How to treat sunburn | 9Lives
Reading Time: 3 min

The sun in South Africa is no joke and however diligent we try to be, there is a good chance we’ll meet the new year with a few pink patches. You might forget to lather on the SPF before your morning run, or you fall asleep on your beach towel as the sun creeps in under your umbrella. You might simply miss that one awkward spot – I know I’ve burnt the backs of my legs a few times; red finger smears showing exactly where I missed.

Last year was the first time I experienced the first symptoms of sunstroke. I had been cooped up in an office all year and I went a bit outdoor-crazy, spending whole days swimming, canoeing, hiking, running and braai-ng. I got a slight burn one day but the combination of FOMO and great weather had me out and about the following day, despite knowing I should in fact stay in the shade.

I was slathering on the SPF50, but I think my body simply got too much sun exposure too quickly, and on the last day I felt it. We were driving home from Kleinmond to Cape Town and I remember the sun shining on me through the window. I felt abnormally hot and extremely nauseous. Thankfully my sister-in-law, who is also a doctor, had the sense to cover the window with a towel so that I would sit in the shade, and she gave me plenty of water to stay hydrated.

When you are outside your skin is exposed to ultraviolet rays, UVA and UVB. These can alter your DNA leading to premature aging and over time can contribute to skin cancers, one being the deadly melanoma. Because of this I always recommend you wear sunscreen – the best quality you can afford.

It is also important to nurture your skin after you’ve been in the sun. After-sun can’t reverse sun damage on a cellular level, but it can help to sooth your skin, reduce inflammation and restore moisture levels. I also recommend you boost your skincare regime with antioxidants, which help to prevent free-radical damage to your cells.

What to look for in after-sun

When shopping for after-sun, it is important to look for hydrating and restorative ingredients. Glycerin is a great moisturiser that helps to replenish and restore the skin. Another gem is Squalane, an ingredient that is also naturally found in your skin sebum and works brilliantly to nourish. It is also a rich source of fatty acids and antioxidants.

I also look for Panthenol in restorative products like after-sun. This is a form of Vitamin B and it works as a humectant, meaning it draws moisture towards itself and holds it there, helping to hydrate your skin. Aloe Vera is another goodie, particularly when used in collaboration with other ingredients that moisturise your skin.

Even when I don’t burn, I like to follow a trip to the beach with after-sun. Firstly I am addicted to the cooling sensation it leaves as the light gel texture melts into my warm skin. Upon that a good after-sun will help to nourish your skin while soothing it, and in that sense I actually prefer it over a moisturizer, which can feel heavy and sticky when the scorching day settles into a hot and humid evening.

I am a huge fan of the Cetaphil Daylong After Sun Gel (R154,95 for 200ml) which can be used on your face and body any time after your skin has been exposed to the sun. It has a light gel consistency that absorbs quickly and easily into your skin, leaving a light cooling sensation. The gel is formulated with Glycerin, Squalane and Panthenol, all of which work to nourish and rehydrate your skin.

I love the fact that it doesn’t feel sticky at all, and that it is completely free of fragrance and alcohol, which can be irritating to sensitized skin. It is also free from mineral oil or petroleum. While I have no problem with these ingredients in general, they’re not great on burnt skin since they can trap the heat and make matters worse.

How to treat sunburn

Cool down as quickly as possible. Take a cool shower or place a cold towel on your skin. Then moisturize while it is still damp.

Rehydrate. A burn draws fluid from the surface of your skin and it can lead to the dehydration on the rest of your body. Drink extra liquids and supplement them with rehydrating concentrates that will help to rebalance your electrolytes.

Stay out of the sun until the burn heals or if you insist on going out, make sure your are covered with protective clothing and that you stay in the shade.

If you feel sick, nauseous or dizzy, it is a good idea to consult a doctor.

Avoid moisturisers with mineral oils. These can trap the heat, making matters worse. Look for something light, with ingredients like Glycerin, Squalane and Panthenol, Hyaluronic Acid and Aloe Vera.

Stay safe over the holidays!

*This post has been sponsored by Cetaphil.


I am a lifestyle blogger from Cape Town trying to find the best ways to spend my time, take care of my body and express myself. I am slightly obsessed with fragrances, sneakers, Jamie Oliver and Masterchef Australia. Oh, and I probably drink way too much wine.


  1. Hi, I was just wondering if you could recommend a good sunscreen/moisturizer with SPF for everyday use.
    Hopefully on the more natural side of life, but whatever you can recommend.
    I know you review a lot of products, so just trying my luck 🙂
    Thanks a mill in advance, and keep up the great blog – love it!

    • Malherbe Liezel Reply

      I am posting my top picks soon so look out for that next week. I really like Bioderma and Eucerin. Not sure about natural sunscreens, will have to search around for you.

  2. Hi .. Thank you .. I wanted to ask how to use the product correctly and that I am exposed to the sun intermittently and repeatedly at work Is it necessary to put the product at each return to the shade ??

    I apologize for the bad language because I do not speak (Arab girl)

Write A Comment