How to Turn a Sunburn into a Tan

It’s possible—normally, at least—to stop that bright red skin from flaking off.


Disclaimer: There’s no safe way to tan (or burn). Dermatologist Lisa Chipps made this abundantly clear when asked how to fade a sunburn into an even tan: “Don’t tan,” she responded. “Every time you tan, you increase your risk of developing skin cancer, brown spots and wrinkles.” That said, if you forget to take preventative measures against the sun’s harmful rays—it happens!—these simple tips will ensure the resulting burn fades into an even tan:

1) Hydrate: “Sunburns compromise your skin barrier, which results in a ton of water loss,” explains dermatologist Anthony Rossi. “Drinking plenty of water will not only keep you from getting the chills, but it will cool off your skin, too.” On top of that, staying hydrated keeps peeling to a minimum, which is vital when fading a sunburn into a tan.

2) Pop a Pill: “Taking an ibuprofen will keep the inflammation down [which results in quicker healing skin] and help to relieve any discomfort,” Rossi says.

3) Moisturise: “I always tell my patients to stick a thick moisturiser in the fridge before applying it to their sunburn,” says Rossi. “The coolness helps to ease the burn and the moisture keeps the peeling to a minimum. If it contains aloe vera, that’s just a cherry on top.” (Pro tip: Use a product without added fragrances or scents, as these chemicals can sometimes irritate inflamed skin.)

If your sunburned skin feels particularly dry and itchy, Rossi recommends applying the lotion directly after a shower: “It’s key to pat the skin dry after washing, leaving a small amount of water on the skin,” Rossi explains. “Then, place the moisturiser on top of the water to lock it into the skin.” That extra moisture will keep your skin healthy, allowing the burn to fade into an even tan.