The 13 Best Sunburn Relief Products, According to Dermatologists

Experts recommend this sunburn relief plan to help cool, soothe, and heal your skin after getting too much sun.

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Sunburn remedies
Photo: IMAGE(S) BY SARA LYNN PAIGE/GETTY IMAGES

We get it—you went to the beach and forgot to reapply your SPF, or were enjoying the warm weather and didn't realize how long you were sitting out under the hot sun. Either way, you now look like a red hot jellybean (with bubbly blisters—yikes!) and it's more than a little painful. While the best plan of action is to prevent sunburn in the first place—since it can increase your risk of developing skin cancer and cause your skin to age quicker—no one's perfect, and most of us have made this mistake at one point or another. Once the damage is done, it's time to follow up with some good 'ole TLC for your skin, which may include utilizing some skin-soothing products that are specially formulated to treat sunburn.

These are the best sunburn relief products in 2021

How to treat a sunburn

A sunburn affects the skin in a similar way that a burn from the oven does, says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. "The skin barrier becomes disrupted and inflamed, and there is injury to skin cells themselves." So, if you develop a sunburn, you actually want to take care of the skin from the outside in and the inside out, he adds.

The first step is to gently wash your skin with a hydrating cleanser to remove sunscreen, sand, dirt, and oil without further disrupting the skin barrier, Dr. Zeichner tells Health. Take care to avoid harsh scrubs and exfoliators, since this could further irritate your skin. After, gently apply a light moisturizer to help repair the damaged skin barrier and replace lost hydration. Steer clear of heavy ointments since they tend to trap heat and prevent the skin from cooling down, Dr. Zeichner says, and choose products that contain soothing ingredients like aloe vera instead.

For individual red areas, apply 1% hydrocortisone cream to calm inflammation, he suggests. "The quicker you soothe inflammation, the less potential damage the skin will experience." As for any open wounds or raw skin, treat it the same way you would treat a thermal burn: Apply an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment like bacitracin ($5; amazon.com) to the individual area—this will form a protective seal and prevent it from getting infected, says Dr. Zeichner. But if you develop a blister, make sure to leave the roof intact because it protects the underlying raw skin from the environment and acts like a natural bandage, he adds.

Whatever you do, don't pop blisters or peel your skin, as this can lead to infection and scarring, says Rachel Nazarian, MD, a New York-based dermatologist and fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology. If your blisters are making it uncomfortable to wear clothes, sleep, or walk, contact your doctor about draining them or treating them safely, she adds.

RELATED: The Sun Poisoning Symptoms You Should Know—and How to Treat Them

The best at-home remedies for sunburn relief

While it may seem obvious, it's worth noting that you need to stay out of the sun or wear sun protective clothing if you have to be outdoors while your sunburn is recovering. Keep your skin cool by taking cold showers and applying moist, cool compresses. You can also take ibuprofen to decrease inflammation, and be sure to drink a lot of water to stay hydrated. "Sunburned skin is not able to maintain moisture as well, so there's a higher risk of dehydration," Dr. Nazarian explains.

Cucumber slices, milk, and yogurt can also be applied to the skin to help soothe a sunburn. Applying cold milk compresses or soaking in a milk bath will help pull heat away from your body, while the vitamin E in yogurt can help minimize inflammation, says Debra Jaliman, MD, a dermatologist based in New York City.

Cornstarch is another great way to naturally calm a burn because of its cooling and silky texture, and you can easily create a paste by adding water and applying it to irritated skin, Dr. Jaliman notes. Sprinkling talcum powder on your sheets can make sleeping more comfortable because it'll prevent friction on your skin when turning over or moving in your sleep, she adds.

Here, dermatologists recommend their favorite products for getting rid of sunburn quickly and effectively. In combination with their useful tips, above, these 13 soothing products will help you ditch your pesky sunburn and finally get some immediate relief.

RELATED: The Best Moisturizers to Combat Dry, Flaky Skin, According to Dermatologists

Best Overall: Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration Moisturizing After Sun Lotion

Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration Moisturizing Sun Care After Sun Lotion
Amazon

Dr. Jaliman suggests slathering on this lotion—which is packed with moisturizing shea butter to hydrate skin and soothing aloe to cool your burn—after you've been out in the sun for a prolonged period of time and feel a mild sunburn brewing. Plus, the delicious coconut papaya fragrance will leave you smelling like a tropical vacation.

