Summer is in full swing which means pool parties, barbecues, and trips to the beach. With all these fun activities at the forefront of your mind, you may have gotten a bit lax on your sun protection (or forgotten altogether). If you’re looking more lobster than golden Caribbean tan, then you’re in the right place. We’ve wrangled the best sunburn remedies that will help you reclaim your summer and help reduce the ouch!
Bonus — most of these sunburn remedies can be found in your kitchen cabinets!
What happens when you get sunburned?
While a sunburn feels hot to the touch, it is much different than a burn you might get from, say, grabbing a sheet pan full of chocolate chip cookies straight out of the oven (not that I’ve ever done that, of course).
A sunburn is the result of your skin receiving more ultraviolet radiation (UV rays) then it can handle. The result is damaged skin cells that mutate and eventually die off from the overexposure. Your blood vessels dilate, in response, to rush in blood flow and send in the cavalry of immune cells to clean house.
This whole process is what causes your skin to appear red, swollen and painful.
So you can see why the way we might treat a sunburn would be different than the way that we treat a thermal burn (when you touch something hot).
Use a Cold Compress
While sunburns and thermal burns are vastly different, one way to soothe them both is a cold compress. An oldie but a goodie, cold compresses absorb heat and provide a chilling comfort for your piping hot skin.
We suggest that you migrate towards a cold compress specifically made to be placed in the freezer and on your skin. You can find these in the pharmacy section near the band-aids and sometimes in the infant and children’s section as well.
Avoid placing ice directly onto your skin as that can cause a secondary (and equally as painful) ice burn! Best not to distress your skin any more than it already is. In a pinch, you can wrap a hand towel around a plastic baggie that is filled with ice. This added layer will protect your skin while still facilitating the cooling effect.
Use Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is a popular sunburn remedy with loads of research to back it up. Studies have shown that aloe vera is beneficial to healing mild thermal burns and mild to moderate sunburns and that it is a powerful anti-inflammatory.
Not only does aloe vera help calm the inflammation your skin is experiencing with sunburn, but its moisturizing properties help prevent peeling that comes along with recovery.
While there is a digestible aloe vera, we recommend sticking to topical aloe vera products to treat your sunburn. All aloe vera products are not created equal. Steer clear of products that include additives for color and perfumes. Raw from the plant is best, but few people have a thriving aloe vera plant they can pull from in times like these. If you’re in this camp, grab an aloe vera gel or lotion. The more pure aloe it contains the better!
Our HD Recovery Gel contains high-grade aloe and Vitamin E — perfect for healing a sunburn!
Allow your aloe vera to chill in the refrigerator before use for extra refreshing relief!
Make a green tea compress
Green tea is rife with antioxidants making it a powerhouse on this list of sunburn remedies. This kitchen staple contains polyphenols which function as anti-inflammatory helping to relieve puffy sunburned skin.
Steep a cup of green tea and then allow it to cool in the refrigerator. Soak a clean washcloth in the cooled tea and apply to the sunburn in 15-minute increments. When you notice that your cloth is warm to the touch, it’s time to put it back in the fridge and re-soak!
For extra soothing benefits, mix mint tea and green tea together when you are making your compress! The aromatic qualities of mint works wonders on inflamed skin!
Apply yogurt to the burn
While you’re raiding the refrigerator for sunburn remedies, reach for your favorite yogurt! Plain Greek yogurt contains tons of probiotics and enzymes that help heal sunburns naturally.
Not only will the cooling relief be welcomed, but your skin will be lusciously moisturized.
Spread a thin layer over your sunburn and allow it to sit for 10-15 minutes. Gently dab remaining yogurt off with a cold rag.
Is your sunburn extra itchy? Yogurt might be your saving grace! The antibacterial properties found in Greek yogurt will prevent you from getting an infection in places you can’t stop scratching.
Apply some white vinegar to the burn
This might seem counterintuitive, but vinegar has a lot of properties that make it a great sunburn remedy. In fact, by using vinegar you may be able to bypass over the counter pain relievers all together!
Vinegar contains acetic acid which is the same component found in common pain meds like aspirin. Acetic Acid helps reduce itching, inflammation, and pain that can accompany a really bad sunburn. It also contains antiseptic properties to help kill germs and alleviate that pesky itch!
Fill a spray bottle with vinegar and lightly mist it over your sunburned areas.
If the sting of vinegar is a bit much for your sensitive skin, dilute it with a little bit of water. You’ll get the same healing benefits without the ouch!
Use coconut oil
Coconut oil might already be in your beauty arsenal, but did you know that it is a great remedy for sunburns? Coconut oil is high in saturated fats and antioxidants which is great for moisturizing your skin and fighting inflammation.
But before you start lathering your burn with coconut oil, use a cold compress first. The cold compress will calm the heat on your skin and then it’s time to get out the coconut oil. The coconut oil will help relieve the dry, itchy nature of sunburns.
Take an oatmeal bath
Oatmeal baths are not just for chicken pox anymore! Oatmeal (specifically colloidal oatmeal) contains anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties with compounds like vitamin E, ferulic acid, and aventhramides. It also has polysaccharides and hydrocolloids, compounds that create a protective barrier on the skin and help it to retain water.
Simply put, oatmeal baths help reduce the swelling in your skin and aid in recovery by protecting it.
To get the most benefit out of your oatmeal soak, purchase colloidal oatmeal from the drug store (in the bathing section), or make your own by grinding your standard old-fashioned oats in a coffee grinder, blender, or food processor. Draw a warm bath (skip the hot water on this one) and add oats to your bath ½ cup at a time. Avoid adding more than ½ cups to save your drain.
Create a baking soda paste
We saved the best for last — baking soda! Chances are that you have a box of baking soda somewhere around your house (or in the back of your fridge) for warding off odors or making killer biscuits. The same baking soda can be used to help soothe your scorched skin.
Baking soda is alkaline which means that it can help balance the pH of your sunburned skin. It also, like many of our other sunburn remedies, contains antiseptic properties which prevent itchiness and infection.
How do you use it? Either add 1-2 cups into a warm bath and soak for 30 minutes or create a paste with some water to spread on the affected area.
Sunburn remedies help the symptoms
As we finish up our list, it’s important to recognize that all of these sunburn remedies help with the symptoms that you might be experiencing. If you are suffering from painful skin, itchiness, or dryness, then these remedies are going to be gold.
Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about your new cherry glow until your skin has time to heal. Your skin should bounce back within a few days to its former glory.
Don’t Forget the Sunscreen!
We would be remiss if we didn’t use this opportunity to advocate the important use of sun protection.
Keep sun protection at the forefront of your plans this summer and avoid having a sunburn altogether. Wear large brimmed hats, monitor your UV exposure, and always wear SPF!
This HD Defend Chemical-Free SPF 30+ is a tinted moisturizer can be used as a makeup primer or lightweight foundation!
If your sunburn has blisters that cover a large part of your body, is accompanied by a high fever, extreme pain, headache, confusion, nausea, or chills, or starts to show signs of infection (increased pain, tenderness, swelling, drainage), then immediately go to the doctor.
Your doctor will be able to provide a treatment that will help ease your discomfort and keep you from serious harm.