There’s nothing better than feeling the freedom that comes with the lazy days of summer and there’s nothing worse than feeling the horrible sunburn that comes from getting a little too lazy about reapplying sunscreen. When summer rolls around, most of us are going to be spending long days in the sun as we celebrate. Of course, the best offense is always a good defense, and preventing a burn from happening in the first place is always ideal — but that’s a lot easier said than done. If you get a gnarly sunburn, we’ve got some remedies that can help cool you off, stop the itch and keep you from being one big mess of flaky skin. Even if your burn isn’t super-wicked, these aftercare ideas can help to soothe irritated skin when you’ve spent too long at the beach.

Cool it down

If you notice your skin start to peel, the first thing you should do is take a cold shower or bath. The cold water will help your skin cool down and slow the peeling process. When you are drying your skin, be sure to pat it dry with a clean, soft towel and avoid rubbing. By rubbing your skin, you can actually speed up and spread the peeling of your skin — and you definitely don’t want to do that./p

Stop the itch

At all costs, you should avoid scratching your skin when it’s peeling. You can actually do permanent damage to your skin in the form of scars. If you get the urge to scratch, the best thing to do is to use ice to dull the sensation. Put ice in a piece of soft cloth and gently place the cloth on top of the area of your skin that itches. The itch should subside once the ice begins to cool down the skin.

Moisturize your skin

Once you get out of the shower and dry your skin, apply a moisturizing lotion. Look for a moisturizer that is specifically designed to work on sunburned or peeling skin. Generally, the lotion should contain aloe Vera, which will cool your skin, reduce inflammation and slow the peeling. Aloe Vera is a natural cactus extract that has long been hailed for its soothing properties. You can actually buy pure aloe Vera gel (or break open the plant, if you have it) and apply it directly to peeling skin to aid healing, fight pain and avoid infection.

Drink up

When you’ve been out in the sun, it’s easy to get dehydrated. Be sure you’re drinking plenty of water, and if you notice a headache, it might be a sign that you need to drink a little more.

Don’t peel it

Flaky, peeling skin is more than just irritating and unattractive — it can also lead to an infection. Peeling skin can become infected if you scratch or try to forcefully peel the skin. If there is a segment of dead skin that is hanging off and you want to remove it, don’t pull on it, no matter how tempting it is. Instead, get a small pair of scissors and carefully cut away just that section of skin. Be sure you are only cutting away dead skin and you don’t tear skin that is trying to heal. Once you cut away the dead skin, apply an antibacterial ointment like Neosporin to the area.

Prevent scarring

Reduce the itch associated with peeling (and moisturize your skin) by taking a cool bath containing colloidal oatmeal. You can find this fine oatmeal in most pharmacies. To help prevent scarring, promote healing and reduce long-term skin damage, take antioxidant supplements — vitamin C and vitamin E. Also apply a topical vitamin E cream to reduce the chances of scarring.

Bonus: Be prepared

Prevention is the best cure for peeling. Plan ahead and don’t get sunburned in the first place. By the time your skin starts peeling, the damage has already been done. Before you go out into the sun, always wear sunscreen to protect your skin from harmful ultraviolet rays. If you are going into the water, be sure to reapply sunscreen each time you get out. When applying sunscreen, don’t forget about hidden areas, such as behind your ears, which are often forgotten and end up burned.