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There’s nothing fun about being sunburned.

For starters, bright red skin isn’t exactly a healthy look.  

Second, the worse the burn, the more painful it can be. Sometimes even the slightest touch can send you reeling! Third, it can make your skin super itchy (so now you’re red and scratching … how attractive).

Furthermore, severe burns can develop painful blisters. And, of course, there’s the dreaded peeling that inevitably follows when the skin starts to heal.

Summer fun, right?


Woman pretty shocked about her intense sunburn (with matching sunglasses tan line)

Wrong!

If you’ve ever been sunburned, you know how awful it can make you look and feel. And if you’re not thorough, diligent and repetitive with your sunscreen application, burns can happen with ease.

The next time you’re faced with a painful burn, here are 13 sunburn remedies that will actually give you some relief.

Aloe Vera

We’re starting this list of sunburn remedies with aloe vera – because it’s the most obvious one. It’s obvious because you probably already know about it. And the reason you already know about it is because it’s a proven method that works.

Aloe vera is a natural pain reliever that’s useful for all types of burns. Rubbing some aloe gently onto your skin can reduce pain, minimize redness, and reduce inflammation.

For even greater relief, put your aloe vera gel in the refrigerator before using it. The cooler it is, the better it will feel on the skin.

Cool Down in the Shower

The thought of water beating down on your sunburned skin may not sound like a good idea, but it is. A cool bath or shower is a great way to relieve that burning sensation – and it will make your skin look less red. 

Just make sure you don’t rub yourself dry with a towel when you step out of the bath. Pat your skin dry; otherwise, you could irritate it even more and lose the benefits of the cool water.  

Moisturize Your Skin

A little bit of moisturizer on damp skin goes a long way to relieving a sunburn. There are dozens of “sunburn relief” moisturizers on the market, but your regular moisturizer or daily lotion you use every day will also work.

Any moisturizer will do, but it’s best to use something natural, organic and unscented. If you have one with aloe, even better!

To get the most relief, apply it on damp skin as soon as you get out of the shower. That will make your skin absorb the moisturizer even more and provide the best hydration.

Take an Ibuprofen

Sunburn can be painful and can cause swelling. To relieve inflammation and keep swelling to a minimum, pop an Advil or an Ibuprofen

Pain relievers should only be taken within the first 24 hours of seeing redness when the pain is at its peak. Beyond the first 24 hours, topical methods will provide much greater relief.  

Cornstarch Paste

If you come in from the sun with a red face or lobster-colored shoulders, open up your pantry. If you have a can of cornstarch, you’re in luck!

Cornstarch is a great remedy for two reasons: it soothes the skin and doesn’t block your pores. (Blocked pores can actually make your sunburn feel worse). It’s also a way to protect against chafing, which is the very last thing you want when you’re sunburned. 

If you’re looking for a DIY home remedy, pour some cornstarch into a bowl and add some water to make a paste. Apply that paste directly to your sunburned areas, and you should feel much more comfortable. 

Cold Compress

Never underestimate the power of a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel. A cold compress is a great way to relieve the pain of a sunburn (or any other type of burn for that matter). Don’t have any frozen veggies? Soaking a washcloth in cold water works just as well.

A cold compress will draw the heat away from the skin, creating a soothing sensation that makes you feel much less hot.

If you’ve got full-body burns, this isn’t the best method. But it’s a great option if your sunburn is limited to one or two spots, like the tops of your shoulders or the one side of your face where you forgot to apply sunscreen.

Hydrocortisone Cream

Hydrocortisone cream, which you can easily buy over the counter in any pharmacy, is an excellent sunburn remedy. But it’s only helpful if you use it right after you’re burned.

Experts recommend using it for two days following a burn to reduce swelling and minimize pain. Beyond that, it won’t do much good.

Hydrocortisone is also a proven itch-reliever, and if you’ve ever had a sunburn, you know that one of the worst parts of the recovery is the itch!

Oatmeal Bath

Oatmeal isn’t just for nourishment. It’s one of those common household items that also makes for a useful sunburn remedy.

A great way to relieve sunburn and promote skin repair is to soak in a colloidal oatmeal bath. Colloidal oatmeal is finely ground, and when it’s mixed with water, it creates an ultra-soothing soak. If you don’t have a tub to soak in, you can also rub it directly onto wet skin and just stand in the shower to rinse it off.

Colloidal oatmeal works as a skin barrier and has anti-inflammatory properties, making it perfect for use on all sorts of rashes, burns and skin irritations. It soothes the skin and prevents water loss, which is exactly what you want when your skin has been destroyed by the sun.

This Aveeno Soothing Oatmeal Bath Treatment is just about the best one you can buy (and it only costs a few bucks). BONUS: the smell is so good, it just might take your mind off the fact that your entire body is red and itchy.

It is possible to mix water with those Quaker oats you eat for breakfast and apply it as a paste to the affected areas, but the colloidal oatmeal method is a much more effective remedy.

Milk

Have you ever seen people eat super-spicy ghost pepper hot wings, then wash it down with a glass of milk? There’s a reason they do that – milk helps to ease the burn. 

