How to get some relief when you’re feeling the (sun)burn

Getting a sunburn is never fun; your skin feels like it’s on fire and anything that touches you hurts. And if this happens to you, there are things you can do to alleviate that pain.

We have to say this first: preventing a sunburn by wearing sunscreen and covering up should be priority one. Not only can it be painful, but there’s also potential of long-term health effects.

“Every time you get a sunburn, it ages your skin and increases your risk for skin cancer,” warned Consumer Reports Health Editor Trisha Calvo.

For those times you forget to apply sunscreen or reapply it after swimming or working out, here’s what you can do to get some relief:

  • You can take frequent cool baths or showers.
  • As soon as you’re done bathing, pat yourself dry; don’t rub the towel against your skin. You want to leave your skin a little damp and then apply a moisturizer,” said Calvo.
  • Look for moisturizers that contain aloe vera or soy.
  • Because getting burned inflames the skin, taking an anti-inflammatory like aspirin or ibuprofen can help reduce swelling and alleviate discomfort.’
  • Be sure to also keep hydrated -- even drinking more water than you usually do.
  • If your skin forms blisters, don’t pop or peel them. Allow them to heal.
  • And when you go outside again, be sure to wear clothes that cover the burned areas, and stay in the shade as much as possible.

If the burn is severe, it’s recommended you see a doctor -- especially if you feel unwell, have chills, a fever, or nausea.

Recommended sunscreen

As we said, sunscreen is one of the best ways to protect yourself from getting a sunburn. A top-performing sunscreen with a perfect score -- that’s also a Consumer Reports “Smart Buy” -- is Coppertone Water Babies Lotion SPF 50. Despite its name, it can be used by adults as well. Be sure to use a teaspoon per body part or area that’s not covered up by clothing.

If you’re using a spray, hold the nozzle about an inch from your skin and spray until your skin glistens, then rub it in. And for all types of sunscreen, reapply every 2 hours and after swimming.

Consumer Reports tests dozens of sunscreens every year, see the best of 2023 here.