Home Remedies for Sunburn: What Helps Sunburn
There’s nothing like relaxing under the summer sun, book in hand, waves lapping against the shore. It’s easy to waste the hours baking away—but forget to don appropriate sun protection and you’ll spend the rest of your vacation bright red.
Sunlight is made up of many different types of radiation, including infrared radiation (what makes sunlight feel hot), visible light (this allows us to see sunlight), and ultraviolet radiation. It’s this last form of radiation that causes a sunburn. It can disrupt important molecules and wreak havoc on your body’s immune system; when UV radiation hits your skin, pigments called melanin absorb it to shield your DNA from harm.
Melanin is what gives your skin its color; when skin is exposed to UV, production of melanin speeds up—that’s why your skin tans when you’re out in the sun for a while. Unfortunately, the melanin defense isn’t foolproof, and some UV rays can sneak past and damage your DNA, turning your melanin against you by encouraging the production of free radicals.
Once your cells are damaged, they produce warning signals, which catalyzes your body to produce an inflammatory response. Many different types of blood cells are sent to the area of burn—this is the reason your skin becomes red and painful to the touch.
Sometimes the sun gets the best of us, but if you’re dealing with a painful, red sunburn and want to get some sweet relief, there are 10 great home remedies for sunburn relief to pick from—and most of them you probably already have in your home.
1. Cold Compress
How do you take the sting out of a sunburn? Cool it down. Our first home remedy for sunburn relief is a classic for a reason. Cold compresses can help absorb heat and provide immediate cooling comfort for painful burns. Something to steer clear of? Placing ice directly on the skin. This can actually result in a cold burn on top of your sunburn—talk about making the situation worse. If you don’t have a padded cold compress, wrap a hand towel around a plastic baggie filled with ice for an easy DIY option.
2. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera has been used for thousands of years to treat a variety of conditions, and the American Academy of Dermatology recommends using topical applications that contain aloe vera to help reduce the symptoms of a sunburn. Many topical products contain aloe vera, but you can also cut open an aloe vera leaf and remove the sticky gel inside. Start cultivating that green thumb and keep an aloe vera plant on hand—you never know when it might come in handy for sunburn relief.
3. Cool Bath
Taking a hot shower is a no-no after getting a burn, but a cool bath can do wonders for sunburn relief. When you’re ready to take a soak, fill up the bath with cool water and get in slowly. Add cups of baking soda to your bath water for some extra soothing power. Baking soda can help your sunburnt skin return to its natural pH levels by balancing acid and alkaline levels. Note: baking soda can be drying, so keep your soak time limited to 15 minutes.
4. Black Tea
Studies show that black tea may have anti-inflammatory properties, and its ability to reduce inflammation could prove to be a source of relief for sunburnt skin.
5. Apple Cider Vinegar
If you have a bottle of apple cider vinegar in your pantry, use it to complete an effective sunburnt skin treatment at home. Apple cider vinegar contains malic acid, an AHA that stimulates circulation to speed up the healing process. Apple cider vinegar also helps maintain the skin’s pH levels which can help reduce peeling and blisters. This common household product is naturally antimicrobial, antiseptic, and antifungal, making it a wonderful addition that can help prevent infection in damaged skin tissue. Don’t have apple cider vinegar? Grab a bottle of white vinegar, as this variety has been known to soothe the symptoms of sunburn as well.
6. Stay Hydrated
Severe sunburns force blood vessels to dilate, causing you to lose moisture from your skin at a faster rate. This can lead to fatigue, dehydration, and heatstroke in certain situations. For the first few days following your sunburn, increase your intake of water and other caffeine-free, alcohol-free beverages to stay hydrated.
7. Essential Oils
If you’re looking for a natural home remedy for a sunburn, stock up on essential oils. There are plenty of options, but some of the most commonly used oils for sunburn relief include lavender, sandalwood, and eucalyptus.
