Sunburns are the wet blanket of island vacations, three-day weekends, and pool parties everywhere. And becoming a red-hot tamale can happen to even the most SPF-equipped among us after extended exposure to the great outdoors. So what to do when your skin adopts the searing hue of Clifford the Big Red Dog and Elmo (minus the whole TickleGate)? We’ve rounded up the best over-the-counter and homeopathic remedies to target peeling, redness, inflammation, and to soothe the burn of that mean, blaring (July 4th) sun.
Creams & Moisturizers:
Clinique After Sun Rescue Balm with Aloe Aloe is the most oft-recommended reliever for the sting of your new skin tone, but it can be drying and sticky in a way that’s almost as unpleasant as the burn itself. This balm offers the same benefits as aloe, with an added moisturizer to simultaneously reduce inflammation, calm skin, and diminish the chances and/or severity of peeling.
Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream Once the intensity of your burn has subsided, a classic unscented moisturizer can help prevent peeling. For those with aversions to the heavy and slightly gooey consistency of Eight Hour Cream, a lighter product, like Cetaphil, with a quicker absorption rate is the way to go.
Merle Norman Anti Redness Cream Believe us when we say this product works. Many therapies that claim to reduce redness still leave your skin noticeably rosy. But Merle Norman’s cream dramatically delivers on its name—wear it for the course of one night’s sleep to return fuchsia skin to a normal shade.
Cold Bath A Mom favorite and a "worst case scenario" treatment of the Skin Cancer Foundation, submerging your body in just-cooler-than-lukewarm water will help ease pain and reduce irritation. If you don’t have access to a bath or don’t relish the opportunity to “soak in a basin of your own filth” (as some may say), a gentle-stream cold shower will serve the same purpose. Avoid using soap when you're still newly burnt, as the detergent will only exacerbate your burn by further drying and irritating your skin.
Cold Water Compress If you’re too tender to shower, WebMD suggests a cold compress will help in the same manner. Soak a washcloth in cold water and hold it on the burnt area for 20 minutes (or more, rewetting when necessary) for instant pain relief.
Cold Milk Compress Another version of the above, US News recommends combining cold milk and ice cubes in a bowl. Dampen a washcloth in the mixture and hold against your burn. Rinse after to avoid a 'I live on a farm' smell. Added bonus: milk fat is anti-inflammatory and moisturizing, and the cold temperature soothes the heat.
Green Tea Compress A word-of-mouth fix and instruction of Angie's List: boil water and pour over one teaspoon of loose green-tea leaves. Cover and let sit until it cools. Then, soak a cloth and place on skin for 10 minutes to reduce swelling and sting.
Thin Potato Slices In one of the lesser-known, perhaps stranger at-home remedies, some sources suggest blending raw potatoes until spreadable and applying to your skin to draw out the heat of the burn.
Your Other, Basic Options:
Ibuprofen The pill of wonders (we’re not drug pushers, we swear). Pop one or two after you realize what you've done (this usually happens after we get out of the shower following a day in the sun, but can also happen right there on the beach), to bring down inflammation and ease your discomfort. Those weary of swallowing pills can grind one up and add a bit of water to form a paste, which you can apply directly onto affected areas.
Water Drink, drink, and drink some more. Your burn can leave you dehydrated, so on top of the eight glasses of water you are drinking daily (we all listen to our doctors, yes), keep on chugging.
And, as always, if you have any other remedies up your sleeve, share away!
 Catherine McNeil photographed by Claudia Knoepfel and Stephan Indlekofer for Vogue Paris June/July 2010, [2-12] Photos by Elizabeth Brockway.