You can be more on top of your sunscreen game than a Kardashian is with contouring, and yet somehow, some way, the sun will find you—always at the most inconvenient time and in a way that’s so brutal, you swear you’re never going to step outside again.
So even though we’ve already armed you with our best sunscreen recommendations and warned you that (like these poor souls) you’re probably putting your sunscreen on wrong, accidents obviously happen. It’s a long summer ahead. Prepare yourself for the worst by knowing how to treat a bad sunburn—and cover up the damage.
How to treat sunburn:
Stepping into the shower after a sun-filled day can feel like setting fire to your skin, but this is actually the perfect time to fast track the healing process. Before doing anything else, dermatologist Francesca Fusco, M.D., recommends popping an aspirin or Tylenol to immediately reduce inflammation and help with pain management. Then, take a cool shower and wash the burn with an aloe-vera-based cleanser like Naturopathica Aloe Cleansing Gel to remove grime and any sunscreen residue on your skin.
Once the area has been cleaned, apply a cold compress soaked in a mixture of milk and ice cubes to topically ease sore skin. “The cold temperature, the protein in milk, and the pH level will have a soothing and drawing-out-the-heat effect on skin,” Dr. Fusco explains. Try to do this immediately after a shower to combat pain before it really gets bad.
How to prevent sunburn from peeling:
Now that you’ve treated the area, your skin needs moisture—stat. To stop skin from flaking and peeling, slather on lotions that contain ceramides and antioxidants like vitamins C and E. For burns that need deep moisture, celebrity makeup artist Pati Dubroff, who works with Margot Robbie, recommends applying a thick moisturizer like Weleda Skin Food Cream before putting any makeup on your skin. If this feels too rich for you or you have oily skin, try Excipial 10% Urea Hydrating Healing Lotion instead to soothe and soften the damage before it gets a chance to peel.
How to color-correct the redness:
If you’re not about that tomato look, it is possible to keep a sunburn under wraps—you just need the right products. But perhaps to your surprise, foundation isn’t one of them. As hard as it is, fight the urge to put it on, and instead, begin with a light application of green-tinted color-correcting primer. Because green neutralizes redness on your skin, dab it onto the places that burnt the most (most likely the bridge of your nose and under your eyes). Just don’t layer it on too thick. Sheer is the way to go, otherwise, it’ll look caked-on.
How to conceal sunburn and tan lines:
First, step back and take a look at where your burn is the most noticeable. That’s where you’ll be applying a light layer of tinted moisturizer to further help tone down redness. Dubroff says to stick to cream-based makeup instead of powders, since powders are mattifying and could draw more attention to the areas you’re hoping to hide. “A sheer, tinted moisturizer with luminosity properties that’s one shade darker than your original skin color (pre-sunburn) works much better than any full-coverage foundations,” she says.
If your sunburn is less of an allover situation and more of a spot-treatment job, dab concealer onto only the reddest parts of your face. “Use a concealer with a yellow undertone on parts that are super-burnt to help blend it in,” Dubroff says. Translation: If you fell asleep with sunglasses on at the beach, dab concealer around the red ring surrounding your eyes to blend it into the rest of your skin color.