- Lavender: Lavender essential oil offers antifungal, antibacterial, and carminative properties that can help soothe a painful sunburn.
- Sandalwood: Sandalwood essential oil can be used to reduce inflammation while cooling burns. This oil is also capable of removing germs that might otherwise cause infection.
- Eucalyptus: Eucalyptus essential oil can provide a numbing effect, with mentholated properties offering a soothing effect. This oil also offers antibacterial properties to prevent infection.
Oatmeal can actually be an effective home remedy for sunburn relief. Opt for traditional oatmeal instead of instant oats, and cook as directed. Add a bit more water than called for; this will ensure a runnier consistency that makes it easier to apply to the skin. Allow the oatmeal to cool completely, then carefully apply the “paste” to the skin. Don’t rub it into the skin; because oatmeal can be grainy, it may have an exfoliating effect—not a good idea for skin that’s sun-damaged and sensitive to touch.
Grab a container of chilled yogurt from the refrigerator and apply generously to the area of your burn. This dairy trick will help you soothe your burn; although yogurt doesn’t actually contain any healing properties, the sweet relief from the heat is more than welcome.
10. Witch Hazel
Witch hazel is a liquid extract derived from the witch hazel plant. This extract contains oils and tannins that have been purported to reduce inflammation, draw skin tissue together for improved healing, and fight free radicals. Apply witch hazel to your burn to get relief from pain and itching.
Home Remedies for Severe Sunburn
If you’re looking for home remedies for a severe sunburn, first consider whether the burn requires medical care. The following symptoms may indicate your sunburn is severe enough to warrant a trip to the doctor’s office:
1. Blisters are forming across a large portion of the body
2. You begin developing a fever, headache, nausea, or chills
3 .Your sunburn isn’t responding to treatment after a few days
4. Your sunburn is showing signs of infection, including yellow pus, swelling, and extreme tenderness
If you’re experiencing any of the above and find your sunburn is making it uncomfortable or painful to go about your day, it’s worth giving your physician a call. Regardless of your burn history, it’s also important to regularly inspect your skin for signs of skin cancer.
Sunburns cause more than temporary pain; in fact, 90 percent of aging is a result of sun damage.
Treating your sunburn in a timely manner can help reduce the signs of aging, and taking care to prevent future sunburns can help you keep your skin looking its best.
If your sunburn isn’t severe enough to seek medical attention, do all you can to relieve inflammation—the abovementioned home remedies for sunburn relief are a good start. Follow these tips to help prevent lasting damage and get relief from your burn sooner.
- Moisturize: Your skin needs all the TLC it can get, so make sure you’re applying moisturizer every day. Be liberal with your application and slather on as much as possible—your skin is thirsty for it!
- Stop Itching: Sunburns can be unyieldingly itchy, but do your best to avoid scratching. This can damage already sensitive skin and result in scars that will stay with you for a lifetime.
- Don’t Peel: Avoid the temptation of peeling dead skin from your burn, as this practice could lead to infection that results in permanent scarring.
- Stay Hydrated: Drink water and electrolyte-rich beverages to help speed the recovery process along.
- Prevent Scarring: Scars can occur whenever there’s trauma to the skin, and the only way to completely avoid scarring is to prevent burning in the first place. If you notice scarring, ask your doctor about scar creams.
While these solutions can help you calm the physical symptoms of your burn, they don’t address the look of a sunburn. Unfortunately, your skin will probably retain its red tint for the first few days; in the meantime, wear a redness correctorto reduce the appearance of your burn.
What is the best way to avoid sunburn?
Prevention. Stay out of the sun as much as possible, especially between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm when the sun’s UV radiation is strongest. Don appropriate protective clothing, and don’t forget the wide-brimmed hat to keep your scalp shaded from the damaging rays. Always be sure to use sun protection daily and reapply whenever necessary. Throw a powder sunscreen into your bag to use at your convenience; just pull it out and brush it on for added SPF protection.