Promising Review: "Love, love, love this product. It calms my burns and soothes my skin while hydrating. It smells amazing."

Body Wash: Dove Deep Moisture Body Wash

Dove Deep Moisture Body Wash
Amazon

Dr. Zeichner is a fan of this sulfate-free body wash because it has ultra gentle ingredients—similar to what's found in traditional moisturizers—to cleanse and hydrate skin. Take a cool shower with this body wash and use it to help remove sunscreen, sand, and oil before applying aloe or repairing creams to skin.

Promising Review: "There's something different about this soap. I actually feel very clean, my skin doesn't dry out like it used to and I always get compliments on how nice I smell… One big thing I noticed is when I get sunburnt. When I used Old Spice body wash, I used to peel and crack all the time on my face, arms and legs. With Dove, I've never peeled or cracked."

Best Body Lotion: Vaseline Intensive Care Aloe Soothe Body Lotion

Vaseline Intensive Care Aloe Soothe
Amazon

This non-greasy after-sun cream absorbs quickly and can be easily spread over large body surfaces—like your arms, legs, chest, and back—without feeling heavy on the skin, says Dr. Zeichner. It contains glycerin, which draws moisture to the skin, along with aloe extract and Vaseline's healing jelly to lock in moisture so that you (*fingers crossed*) don't peel.

Promising Review: "The best moisturiser for sunburn. It smells like a holiday. It soaks into the skin really well and is very soothing."

Best Aloe Gel: Banana Boat Soothing Aloe After Sun Gel

Banana Boat Aloe Vera
Amazon

A favorite of both Dr. Nazarian and Dr. Jaliman, this super affordable, lightweight gel boasts cooling and calming aloe vera to help heal your burns and offer relief. Even better? It also contains anti-inflammatory vitamin E to moisturize, prevent signs of aging, and defend the skin from free radical damage.

Promising Review: "This is the best stuff I've found for treating sunburns. From just a mild pink from getting just a little too much sun, to the deep burns when I really mess up and spend too much time in the sun. This goes on really cool and helps stop the active burning and helps heal quickly… Nothing else has ever worked as good."

Best for Peeling Skin: Burt's Bees Aloe & Coconut Oil After Sun Soother

Burt's Bees Aloe & Coconut Oil Aftersun Soother
Amazon

Another pick from Dr. Jaliman, this paraben-free lotion features coconut oil and glycerin to rehydrate peeling, sunburnt skin and help replenish its natural moisture. Simultaneously, aloe vera and linden extract work to soothe irritation and accelerate the skin's healing process. The formula is also rich in antioxidants, which can neutralize the damaging effects of the sun's UV rays, free radicals, and other environmental stressors.

Promising Review: "My skin loves it, it absorbs it right up. There is no greasy feel afterward, and I dont stick to clothing. It also helps prevent peeling because it in fact does help keep your skin moisturized. Mind you, it doesn't prevent it 100 percent. But if you do apply it accordingly, it keeps the peeling to a minimum."

Best for Itch Relief: Aveeno Anti-Itch Concentrated Lotion

Aveeno Anti-Itch Concentrated Lotion
Amazon

Dr. Zeichner likes this cream for treating burns because it's enriched with a double punch of colloidal oatmeal and calamine to protect skin and minimize annoying post-sun itchiness. It's also formulated with pramoxine hydrochloride, which packs in extra itch relief and reduces minor pain and discomfort. This multi-use product is great to have on hand in the summertime for treating everything from bug bites to poison ivy.

Promising Review: This is the best lotion I have ever found for rashes… I get an allergic reaction to the sun and nothing works for me but this product. It is very soothing just putting it on."

