Get Rid of a Sunburn: 9 Makeup and Skincare Tricks to Reduce the Redness

Updated: Feb. 19, 2021

Neutralize sunburn with a bit of primer (and a lot of TLC).

Bowl of cooked oatmeal in a clear bowl.
iStock/Heike Rau

Soothe skin with an oatmeal facemask

Oats have been used as a soothing skin treatment for centuries. For relief from a sunburn, try soaking in an oatmeal bath. Add at least one cup of finely ground oats to the water and use your hand to swirl the water and evenly distribute the oatmeal. Then soak for 15 to 20 minutes. “Oatmeal helps moisturize the skin and ease inflammation,” says Ranella Hirsch, MD, a dermatologist in Boston, MA. You can also try a DIY mask for a sunburned face: Combine 1/2 cup hot water and 1/3 cup oatmeal. Allow them to settle for two to three minutes. Mix in two tablespoons plain yogurt, two tablespoons honey, and one egg white. Apply a thin layer of the mask to your face, and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Gently wipe the mask away with a soft washcloth. The cloth will exfoliate your skin and remove any flakes that have already begun to peel off. Find 13 more homemade facial mask recipes.

Aloe vera plant leaves and a wooden spoon.

Moisturize with aloe

Aloe can sooth a sunburn, according to the Mayo Clinic. Apply a generous amount to your sunburn and layer a gentle moisturizer (with SPF!) on top of it. The combination will offer relief and moisturize your skin without leaving a greasy residue. Avoid petroleum-based moisturizers (such as Vaseline) and body butters. Both can intensify burns by sealing heat into your skin. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) also recommends avoiding “-caine” products (such as benzocaine) when treating a sunburn because they can irritate skin or cause an allergic reaction. Try these tricks to banish dry skin.

Woman's feet and legs in a bathtub.

Take a cool bath or shower

The AAD recommends taking frequent cool baths or showers following a sunburn. When you get out of the tub or shower, pat yourself dry but leave some water on your skin. Then apply a moisturizer to help trap the water in your skin and ease dryness. To give your bath even more soothing power, add ingredients such as oatmeal (stir in about 1 cup) or milk (try 1 cup powdered milk).

Portrait of beautiful young woman washing her face splashing water in a home bathroom.
Josep Suria/Shutterstock

Avoid harsh chemicals

If you were you about to reach for your favorite daily face wash, don’t. Harsh chemicals, especially salicylic acid (the active ingredient in most acne cleansers), and harsh exfoliating products (which aren’t gentle enough for your skin right now), could further irritate your skin, says the AAD. Stick to natural ingredients. If you’re not sure about a product, skip it. Read about these 13 sunburn myths that are damaging your skin.

makeup products

Prime your makeup for perfection

Neutralize redness by using a primer with green undertones. As far as foundation goes, less is more, says Kenneth Howe, MD, a dermatologist at Wexler Dermatology in New York, NY. A liquid formula might block pores and prevent skin from healing, while a powder foundation could accentuate flakes. Try a formula that’s gentle on skin and reduces redness. For light coverage, try an all-natural mineral powder. We asked makeup artists to share more secrets.

Tin of bronzer makeup powder.

Finish your look like this

Top your primer, along with any concealer or foundation, with a generous application of bronzer (avoid ones with red or pink undertones), advises Caitlin Picou, a licensed makeup artist and the owner of Kismet Cosmetics in Covington, LA. Dust on a setting powder to keep your burn concealed and your face shine-free. Here are 10 inexpensive beauty tricks only stylists know.

Woman applying red lip liner to red lips.

Avoid red lipstick and blush

Red lipstick, tinted eyeshadow, blush, and even clothing will accentuate your sunburn instead of neutralize it. Avoid using blush (you’ve probably got enough color going on naturally) and choose eyeshadows and lip colors in golden hues instead of red ones, says Picou. If you want to know what makeup artists consider their secret weapons, we have the answers.

Slices of cantaloupe.
iStock/Erickson Photography

Eat foods with anti-inflammatory properties

Load up on foods with anti-inflammatory properties and high water content, such as yogurt and melon. Cantaloupe in particular is amazing for your skin. “This delicious fruit is rich in antioxidants and hydrates the skin, resulting in a radiant complexion,” says Nicholas Perricone, MD, a dermatologist and founder of Perricone MD in New York, NY. In addition to loading up on water-rich foods, drink a generous amount of water, the AAD advises. Try these 10 natural flavored water recipes.

Clear bottle of rosewater on a pink background.

Try a spritz of rosewater

This natural spray has antibacterial, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory properties. If your burn has got you tossing and turning all night, spritz some on your bed sheets for a soothing scent, suggests Picou. Look for a brand without alcohol or preservatives; these ingredients can worsen the irritation. And make sure you try one of these other 11 sunburn remedies that actually work to soothe and heal the burn.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest