The Best Thing To Put On Your Sunburn

After being cooped up inside for what feels like forever, the rush to get outside and bask in the sun at the first opportunity is totally understandable. And if you were blissfully relaxed and dozed off out there, only to wake up with a painful sunburn, that's understandable too. You've got lots of company.

Of course, your skin doesn't care how badly you crave sunshine. It will protest against the onslaught of UV rays just the same. Although getting some sunshine is great for boosting vitamin D levels (along with our spirits), too much of it just isn't good for our skin. Thankfully, there are some great OTC products to help with healing after sunburn. At the top of the list is everyone's favorite soothing gel, aloe.

Aloe plants have been used for centuries to help with everything from sunburn to digestive issues. Joel Schlessinger, M.D., an Omaha-based dermatologist, explains "Its stems store water, creating a clear, gel-like substance that contains vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, and amino acids" (via Good Housekeeping).

One of the compounds found in aloe, called aloin, has been shown to act as an anti-inflammatory agent, which helps promote the healing of skin inflamed by sunburn. Aloe gel is also an effective moisturizer, and can help prevent or minimize peeling (via Healthline).

Aloe gel can help heal sunburn

Aloe is also considered very safe for most people to use topically when applied directly to first- or second-degree burns. For severe burns (third- or fourth-degree) though, medical treatment is necessary.

To get the benefits to your skin from aloe gel, the best option is to use it raw, getting it directly from the leaves of the plant. If that's not possible, the next best option is to buy 100 percent aloe gel, or a gel that has the highest percentage of aloe possible. Although research on aloe-containing products is limited, one small study found that lotion containing 70 percent aloe provided no benefits, so it seems that sticking to the pure gel is the best bet.

And of course, using sun protection before going outside is better than dealing with a painful burn afterwards. As Misha Rosenbach, M.D., associate professor of dermatology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, succinctly puts it, "Try not to get sunburned in the first place" (via SELF).