The quickest way to treat sunburn is by first cooling the skin by taking a cool bath or shower or sponging it with cool water, then applying a moisturizing lotion that contains aloe vera. Calamine lotion can be used to relieve any soreness or itching.
According to WebMD, topical steroids can also be used to remedy sunburn swelling and pain. Creams or lotions that contain petroleum or benzocaine should be avoided. Petroleum traps the heat in the skin, and benzocaine can irritate the skin. Lotions with anti-aging chemicals (such as hydroxy acids or retinol) or alcohol have a drying effect and can increase redness.
A headache may occur as a result of dehydration; drinking fluids may help. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends painkillers like ibuprofen to help relieve pain, control fever and reduce inflammation. Blistering may also occur. It is advisable to let the blisters heal and avoid popping them, because this may worsen the sunburn and lead to an infection.
Peeling skin is part of the healing process of sunburns, and very little can be done to avoid it. When the sunburn is healing, the skin should be covered when outdoors; tightly woven fabrics work best. Severe cases of sunburn may require special burn cream and dressings or a trip to the emergency room.