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Best Overall: CeraVe Hydrocortisone Anti-Itch Cream at Amazon
"This soothing cream can be helpful in the few days after a painful burn."
"A drugstore product that comes in a large size at an exceptionally wallet-friendly price point."
Best Natural: Arm & Hammer Pure Baking Soda at Amazon
"When mixed into a cool bath, baking soda becomes a natural sunburn remedy."
Best Moisturizer: CeraVe Moisturizing Cream at Amazon
"Works to both hydrate the skin and support the natural skin barrier."
Best for Face: La Roche-Posay Thermal Spring Water Face Mist at Amazon
"Go for this soothing face mist to refresh and tone sensitive skin."
Best Cleanser: Dove Deep Moisture Body Wash at Amazon
"If you're peeling from a sunburn you should treat your skin gingerly with a gentle cleanser."
Best Gel: SunBum After Sun Cool Down Gel at Amazon
"This cooling gel uses Vitamin E as well as aloe to rehydrate skin and help prevent peeling."
Best Topical Pain Reliever: Solarcaine Cool Aloe Burn Relief Spray at Amazon
"It’s fragrance free, won’t sting or irritate, and can be applied liberally with a continuous spray."
Best Oral Pain Reliever: Basic Care Ibuprofen at Amazon
"Works well to calm fever, pain, and inflammation associated with sunburn."
Best Itch Reliever: Cortizone 10 Maximum Strength at Amazon
"Dermatologists recommend using over-the-counter cortisone to help reduce the burn's inflammation."
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: CeraVe Hydrocortisone Anti-Itch Cream
If you have a severe sunburn, you’re probably eager for some instant relief of the clinical variety. And you can get it in a way that’s soothing, budget friendly, and dermatologist recommended with our best overall pick. “For severe burns, topical corticosteroids provide relief by reducing inflammation and redness. Though not to be used long term, they can be helpful in the few days after a painful burn,” says Dr. Brendan Camp, a New York-based dermatologist. He suggests using CeraVe hydrocortisone anti-itch cream, which he notes is “marketed as a treatment for eczema, but can be used to treat sunburns.” The ceramides in this cream also work to repair the skin's barrier and leave it feeling smooth and moisturized.
Best Budget: Vaseline Intensive Care Aloe Soothe Body Lotion
Aloe vera is widely known as one of the best natural therapies to soothe sunburns, and you can administer a generous dose through a drugstore product that comes in a large size at an exceptionally wallet-friendly price point. “After a sunburn, it can be helpful to cool down the skin," recommends Dr. Marisa Garshick, also a New York-based dermatologist. "This can be with cool compresses or soaks, or with lotions that offer some relief through a soothing and cooling mechanism such as aloe vera, as in Vaseline Intensive Care Aloe Soothe Body Lotion.” The formula also includes vaseline which helps the cream penetrate deeply into the skin for better results.
Best Natural: Arm & Hammer Pure Baking Soda
You probably have several natural sunburn remedies already in your pantry at this very moment: milk, oatmeal, white vinegar, and baking soda all provide relief. If you’re not stocked up, get yourself a box of baking soda. Add a handful into a cool bath and soak for 20 minutes to reduce itching and relieve inflammation.
Best Moisturizer: CeraVe Moisturizing Cream
If you find yourself sunburned, moisturizing your skin will be key to your recovery and comfort—but be careful not to overdo it by slathering on too many heavy products. “When it comes to products post-sunburn, often less is more,” says Dr. Garshick. “As the sunburn progresses, the skin can become dry and it is important to continue to moisturize with a moisturizing cream, such as CeraVe, which works to both hydrate the skin and support the natural skin barrier.” This moisturizer is formulated to work all over your body and is fragrance-free, paraben-free, and hypoallergenic.
