It happens to everyone eventually. Yes, we know all about sunblock and it’s not like we planned to end up looking like a steamed lobster. But it’s so easy to doze off if you’re relaxing on the beach, and you forget about sunscreen when you’re doing yard work, fishing, hiking, or some other fun outdoor activity and then…before you even realize it, you are sunburned. And it sucks.
It really hurts for anything at all to touch your skin, your face is bright red and you have white strap lines on your shoulders. The lucky ones can get away with a little lotion and it just turns into tan, but those of us with fair skin know just how miserable you can get when you get too much sun.
Of course the best treatment for sunburn is prevention, but hey, **** happens and sometimes you end up with a sunburn. Here are a few tried and true remedies to help alleviate the pain and discomfort of sunburn:
1. Ancient Aloe
Not anything new, right? The Egyptians were known to rely on the healing properties of aloe as early as the 16th century BC. Most people know that aloe is good for any kind of burn, and the sunblock companies put out some good aloe based lotions. You can buy straight aloe vera gel, and if you have a healthy aloe plant you can actually break off a piece and squeeze out the liquid right onto your skin.
2. It’s Tea Time!
Chamomile is known to have anti-inflammatory properties, so a soothing sponge bathe with cooled chamomile tea can provide some relief from the sting of scorched skin. You can make a compress by soaking a soft cloth in chamomile tea, wring it out some and lay it gently on the affected area. It’s also very hard to get any sleep when you have a bad sunburn, so drinking a cup of the relaxing brew at bedtime can help you get some rest.
3. Papaya Prevents Peeling
An enzyme called papain has healing properties that involve speeding the growth of new tissue. By making a paste from papaya in your blender you can help keep your sunburn from peeling. Hanging shreds of dead skin are somewhat unattractive, so if smearing on some mushed up fruit can keep that from happening, I say go for it.
4. Vinegar Cool-down
Who cares how it smells as long as it offers some cooling relief to your overheated skin? Mix equal parts white vinegar and cold water in a spritzer bottle. You can spray on a light mist for immediate relief, and even get to some of those hard to reach spots by yourself. A 15 minute soak in a tepid, vinegar infused bath is another way to soothe your sunburn. I recommend air-drying to avoid having to rub a towel across sensitive skin.
5. Start Drinking
No, I’m not talking about margaritas, although a refreshing cocktail does sound good. You need to keep hydrated on the inside as well as on the outside. While the hot sun was frying your skin it was also drying it out. Drinking lots of water will help replenish your skin’s depleted moisture from the inside out and help to speed the healing process. Sports drinks with electrolytes are also beneficial in keeping you hydrated and warding off headaches and other symptoms of sun sickness.
6. Itch Relief
One sign of healing skin is that unbearable itchy feeling- and the last thing you want to do when you have a sunburn is to scratch. Oatmeal is known to provide itch relief. A common remedy for things like chicken pox and poison ivy is to soak in an oatmeal bath, and it’s helpful for sunburns as well. Just pour a cup of uncooked oatmeal into cool bathwater and have a nice long soak. Not too long, though. Staying in the bath more than 15 or 20 minutes will start to have an adverse effect by actually drying out your skin. You can also find lotions with oatmeal, such as Aveeno, which relieve the itch of a healing sunburn while also moisturizing your skin.
7. Take a Chill Pill
Over the counter pain relievers can take some of the edge off the discomfort of sunburn. The best medications will those with anti-inflammatory properties. Ibruprofen, naproxen and aspirin all are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and can offer some relief from pain, headache and fever that sometimes accompany a sunburn. Follow directions carefully, and always call your doctor if you have any questions about drug interactions and allergies.
8. Milk It
Maybe it’s an old wives’ tale, but you should try it sometime. Taking a milk bath could get really expensive, but a cold milk compress applied to sunburned shoulders offers instant soothing of the heat, pain and itching. You can also pour a bowl of cold milk and use it to sponge the soothing liquid onto the burned areas.
9. Baking Soda for Baked Skin
Another well-known home remedy for soothing a sunburn is to take a bath with baking soda. Go ahead and dump at least half a box of baking soda into a tepid bath and have a soak. The baking soda acts to numb the sting somewhat and soothes inflamed skin. Again, keep it under 20 minutes to avoid causing your skin to dry out.
10. Shaving Cream? Really?
Our tenth and final tip might sound a little strange, but shaving cream has been known to have a cooling effect on sunburn. Most shaving creams contain at least some menthol, which feels cool to the skin and its quick evaporation seems to draw out the heat of a sunburn.
Like we’ve already pointed out, the best remedy for sunburn is to keep it from ever happening in the first place. Use sunblock every time you go outside, and limit your exposure to the sun. But if you do end up with sunburn, stay cool and hydrated, and try some of these popular home remedies. Hopefully you’ll find some relief, and next time you’ll be a lot more careful!