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A person may be able to treat mild sunburn at home by taking cool showers, wearing loose clothing that shields the skin, and using lotion. However, it is important to use the right type of lotion, as some may cause further irritation.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), aloe vera gel, moisturizing cream, or 1% hydrocortisone cream may ease the symptoms of sunburn as it heals.

This article discusses how to care for sunburned skin, the best types of lotion to use, and some examples.

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Sunburn results from too much exposure to UV light. A person can develop it from spending too much time in the sun or using tanning beds.

Symptoms of sunburn include:

  • warm, tender skin
  • swelling
  • blistering
  • peeling

A person with sunburn may also feel tired, nauseous, or dehydrated. People with these symptoms should drink water and stay out of the sun.

Mild sunburn typically heals on its own in 3–5 days. Certain lotions may provide some relief, reducing soreness as the skin heals. However, there is no fast-acting cure for sunburn.

While many different products are available, few ingredients have been proven to help sunburn heal.

A 2015 review in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine notes that aloe vera gel may promote the healing of skin burns, achieving results more quickly than a 1% silver sulfadiazine ointment. Other studies show that aloe vera helps with wound repair, in general.

Consequently, pure aloe vera gel, or products containing high amounts of aloe vera, may help soothe sunburn.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) also recommends products that contain soy.

There are certain ingredients that people with sunburn should avoid, including:

  • Ingredients ending in “-caine”: The AAD reports that these ingredients, such as benzocaine, may irritate sunburned skin or cause an allergic reaction.
  • Oils and petroleum: According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, oil- or petroleum-based creams may worsen sunburn by trapping heat in the skin.

Medical News Today chooses products that fit the following criteria where possible.

  • Skin type: Products that are suitable for a range of skin types, such as dry and irritated skin.
  • Ingredients: Products with a range of ingredients that may help repair sunburned skin, such as aloe vera.
  • Price: Products that are available in a range of budgets.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

Below is a selection of sunburn lotions available to purchase online.

Best for a non-sticky lotion: Seven Minerals’ Organic Aloe Vera Gel

This contains a high percentage of aloe vera, along with several other ingredients that naturally preserve it for a longer shelf life.

The company states that its gel can help with sunburn and after sun care, along with dry skin, itching, and irritation.

According to the makers, thickening ingredients keep the gel from being sticky. The brand also says that its aloe vera comes from Department of Agriculture-certified farms in the United States.

Best for reducing skin peeling: Sun Bum Cool Down Aloe Vera Gel

This product contains aloe vera gel, vitamin E, and tea tree oil to moisturize and calm sunburned skin. Vitamin E can protect the skin from some of the damaging effects of solar radiation, and the small amount of tea tree oil in this formula may be mildly antiseptic.

According to the company, this product has been approved by dermatologists and has a lightweight, non-greasy texture.

Reviewers claim that it helps reduce skin peeling and soreness after sunburn.

The company recommends keeping this gel in the refrigerator to cool the skin and prolong its shelf life.

Best for a fragrance-free lotion: CeraVe Hydrocortisone Cream 1%

This contains a 1% concentration of hydrocortisone, a medication that can help ease itching caused by sunburn. It also contains ceramides and hyaluronic acid, which add moisture to the skin to relieve dryness.

According to the company, this cream is fragrance-free and has an emollient formula that provides long lasting relief from dry or itchy skin.

This product has the highest concentration of hydrocortisone available without a prescription. CeraVe warns people to use the cream no more than three or four times per day, and it is not suitable for babies and toddlers younger than 2.

Best for a non-greasy lotion: Gold Bond Healing Skin Therapy Lotion

  • Key ingredients: Aloe vera and vitamins A, C, and E.
  • Size: 14 oz.
  • Price: Around $9.99.

Gold Bond’s hypoallergenic skin lotion contains aloe vera and vitamins A, C, and E. The company claims that its ingredients penetrate the skin to prevent dryness.

This product claims to keep the skin moisturized and does not leave a greasy residue. Additionally, the company states that this lotion promotes elasticity and collagen formation.

People can apply this product to any area of their body. It is also suitable for dry or rough skin.

Best for itchy sunburn: Burt’s Bees Aloe & Coconut After Sun Soother

  • Active ingredients: Coconut oil and aloe vera.
  • Size: 6 oz.
  • Price: Around $11.40

This product’s main ingredients are coconut oil and aloe vera, which may help soothe painful and itchy sunburn.

The lotion also contains glycerin, which acts as a humectant, boosting the moisture on the skin. Additionally, this product is free from parabens, phthalates, petroleum, and sodium lauryl sulfate.

People can apply this product to any area of their body. However, some customers state that this lotion has a sticky texture.

In addition to applying lotion or gel, the AAD recommends people can also treat sunburn by:

  1. Taking frequent baths or showers with cool or tepid water.
  2. Patting the body dry with a clean towel — not rubbing.
  3. Applying a suitable lotion when the skin is still slightly damp.
  4. Drinking extra water to prevent dehydration.
  5. Protecting sunburned areas by keeping them covered.
  6. Allowing any skin blisters to heal and not picking at them.

Learn more about other ways to manage sunburn symptoms.

While sunburn is temporary and usually heals on its own, it can cause long lasting damage and increase the risk of skin cancer. The best way to avoid this is to prevent sunburn from occurring.

The AAD recommends:

  • avoiding sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
  • wearing sun-protective clothing
  • using a broad-spectrum SPF of 30 or higher, even on cloudy days
  • reapplying sunscreen every 2 hours

Some people have a higher risk of severe sunburn, including those who:

  • have very fair skin
  • take medications that make their skin more sensitive to the sun
  • use certain skin care products and treatments, such as acid peels

These people should take extra care to protect their skin from the sun.

In most cases, a person can treat their sunburn at home. However, a person should consult a doctor immediately if any of the following occur:

  • severe sunburn covering more than 15% of the body
  • a high fever
  • dehydration
  • severe pain that lasts longer than 48 hours

Individuals should also contact a doctor if sunburned skin seems infected or does not respond to home care.

Below are some common questions about sunburn lotion.

How often should I reapply lotion when I have a sunburn?

People should always follow the instructions when applying lotion. Some brands recommend using the product up to four times per day.

The United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) recommends taking pain medication to help reduce the pain and inflammation that can develop with sunburn.

What are the main ingredients to look for or avoid in a lotion for sunburn?

According to the AAD, individuals who have sunburn can consider using moisturizers that contain aloe vera or soy. They can also buy a hydrocortisone cream without a prescription.

It is best to avoid products with ingredients that end in -caine, such as those that come with benzocaine, as these can cause irritation or an allergic reaction.

Are all lotions safe for children?

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, caregivers should call a doctor if a baby is under 1 and has sunburn.

For children, adults can apply a light moisturizing lotion and plain calamine lotion. They should avoid using creams containing benzocaine or hydrocortisone unless a doctor recommends these products.

A person can usually treat mild sunburn at home. Lotions that contain aloe vera, soy, or 1% hydrocortisone may help relieve the symptoms until the sunburn heals.

Sunburn can cause lasting damage to the skin, so preventing it is important. If the burn does not heal after 3–5 days, or if it is severe and causes significant pain, consult a doctor immediately.