Best for Face: La Roche-Posay Thermal Spring Water Face Mist
Sunburns can be particularly painful on your face where the skin is delicate. If you need relief from sunburn around that area, you should go for this soothing face mist to refresh and tone sensitive skin. “Keep your body cool—take a cool shower or bath to reduce the heat and pain associated with a sunburn,” advises Dr. Camp. “If you can’t get to a shower and need quick relief, misting water is a luxurious way to stay cool. La Roche-Posay makes a mist from mineral-rich thermal spring water” that has soothing and antioxidant properties. It sprays evenly on your face and is gentle so it won't be painful to apply on delicate skin.
Best Cleanser: Dove Deep Moisture Body Wash
If you’re peeling from a sunburn, do not—repeat do not—pop blisters or peel dead skin. (And be warned that blistering sunburns are an indication you might need to consult a dermatologist, Dr. Camp says.) Instead, treat your skin as gingerly as possible with a gentle cleanser. “It may be tempting to want to peel off any dead skin, but it is best to avoid any exfoliating while the skin is sensitive and healing as it can further irritate the skin,” Dr. Garshick says. “Instead, stick with a gentle cleanser such as Dove Deep Moisture Body Wash, and avoid any vigorous rubbing.” This one also gets bonus points for being cruelty-free and housed inside a recycled plastic bottle.
Best Gel: SunBum After Sun Cool Down Gel
This cooling gel is made with Vitamin E as well as aloe to rehydrate skin, help prevent peeling, and ease pain. “Aloe is a tried-and-true sunburn treatment because of its calming effects,” Dr. Camp says. “SunBum makes an aloe-based gel to use after a long day in the sun.” He also advises storing it in the refrigerator to keep the gel cool, which adds an extra dose of relief as you apply.
Best Topical Pain Reliever: Solarcaine Cool Aloe Burn Relief Spray
Get instant relief without even touching your painfully sunburned skin with Solarcaine spray. It’s made with Lidocaine HCL to relieve pain and aloe vera, which moisturizes and soothes by drawing heat away from the skin. It’s fragrance free, won’t sting or irritate, and can be applied liberally with a continuous spray. As an added bonus, it reduces itchiness from your bug bites too.
Best Oral Pain Reliever: Basic Care Ibuprofen
Multiple dermatologists we spoke to recommended Ibuprofen as an over-the-counter oral pain reliever that works well to calm the pain and inflammation of sunburn. “Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen may help with fever, pain, and inflammation associated with sunburn,” Dr. Camp says. Plus, it’s a versatile medicine cabinet staple you’ll want to have on hand for pain anyway.
Best Itch Reliever: Cortizone 10 Maximum Strength
“When patients have sunburns, we like calming ingredients like glycerin or aloe vera. If painful, I have my patients apply over-the-counter cortisone to help reduce the inflammation,” notes New York-based dermatologist Dr. Dhaval G. Bhanusali. So keep some Cortizone on hand and apply as directed. But do trust your gut and consult a doctor if your condition is extreme. “If it continues to be painful, I recommend them seeing a medical professional,” Bhanusali says. “We sometimes increase the strength of the steroids or cover for potential infections which commonly occur.”
Best Tool: Therapearl Reusable Hot or Cold Pack
Nothing feels better on a sunburn than a cooling compress and nothing is more cooling than ice. Get that feeling of icy relief by keeping this gel bead compress in the freezer for two hours and then placing it on your burn for about 20 minutes of relief. Keep freezing over and over and repeat.
When cool, this product is also great to place on your forehead for headaches. Or you can also warm it in the microwave for heating relief from other types of pain, such as sore muscles after a workout.
Best Sunburn Prevention: EltaMD UV Sport
We’d be remiss if we didn’t point out this important health message: the best way to ease the discomfort of sunburn is to not get one in the first place. So when you’re heading outside for long periods of time, think ahead. “The best sunburn treatment is prevention,” Dr. Camp says. “The American Academy of Dermatology recommends selecting a sunscreen that meets the following criteria: broad-spectrum protection (protects against UVA and UVB rays), SPF 30 or higher, and water resistance. EltaMD makes a mineral-based sunscreen that meets all the above criteria.” It's SPF 50, water resistant for up to 80 minutes, and is free of fragrances and parabens.