Asian woman holding a drink while sunbathing in a pool

So you skipped sunscreen and ended up standing under the sun, or maybe you wanted to get a nice tan but somehow went overboard with your sunbathing. Sunburn always sucks, but its aftermath is way worse. The good news is, you’re likely to always wear sunscreen from here on (at least we hope). In the meantime, let's set things straight. Here are the myths and facts on how to treat sunburn safely at home.

First things first: do not try to self-treat severe sunburn, according to the U.K. National Health Services. There are various degrees. Minor redness and tenderness are considered mild. However, if it covers a large area of the body, has blisters, and is accompanied by pain, fever, nausea, and chills, you need medical attention. Otherwise, the skin will start to flake, peel, and heal in around seven days.

DON’T Apply Mentholated Cream

Some skincare products contain menthol and camphor to help soothe the skin. These include shaving lotions, moisturizers, and even shaving cream. They can also have moisturizing ingredients like shea butter and glycerin, which can be comforting on .

Technically, applying it on a minor sunburnt area can soothe the skin, but it can also irritate it and make things worse. The National Institutes of Health also notes that these products also use fragrances that trigger allergic contact dermatitis.

DO Slather on Aloe Vera Gel

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends applying aloe vera gel to relieve sunburn. The humectant properties of aloe vera can help draw more hydration to the skin's surface to speed up healing. However, it’s best to use dermatologist-tested products that contain than the plant itself. If you’re using the plant, perform a patch test to rule out allergies.

Try a lightweight, gel moisturizer like POND'S Aloe Vera Jelly Moisturizer. Infused with aloe vera extract and that helps nourish, soothe, and renew the skin.

DON’T Coat It with Petroleum Jelly

These days, it seems there’s a for everything — but not for sunburn. The NHS strongly advises not to apply pure petroleum jelly on sunburnt skin because it’s an occlusive that blocks the pores. On healthy skin, sure, it can help lock moisture in. But on burnt skin, it traps all sorts of things like heat and sweat, leading to infections and delaying healing. 

Instead, apply lotion, such as Vaseline Intensive Care Aloe Soothe Body Lotion, which lets the skin breathe while deeply nourishing it with essential moisture.

DO Take a Shower

Once you start feeling the symptoms of sunburn, get out of the sun immediately and cool down. You can do this by drinking water to prevent dehydration and taking a cold shower to balance out your temperature. According to the Red Cross, cold water can reduce pain and swelling. However, avoid using ice-cold water. It may damage the burnt tissue further.

DON’T Put Sunscreen on Sunburn

There’s no making up for not wearing sunscreen by applying it when you need it least. Sunscreens contain zinc oxide, which has anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce swelling. However, it's not the only ingredient on the list — and other chemicals can be irritating to a sunburn. Instead, apply a non-comedogenic, unscented lotion.

Follow how to treat sunburn safely to avoid causing more harm to your skin. And next time, apply sunscreen to prevent sunburn, not a minute too late.