Home Remedies for Sunburn

When it's too late for prevention, turn to your kitchen to ease sunburn pain. kosmos111/Shutterstock

Would you like a salad with that sunburn? Some water, to wash it down? The healthy ingredients of the leafy entree and the cool, natural hydrator are among the most cited home remedies for sunburns.

When you seek relief from the redness, blistering and peeling of too much unprotected sun exposure, try applying sliced cucumbers or tomatoes, cool lettuce leaves, onions or olive oil. Applied to the affected area, they all can nourish the skin and promote healing of damaged skin.

To speed recovery, there’s lemon juice, which disinfects, and vinegar, known to restore the acid in the skin and reduce the sting and peeling associated with the sunburn.

If you’re more of a carb person, think potatoes, either mashed or sliced, and pancakes — buttermilk, wheat flour, egg whites or milk — to reduce the pain and discomfort of sunburn. Cornstarch and barley also fall into this category.

Calming the ache

The first step toward recuperating from overexposure is to drink fresh water, which helps offset the swelling and dehydration common after a day in the sun.

Also consider taking frequent cool showers or baths, soaking in soothing baking soda, oatmeal or sandalwood. Herbs such as chamomile and lavender oil in the bath are especially beneficial for reducing inflammation.

Avoid soap or use a mild product that won’t irritate and dry the skin. Pat your skin dry instead of rubbing.

The Mayo Clinic recommends applying cold compresses to the burn to reduce pain and swelling. Tea bags or cooled brewed tea also do the trick, according to some natural health and home remedy websites.

All about aloe

aloe plant
Aloe plants may never flower, but they're fun and easy to grow. successo images/Shutterstock

In addition to water, aloe is the most universal burn medication. It can be taken by mouth, but is most often applied to the skin. The inner part of the aloe leaf produces a clear, jelly-like sap believed to stimulate the skin and assist in new cell growth.

“Some chemicals in aloe gel seem to be able to increase circulation in the tiny blood vessels in the skin, as well as kill bacteria,” according to the National Institutes of Health and the National Library of Medicine. “Aloe seems to speed wound healing...preventing cell death around the wound.”

Still, NIH cites contradicting evidence about aloe’s effectiveness and interactions with other medications, herbs and supplements. “Aloe gel is likely safe when applied to the skin and possibly safe when taken by mouth in adults. Once in a while aloe gel might cause burning and itching of the skin.”

Even sunscreens contain aloe to counteract possible burning. Sunscreen also contain these home remedies for sunburn: tree tea oil, calendula cream from marigolds, and vitamins A, C and E.

The risks of sunburn

The American Cancer Society reports that sunburns increase the risk of melanoma, the most common cause of death from skin cancer. One in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer at some point in their lifetime, said Dr. Carolyn Jacob, a Chicago dermatologist. “One person dies every hour from skin cancer.”

First-degree sunburns, causing redness and possible pain and peeling, can heal with home treatment. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you seek medical assistance for more severe burns, especially those accompanied by headache, chills or fever.

Stranger options

A ramekin of yogurt
Yogurt is great for smoothies but would you smear it on a sunburn?. mama_mia/Shutterstock

Of the more unusual folk remedies that have made it into the public forum are chocolate frosting, preparation H, Pepto Bismo and toothpaste.

More widely accepted remedies: yogurt and sour cream, mustard and cod liver oils.

So next time you overdo it in the sun, give into your craving for liquid and solid nourishment. That is, considering so many of the home remedies for sunburn find a more therapeutic use for our otherwise tasty fare.