We all know sunscreen is a summer must, but when you live in Australia, chances are you’ll still wonder how to get rid of sunburn at least once in your life.
Whether you forgot to top up your face sunscreen or missed the spot on the back of your knees (it happens!) we feel your pain. The redness and peeling that comes with a big burn sure ain’t pretty – not to mention it can also be quite uncomfortable.
Thankfully, help is at hand. Keep scrolling to find out how long it takes for sunburn to go away, plus tips and tricks to speed up the process…
How long does it take for sunburn to subside?
Often when you experience a sunburn, you won’t realise it until well after you’ve left the beach. As healthdirect.gov.au explains: “Skin that has been sunburnt turns red within hours – and the sunburn will continue to develop for the next one to three days.”
From this point onwards, the time frame for sunburnt skin to fully heal depends on a few factors. These include the severity of the sunburn, the treatments used, and your skin’s general healing ability. Typically, you’re looking at three to five days for mild sunburn, and up to one week for moderate sunburn.
Severe sunburn is a different story, with symptoms lasting for up to two weeks. If you experience a fever, severe dehydration and/or blistering, you may require a visit to the doctor for treatment (and even hospitalisation in very extreme cases). If this sounds like you, get to the GP, stat!
What should I do immediately after I’ve been sunburnt?
First things first: have a cool shower. It may sound simple, but skin care experts say the water will help take the heat off your skin and reduce the severity of the burn. It’s also best to avoid using your usual soap or body wash, as this may irritate or dry out your sensitive skin even more.
If possible, let your skin air-dry post-shower. But if you must use a towel, gently pat your skin dry, rather than rubbing it, to avoid causing further discomfort.
Once your skin is dry, wrap a few ice cubes or an ice block in a wet tea towel and lightly press it against the affected area. Doing this for 15 to 20 minutes at a time will help soothe the discomfort and reduce the heat factor.
What are the best skin care products for sunburn?
Itching to slather lotion on your sun-ravaged skin? Do your skin a favour and swap your usual face or body moisturiser for an aloe vera-infused alternative. Whether you opt for an aloe vera gel, moisturiser or spray, studies have shown the soothing ingredient will help moisturise and cool your skin.
Top aloe vera product picks
- Natralus Superfood Repair Gel ($19.20 for 200ml at natralus.com.au)
- Plunkett’s Certified Organic Aloe Vera Spray ($10.49 for 125ml at Chemist Warehouse)
- Palmer’s Aloe Vera Formula Moisturising Gel ($6.49 for 125g at Chemist Warehouse)
- Bondi Sands Aloe Vera Aftersun Gel Tube ($8.95 for 200ml at bondisands.com.au)
Vitamin E is also fantastic for helping to repair skin damage. Opt for a lotion or gel formula, as these will help cool your skin. Try The Body Shop Vitamin E Gel Moisture Cream ($25 at The Body Shop) and Hamilton Skin Therapy Lotion ($17.49 at Chemist Warehouse).
Are there any good home remedies for sunburn?
In addition to specially formulated skin care products, there are also some effective home remedies for sunburn:
- The tea bag treatment
Steep black tea bags in hot water and allow the water to cool, then place the tea bags directly on your sunburn. The tannins in the tea are a natural astringent and studies show they can help heal burns and prevent infection!
- The bicarb soda bath
The beauty benefits of bicarb soda extend to sunburn. Simply dissolve 100g of bicarb in a tepid bath and soak your poor, burnt bod for about 15 minutes to reap the anti-inflammatory benefit.
- The soothing oatmeal solution
Oatmeal isn’t just good for breakfast – it’s also an effective skin soother and moisturiser. For best results, pass cold water through a sieve containing dry oatmeal and collect the water in a bowl. Then, soak up the solution with a cloth and use it to apply the solution to your sunburn for some relief.
Can the peeling be prevented?
Unfortunately, if your skin has been badly burnt, peeling is an unavoidable part of the healing process. Moisturising may help stop the skin shedding in the short term, but you have to remember that the top layer of your skin is dead (and surely you don’t want that sticking to you for all eternity, amirite?!).
The good news is, you can help your skin to shed in a more discrete way. Don’t pick or pull at the peeling, as you may accidentally tear healthy skin. Instead, keep the area well moisturised to help promote skin cell turnover, and keep it covered to avoid exposure to the elements (which can dry out the skin and slow the process).
Is there anything else I can do to help support the healing process?
In addition to using soothing skin care products, there are a few other things you can do to help speed up the healing process:
- Stay out of the sun, as additional sun exposure will worsen your burn.
- Drink lots of water. Not only does prolonged sun exposure cause dehydration, sunburn also draws water to your skin’s surface and away from the rest of your body.
- Wear loose-fitting clothing in a skin-friendly fabric, such as light cotton. Avoid fabrics that are rough or itchy as these will irritate your sensitive skin!
Main image credit: @mirandakerr
Have you had bad sunburn before? What are your top tips for treating sunburnt skin?