties should do the trick!
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  • Moisturisers that contain ceramides - these are great for fighting dehydration and reinforcing your skin’s natural barrier while it heals!
  • Aloe vera gels - aloe is a powerful soothing ingredient that’s good for your skin no matter what state it’s in! You can get aloe gel right from the plant in tropical locales, but savvy sun-worshippers always carry aloe treatments like the After Sun Cool Down Gel from Sun Bum.
  • Creams that contain soy - soy might seem like something you’re going to find in your pantry before you find it in your medicine cabinet, but it’s actually great for trapping water in your skin after a sunburn!
  • Calamine lotion - calamine is another super-soother that’s especially good for the itching and discomfort you might experience as your sunburn heals.
  • Colloidal oatmeal - this isn’t a fancy breakfast item; colloidal oatmeal is a common ingredient in topical products designed to treat eczema, and it’s a double-hitter for sunburns with both anti-inflammatory and skin barrier repairing properties!
  • Over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams - if you’re experiencing a lot of discomfort, these steroid-based creams are built to treat a wide variety of skin conditions, including sunburns!

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

This one might seem like common sense, given that you’re spending time in the sun anyway, but hydration is especially important when you’ve got a sunburn. Sunburned skin draws fluids outwards, away from the spots that really need it. Drinking more water than usual can help you avoid getting dehydrated and falling victim to other issues like heat exhaustion.

Sunburn Treatment

Try A Laser Treatment

If you’re extensively sunburnt or just want to speed up your healing process, specific laser treatments can help. LED laser therapy is designed to tone down inflammation in the skin and promote wound healing with pulses of red light. You can also opt for a resurfacing laser treatment to counteract any latent hyperpigmentation or photo damage that might emerge after your sunburn heals.

While this can be a great option, most dermatologists don’t recommend doing any of these treatments until your sunburn has had a chance to heal for at least a week.

Laser Treatment for Sunburn

Things to Avoid

While there are many products and DIY ideas that work for sunburn treatment, there are a few things that you should avoid if you want your burn to heal quickly:

  • Avoid hot showers and baths for the first week or so after your sunburn - hot water can irritate your skin and strip it of oils that are vital during your healing process.
  • Avoid using soap in the affected areas as much as possible - even mild soaps can be very drying, and your skin will already be struggling to retain moisture.
  • Stop using anti-ageing creams that contain ingredients like retinol, alpha-hydroxy acids, and beta hydroxy acids - these ingredients can be really harsh on raw skin.
  • Products that contain petroleum - they might seem moisturising, but they can actually trap heat in your skin.
  • Avoid pain relief products with ingredients ending in -caine (lidocaine, benzocaine) - while they are meant to relieve pain, they can irritate sunburned skin.

Prevention Is The Best Treatment

Of course, we always recommend protecting your skin as much as possible to avoid the long-term effects of a sunburn. Always apply a sun protection cream or spray every two hours when you’re out in the sun, and wear protective clothing like hats and UV-blocking items over areas you can’t reliably protect with sunscreen.

Sunscreen to Prevent Sunburn

Here are our favourite sun cream and spray products:

Sun Bum Original Sunscreen Stick: Any beachgoer knows that sand can make sunscreen application a nightmare! We love this simple, easy stick application for in-between watersports, during events, or just on a day out with kids.

Hawaiian Tropic Antioxidant Sunscreen: Antioxidants are our knights in shining armour when it comes to protecting our skin from UV rays, and this gentle sun protection cream has them in spades!

Australian Gold Spray Gel Sunscreen with Instant Bronzer: A little extra glow never hurt anyone, and Australian Gold has brilliantly added it right into their sun cream! It’s also water-resistant for over an hour and delivered in an easily sprayable formula for even the wildest adventurers.

Happy Sun Seeking!

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Beach Notes

Follow Lucy Gibson on the Sand Dollar Blog to find out about her lifestyle, this seasons latest trends and all things beach related. A hub for people who love to chase the sun, sea and sand way of life, whilst looking and feeling their best. We have all the tips to feel just that!