Here’s how to cure a sunburn — and it doesn’t involve aloe vera

When you’re feeling the burn after a long day in the sun, don’t reach for the aloe vera.

Sure, the plant-derived gel will offer momentary cooling relief. But it’s not doing much to halt the serious damage happening on the first and second layers of our skin. In fact, a 2005 study published in the Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand found that the gel was no better for treating a sunburn than a placebo.

“It’s better than nothing,” dermatologic surgeon Dendy Engelman tells The Post. “But if you went to a dermatologist with a sunburn, we wouldn’t say, ‘Do you have aloe?’ We have better solutions.”

Engelman advises that sunburn victims first reach for ibuprofen (400 to 800 mg every 8 hours), since UV radiation causes serious inflammation of the skin cells. “The more we can decrease inflammation, the quicker the recovery,” so an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory would “calm the inflammation from within,” she says.

For even more relief, Engelman suggests taking a 10- to 15-minute tepid bath spiked with a cup of apple cider vinegar. She likes grocery store staple Bragg (, starting at $8.20) since it’s widely available. Any apple cider vinegar will offer better cooling than slathering on the aloe — and yes, the vinegar-y stink will go away once you’re dry.

“The anti-inflammatory properties of apple cider vinegar soothe irritated skin,” she says, “and acetic acid softens skin to help dead cells slough off.”

Another solution to ease the pain immediately after you spot a burn: Cool it down with a soft, cotton baby washcloth or muslin soaked in icy water and wrung out. Apply the cloth to the scorched spots until the skin cools, says aesthetician Jeannel Astarita, the founder of Just Ageless “body and beauty lab” based in lower Manhattan.

If you aren’t able to address the burn right away, Astarita advises products that will better penetrate the skin, such as Avène Cicalfate Restorative skin cream (, $42), which contains sucralfate to help restore and protect damaged skin. She also recommends splurging on DefenAge 8-in-1 Bioserum (, $220), which has a proprietary peptide blend that encourages wound healing and skin-cell turnover.

Engelman adds that a vitamin C serum — she likes Omi Skin Nutrition Revitalize Perfectly Even Corrector Serum (, $110) — can also help prevent deeper damage. “Serums will be most effective in delivering to the cellular level and they have the highest concentration of
active ingredients.”

Down the line, sunburns can lead to dry skin and pronounced lines and wrinkles. So Engelman recommends a moisturizing oil like Bio-Oil Skincare Oil (, $19.99), which is made with ingredients like vitamin E and calendula to help the skin heal and keep it moisturized.

Both Engelman and Astarita advise against slathering sunburns with thick, creamy lotions — such as those with shea butter — which can trap heat in the skin. And skip exfoliating and wearing makeup for about a week after the initial burn, so the skin has time to heal.

“Getting [a] sunburn is a big deal, and we never want that to happen,” Engelman says, adding that people should always wear sunscreen, and try to stay out of the sun if they can. But if those UV rays do get the best of you, she says, “We have to think not just about relieving the pain, but also how to help you heal better.”

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