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The 11 Stages of Realizing You’re Sunburned

Sunburn is the ultimate summertime struggle. All we want is a glowing, tanned complexion to show off in our crop tops and bikinis—is that too much to ask? Apparently, it is.

If you’ve ever experienced a sunburn, you can relate to the endless thought cycle of believing you’re invincible, to cringing in lobster-skinned pain and regret. Hopefully, the agony will inspire you to put your sunbathing on hold long enough to read our not-so-secret pro tips to stop this from ever happening again. Probably not, though. It’s a tough life. 

1. Ignorance

Thought: It’s such a perfect day for a tan. Look, I can see my skin changing colors already! I’m going to lay low on the sunscreen for now, just until I have a base.

Pro Tip: Never wait to apply sunscreen! Slather on some SPF before any outdoor outing to prevent this upcoming progression from ever reoccurring.

2. Stubbornness 

Thought: “Honey, you’re looking a little red.” Mom, I’m totally fine. Do you even know what a tan is?

Pro Tip: If you’re seeing any color change at all, it might be time to get under that beach umbrella. At the very least, apply some more sunscreen (at minimum every two hours, or whenever you’ve been exposed to water or sweat)!

3. Denial

Thought: Okay, so maybe mom was right. But everyone knows that a slight burn becomes a perfect tan the next day. It’s not even a burn, then. It’s just a pre-tan. This is how it’s supposed to work.

Pro Tip: The myth that sunburns become tans, especially without any negative side effects, is just that—a myth. 

4. Hot Flashes

Thought: My body is on fire. Do I have a fever? What is happening to me?!

Pro Tip: Cool down your body, stat! Take a cool (not freezing) bath or shower to lower that body temperature.

5. Pain

Thought: OMG. This is most definitely a sunburn. Where is the aloe?!

Pro Tip: Aloe is soothing, but to really help combat pain, take some ibuprofen every few hours. This will also reduce inflammation caused by the burn!

6. Addiction (to Aloe)

Thought: Aloe is my best friend. I am literally going to grow a garden of the stuff. Aloe is love. Aloe is life.

Pro Tip: Just like aloe, oatmeal can seriously soothe, too! It may sound crazy, but slip some into your bath to calm down your angry skin.

7. Itching

Thought: I have never been so painfully itchy in all of my life. It itches so badly, but if I scratch it, it hurts. Why, sun, why?

Pro Tip: Whatever you do, don’t scratch! You might end up with some nasty scars. Just use a cortisone cream to relieve that tingly sensation.

8. Peeling: Part I

Thought: This isn’t so bad. At least I’ll have new, un-burned skin by tomorrow.

Pro Tip: Peeling is a natural cleansing measure taken by the skin to refresh and renew. Trying to speed up the process will: 1) not work, and 2) cause damage to your already vulnerable skin.

9. Peeling: Part II

Thought: Okay, it’s been a week and I’m still peeling. I also have no idea how to put makeup on this. I officially look like a monster.

Pro Tip: Moisturize, hydrate, moisturize! It’s super important to give your skin some hydration using advanced and heavy-duty moisturizers and also by drinking tons of water throughout the day. 

10. Peeling: Part III (Recovery)

Thought: Um. Only snakes are supposed to do this.

Pro Tip: You’ve almost made it, don’t pick at it now! You’ll thank us later, we promise.

11. Regret

Thought: Sunscreen, this is the beginning of a long and beautiful friendship. Hey mom, can you get my back? And you better be wearing sunscreen! *Major mom eye-roll*

Pro Tip: Listen to your mother.

Emily Platt is a former National Contributing Writer, Beauty Editor, Career Editor, and Editorial Intern for Her Campus. She studied at Vassar College and held additional internships at Cosmopolitan.com and MarthaStewartWeddings.com. Emily loves emojis, Beach Body workouts, and her cats. She takes pride in her single mysteriously-white eyelash.