The One Product That Could Make Your Sunburn Even Worse

No one wants to be a Judgy McJudgerson — except when it comes to sunburn, which people seem to see as evidence of either foolishness or vanity. Either way, you'll get no sympathy — one look at your bubble-gum pink skin and suddenly everyone's up in your grill, wanting to know why you forgot your sunscreen. Didn't you know you were going to be outside in direct sunlight? Haven't you heard about so-and-so who is dealing with melanoma? Was it really that important for you to look like you'd gone on a tropical vacation? And what will the children think??

To add insult to injury — or maybe it's injury to insult, in this case — a bad sunburn really hurts, and some of the drugstore solutions you might reach for to stop the smarting (and maybe quiet the smart-mouths) can actually make your burn feel worse. Pain relief products that contain lidocaine and benzocaine may irritate already irritated skin (per Mayo Clinic). Solarcaine, Dermoplast, and Aspercreme — all labeled as sunburn relief solutions — are popular brands to avoid, but any product that has a "-caine" suffix may indeed be rubbing the proverbial salt in your wound. Some people may even have an allergic reaction to the active ingredient in these products (via Men's Journal). 

Vaseline is also a bad way to treat sunburn

Sunburned skin is so tender and dry that maybe you're tempted to moisturize it with a lubricating product like Vaseline (petroleum jelly). But this and other oil-based products can block pores so that heat and sweat cannot escape, and that can transform your sad, sore skin into a breeding ground for infection (via Medline Plus). 

So if Vaseline and benzocaine are out of the question, how on earth are you supposed to soothe a sunburn? Do you really have to suffer through the pain and the judgment party? Fortunately, there are lots of safe techniques for relieving pain. Try taking a cool bath or shower and drinking lots of cold water (via American Academy of Dermatology). These methods will hydrate your parched complexion from the inside out. (Added bonus: Excusing yourself to bathe is a great way to get out of a finger-wagging session with someone who is shocked and outraged that you dared to sunbathe.) 

A lotion that contains just natural aloe vera is a good topical treatment. If you're still feeling sore after you've tried these strategies, take a pain reliever like ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) — or, if you've traded pain for itchiness, you can take Benadryl or another an antihistamine.