I made a mistake. Despite my status as a friend to sunscreens everywhere, I misjudged and a few weeks ago, disaster struck. I’d escaped New York’s disappointing, grayscale “spring” for a weekend in California, and as a printer-paper-colored person, I’d stuck with the daily casual sunscreen application that’s part of my routine. Mistakenly, I thought this would be enough to protect me while on a day trip kayaking around North California. I walked off the water with a few sick burns and more than a few regrets.

I’d squirted a dollop of sunscreen into my hands and palmed it over my face and body, but in the unforgiving view of hindsight, it was clear that I’d skated over the top of my forehead and the back of my right hand. They were both bright, tomato red, and the thought of the free radicals sinking into my skin and getting up to suspicious shit with my DNA haunted me. Back in the airport with some time to kill, I handled it like I do many problems, and headed straight to the nearest beauty product purveyor to concoct my own sunburn treatment.

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I know aloe is usually one of the top recommended products, but with none in sight and just 20 minutes until boarding, I needed to improvise. Thanks to luck or fate, there was a Kiehl’s boutique in my terminal. My game plan was simple but calculated: stock up on derm-approved antioxidants to stop the peeling. I started with vitamin C, which is known for its brightening and antioxidant properties. Where UV light is full of free radicals that lead to skin damage, vitamin C serums like Kiehl’s Powerful Strength Line Reducing Concentrate with Vitamin C repair that damage by neutralizing free radicals and brightening your skin’s surface.

Never one to quickly call it a day while shopping, I kept browsing. Set up by the entrance was a display for the brand’s new Centella line. Centella asiatica is also enjoying its moment in the sun, popping up in products like L’Oréal Revitalift Cicacream Anti-Wrinkle + Skin Barrier Repair and the much loved Dr. Jart+ Cicapair Tiger Grass Color Correcter. Dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, M.D., explains the appeal: Also known by the cooler name of tiger grass, he says, Centella asiatica has demonstrated wound healing properties, like moisturizer crossed with Neosporin.

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And thus my embarrassment concoction and DIY sunburn treatment was complete. I’ll be the first to admit I am not a doctor, so I wasn’t necessarily expecting to see any results. Still, in one sleep the redness was gone. Over the next week I kept on applying vitamin C serum (I had this great one by BeautyRx at home), and topping it with Innisfree’s Cica Balm. I saw the telltale beginnings of peeling skin only twice. Both times I rubbed on a layer of balm and the flaking disappeared. I love to peel, so this was a personal triumph.

Three days later my skin was back to normal, and Dr. Zeichner backs up that the combination may have been to thank—or at least more beneficial than regular moisturizer. As I head into summer, my newfound power couple isn’t leaving my side—along with a tube of Australian Gold sunscreen. SPF 50.

More Summer Skin Prep:
-How to Cover Sunburn the Right Way—And Actually Make It Heal Faster
-The FDA Is Warning People Not to Use Sunscreen Pills in Place of SPF—Here’s Why
-Hawaii’s Sunscreen Ban Doesn’t Hit Until 2021, but the Reason for It Is Scary
-10 Self-Tanners That Won’t Turn You Orange, According to Glamour.com Editors

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