Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Sunburn treatments

2-minute read

Skin that has been sunburnt turns red within hours – and the sunburn will continue to develop for the next one to three days.

Most people who have been sunburnt also peel – which is the body’s way of shedding dead and damaged skin cells and making way for the new skin underneath.

Treating sunburn

If you have been sunburnt follow this self-care advice:

  • Give your skin the time it needs to repair and build up another protective barrier of cells. Stay out of the direct sun until the redness, peeling and pain have disappeared.
  • To ease the pain of sunburn, take cool baths or showers. This method of easing the pain of sunburn should not be used on children under five years of age unless advised by a healthcare professional.
  • Leave any blisters alone, do not break them open or pop them. If they open on their own, clean the area with water to keep it clean and avoid infection.
  • Do not apply anything to the burn, including ointment, cream, oil, butter, spray or any other household remedy. There is no evidence of any cream or tablet significantly helping to reduce the severity of sunburn, or increase the rate of recovery from sunburn.

Stay out of the sun until the sunburn has cleared. When you do go out, stay in the shade, slap on a hat, slip on protective clothing, make sure the sunburnt area is also covered and apply plenty of sunscreen. Being sunsmart in this way will reduce your chance of getting sunburnt again.

As soon as it becomes comfortable to do so, apply a moisturising cream to the burnt area to keep it moist and supple. Even though it will not prevent peeling, moisturising will help prevent the new skin below from drying out.

Consider taking ibuprofen to help reduce any swelling, redness and discomfort.

You should see your doctor immediately for severe sunburn, or if you are experiencing blistering, headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness or severe pain.

Preventing dehydration

It's important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of clear, non-alcoholic fluids. If you have an existing medical condition, check with your doctor about how much water is right for you.

Not sure what to do next?

If you are still concerned about your sunburn, why not use healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: August 2017

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Sunburn | National Centre for Farmer Health

Sunburn is when your skin is burned by radiation from the sun. Sunburn can cause permanent skin damage. By the time signs and symptoms of sunburn appear, skin damage has already occurred. Not only will radiation from the sun damage your skin it can damage your eyes and contribute to the development of cataracts.

Read more on National Centre for Farmer Health website

Sunburn - Better Health Channel

Even mild sunburn can cause permanent skin damage and may increase your risk of skin cancer.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Sunburn -

Skin of any colour can be damaged by the sun. Sunburn occurs more slowly than other types of burns.Physical sunscreens are usually a better choice for people who have had allergic reactions to c

Read more on myDr website

Sunburn in children and teenagers | Raising Children Network

Sunburn happens when your childs skin gets too much sun at once. You can prevent sunburn with some simple sun safety precautions. Read more.

Read more on website

Kids' Health - Topics - Sunburn

In Australia, people like you have grown up with the slogan,Slip on sun protective clothing, slop on the sunscreen, slap on a hat

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

What happens to your skin when you get sunburnt? - Cancer Council Australia

Most Australians are familiar with the painful red skin, blisters and peeling that follow too much time in the sun. But what's actually happening in the skin during a sunburn?

Read more on Cancer Council Australia website

Eyes - flash burns - Better Health Channel

Flash burns are like sunburn in the eye and can affect both your eyes. Find out more.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Sun care options -

Sunburn and skin damage are caused by too much exposure of your skin to UV radiation, from the sun or a sunlamp. Find out what products are available for sun care.

Read more on myDr website

What is UV? - SunSmart

UV radiation from the sun cannot be seen or felt so it can damage our skin without us knowing. Health effects from too much UV include sunburn, photosensitivity, premature ageing and eye damage.

Read more on Cancer Council Victoria website

How sunscreen works | Queensland Health

Find out how sunscreen works to protect you from UV radiation, what SPF and broad spectrum mean, and why sunscreen is so sticky and slimy.

Read more on Queensland Health website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo