Sunburn is hot and sore skin caused by too much sun. It may flake and peel after a few days. You can treat it yourself. It usually gets better within 7 days.

Check if you have sunburn

If you have sunburn, your skin may:

Your skin may also blister if your sunburn is severe.

If you have white skin, your skin will usually be red or pink. If you have black or brown skin, you may not notice a change in the colour of your skin.

How to ease sunburn yourself

There are things you can do to help ease symptoms of sunburn.


  • get out of the sun as soon as possible

  • cool your skin with a cool shower, bath or damp towel (take care not to let a baby or young child get too cold)

  • apply aftersun cream or spray

  • drink plenty of water to cool down and prevent dehydration

  • take painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen for any pain

  • cover sunburnt skin from direct sunlight until skin has fully healed


  • do not use petroleum jelly on sunburnt skin

  • do not put ice or ice packs on sunburnt skin

  • do not pop any blisters

  • do not scratch or try to remove peeling skin

  • do not wear tight-fitting clothes over sunburnt skin


Some medicines are not safe for everyone (for example, if you're pregnant). Always check the leaflet or speak to a pharmacist before taking them.

A pharmacist can help with sunburn

You can ask a pharmacist:

Urgent advice: Ask for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111 if:

You've been out in the sun and:

  • your skin is blistered or swollen
  • your temperature is very high, or you feel hot and shivery
  • you feel very tired, dizzy and sick
  • you have a headache and muscle cramps
  • your baby or young child has sunburn

Severe sunburn can lead to heat exhaustion and heatstroke, which can be very serious.

You can call 111 or get help from 111 online.

Important: Skin cancer risk

Getting sunburnt can increase your risk of skin cancer.

Page last reviewed: 24 May 2022
Next review due: 24 May 2025