And it works just as well on sunburned skin.

Will drinking a glass of milk cure your sunburn? No. But soaking a towel in milk and applying it topically certainly will.

Skim milk and fat-free milk are the best options, but in a pinch, any type of milk will do.

Understandably, your natural instinct may not be to create a cold milk compress. But those vitamins A and D can repair damaged cells and soothe the skin.

Don’t have milk in your fridge? Yogurt applied directly to the skin like a moisturizer, is also quite effective in soothing the skin and easing that burn.

Baking Soda Bath

Baking soda is good for so many things. You can use it to clean a dishwasher. You can use it to kill ants. You can use it to unclog a drain. You can use it to make a batch of cookies.

And yes, you can use it to relieve a sunburn.

Baking soda helps to balance the pH levels of the skin. The more balanced your pH levels, the less pain and inflammation you’ll feel from that sunburn. It also helps to minimize unsightly redness.

If you come out of the sun and realize you’ve got some burns, fill the bathtub with water and add two cups of baking soda. Not only will your skin feel better, but it’s a great way to unwind and cool down after spending a day outdoors. 

Essential Oils

Essential oils have dozens of health benefits. Adding a small amount of essential oils to your bath can seriously help with the pain, irritation, and swelling caused by absorbing too many UV rays. 

Lavender, eucalyptus and sandalwood can all be helpful in reducing inflammation and numbing and soothing the skin.

Tea

Like baking soda, black tea can also restore your body’s pH balance and draw the heat of a sunburn away from your skin.

Brew up a pot of tea, let it cool down and soak a clean cloth in it. Apply the cloth to your sunburned areas as you would do with a cold compress. 

If you have small areas of redness, like on your cheeks or under your eyes, you can also use tea bags dipped in cold water to give you some relief. 

Get Hydrated

Drinking water won’t cure your sunburn, but it will make you feel better. Sunburns can raise your temperature and make you dehydrated, so make sure you drink plenty of water when you’re feeling overheated from the sun.

So grab a bottle of Fiji from the fridge and start drinking. Being dehydrated will only make your sunburn feel worse!

Related: Hydroflask Vs. Yeti [Insulated Water Bottle Showdown]

What NOT to Put on Your Sunburned Skin

Boy with sunburned back

There are some OTC products and home remedies that can actually make your sunburn worse. If anyone recommends that you use one of these methods, run for the hills as fast as your lobster-red body will take you.

And never, ever ask that person for advice ever again.

Petroleum Jelly

Petroleum jelly may be soothing and smooth, but it’s oil-based, so it blocks your pores. And blocked pores trap heat beneath the skin – the exact opposite of what you want to do when suffering from a sunburn. 

Ice

Putting ice directly on the skin can cause an ice burn, which is the very last thing you need if you’re already burned from the sun. Never put ice directly on the skin. You can wrap it in a towel to create a compress but never apply it to the skin directly.

Topical Medications That End in “Caine”

Topical medications that include benzocaine and lidocaine can be helpful for some people – but in some people, they can cause an allergic reaction, which will only make your skin feel worse.

If you have any type of allergy to numbing medications, avoid these like the plague. If you aren’t allergic, you still need to be careful – applying too much of a numbing agent to the skin can have serious side effects.

Home remedies and natural products are much safer to use.

Sunburn Isn’t Just Painful – It’s Dangerous!

Close up of a woman's sunburned shoulder

Those ultraviolet rays that cause sunburns to radiate heat, itch, and develop blisters don’t just create pain – they actually damage the skin.

Related: 6 Things To Do When Your Friend Is Diagnosed With Cancer

Sunburns make your skin age faster, and overexposure to the sun is the leading cause in a variety of different forms of skin cancer. So while your biggest concern immediately following a day in the sun may be how to find relief, it’s also a good time to start thinking about preventative measures.   

What’s the Best Way to Heal a Sunburn?

Woman happily putting sunscreen on her face while hiking

The best way to heal a sunburn is to take preventative steps to avoid one in the first place.

And remember: sunburns don’t just happen in the summer on hot, sunny days. Anytime that you’re outside, you are putting yourself at risk for a burn – even on an overcast day.

So when you’re spending time outdoors, wear protective clothing to cover as much skin as possible. On a steamy hot summer day when you’re wearing very little, slather on the sunscreen with a high SPF, including on easily overlooked places, such as your lips and the tops of your feet and try to limit sun exposure. 

The more you can do to prevent yourself from getting burned in the first place, the better!  

You might also enjoy: Why Powder Sunscreen Needs To Be On Your Packing List

13 Sunburn Remedies to Save Summer Skin: 

  1. Aloe Vera
  2. Cool Down in the Shower
  3. Moisturize Your Skin
  4. Take an Ibuprofen
  5. Cornstarch Paste
  6. Cold Compress
  7. Hydrocortisone Cream
  8. Oatmeal Bath
  9. Milk
  10. Baking Soda Bath
  11. Essential Oils
  12. Tea
  13. Get Hydrated
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Posted 
Jul 14, 2020
 in 
Health & Wellness
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