Best Spray: Eau Thermale Avene Thermal Spring Water Spray

Eau Thermale Avene Thermal Spring Water, Soothing Calming Facial Mist Spray
Amazon

This gentle, refreshing mist from French beauty brand Avene will not only cool your sunburn and help to lessen the pain, but it can also alleviate redness and irritation associated with other skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema, and rosacea, notes Dr. Nazarian. Also great? The antioxidant-rich spray is ideal for sensitive skin types and can even be used to reduce razor burn after shaving.

Promising Review: "It's great for calming sensitive skin, sunburn, any type of skin irritation, cooling down from being overheated (put it in the fridge for a while, it feels amazing). Or even just setting your makeup if it's looking too matte. If you have rosacea, it's a miracle product and you should buy this immediately. Recommended it to my mother, who was experiencing hot flashes due to menopause and she loves it too."

Best for Reducing Redness: Quinn's Alcohol-Free Witch Hazel

Quinn’s Alcohol Free Witch Hazel Rose Petal
Amazon

Interested in a more natural remedy? Dr. Jaliman recommends trying witch hazel to minimize inflammation and redness. A bottle that previously got her stamp of approval: Quinn's, which is alcohol-free (so it won't sting or dry out skin) and features aloe to cool and soothe even the most sensitive skin types. The anti-inflammatory formula can help reduce redness and is naturally scented with luxurious rose petals, so it'll leave your skin smelling sweet and fresh.

Promising Review: "I really like this astringent and the rose smell is wonderful. I use it mostly as facial toner, but it works well on sunburns, bug bites and also some [rashes from] poison ivy that I came in contact with."

Best for Healing Broken Skin: Dynarex Bacitracin Ointment

Dynarex Corporation Bacitracin Ointment
Amazon

If your sunburn has caused any open or raw skin, be sure to treat it like you would a thermal burn, says Dr. Zeichner. He suggests applying an antibiotic ointment like bacitracin to the affected area, which will create a protective seal and prevent any potential infections.

Promising Review: "This is a really great cream that is soft and soothing and soaks into wounds well. We also have six grandkids who get the usual bumps and scrapes, and it works like magic for them. It doesn't sting and there's no nasties in this cream so it is a safe and good product for little ones' skin."

Best for Preventing Blisters: Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar

Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar
Amazon

According to Dr. Jaliman, apple cider vinegar is perfect for treating sunburn since it helps cool the skin and prevent any peeling or blistering. The popular wellness remedy also boasts antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and can even be used as a natural toner to rebalance your skin. Since vinegar is very acidic, it can be irritating on its own and it's recommended to dilute the apple cider vinegar before applying it to your skin.

Promising Review: "I was using different apple cider vinegar and it didn't seem to be working with anything I tried it on. I used this and I can tell a major difference. Used it on a bad sunburn I had that was blistering and I felt miserable and It was gone the next day."

Best for Lips: Dr. Dan's Cortibalm for Dry Cracked Lips

Dr. Dan's Cortibalm Healing Lip Balm for Severely Chapped Lips
Amazon

According to Connecticut-based dermatologist Rhonda Q. Klein, MD, applying a soothing lip balm like Dr. Dan's Cortibalm balm can help alleviate sunburned lips. It's powered by 1% hydrocortisone to reduce redness, relieve pain, and kick start your skin's healing process. It also includes beeswax, petroleum jelly, and mineral oil to lock in hydration.

Promising Review: "Hands down THE best lip balm I have ever used! I had severe dry lips from an unfortunate antibiotics-related sunburn, and this healed my lips when absolutely nothing else did. I would not only buy this again, I have recommended it to several people."

Updated by
Emily Belfiore

Emily Belfiore is an experienced lifestyle writer and editor with a passion for shopping. As a buying guides writer for Health, she covers topics spanning across the fashion, beauty, and health and wellness verticals and is always in pursuit of the best reviewer-vouched products. Emily started her career as an Associate Editor for SheFinds, where she created shopping-oriented content, and has since grown her freelance portfolio by providing lifestyle coverage for Allure, BestProducts.com, Byrdie, InStyle, Real Simple, The Quality Edit, WWD, and more. She earned a Bachelor's degree in Communications and Journalism from Marist College in 2016. In her free time, you can find her testing products for articles, watching beauty tutorials, or catching up on the latest binge-worthy show.

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