6 Natural Ways to Soothe a Sunburn
Feeling the Burn?
The hallmark of a perfect summer day—warm sunshine—is also the source of one of its most common menaces: sunburn. It’s best to avoid sunburn altogether by regularly slathering on sunscreen, as there’s no way to reverse sun damage once it’s done.
But if you end up red and peeling despite your best intentions, you can ease the pain and discomfort: Doctors often suggest hydrocortisone cream and cold compresses to soothe skin. For more serious burns, you can take an anti-inflammatory drug, like aspirin or ibuprofen. Some studies have shown that aloe vera gel (made from the leaves of the cactus-like aloe plant) can aid healing of minor burns, and the American Academy of Dermatology recommends it for sunburns.
If you find yourself burnt this summer and without aloe vera on hand, try one of these doctor-approved natural remedies to soothe your skin.
Dr. Mary Lupo, a dermatologist in New Orleans, recommends plain, nonfat yogurt as a soothing topical for facial burns. “Put yogurt on your face like it’s a mask, and leave it on like that until it’s not cool anymore,” she says.
“Milk is also very soothing,” says Lupo. Soak a compress in chilled milk and apply to the sunburn. The lactic acid in milk can help exfoliation of damaged skin, according to Lupo. “Milk, as long as it comes from a cow and not from a soybean or almond, can be put into a bowl with ice cubes and used against the skin,” says Dr. Jessica Krant, a dermatologist who practices in New York City.
“The image of cucumber slices on the eyes is not entirely a gimmick,” says Krant.
“Slice cold cucumber onto your shoulders or infuse cold water with cucumber to soak into soft washcloths, and change when they get warm.” But for a large sunburn? Cucumbers probably aren’t the most practical option. “You’d need an awful lot of cucumbers,” says Lupo.
Lupo recommends taking a bath using a product like Aveeno colloidal oatmeal treatment mixed with olive oil and cool water. This combination will hydrate your skin and soothe itchiness at the same time. Oatmeal especially helps with itchy skin, says Dr. D’Anne Kleinsmith, a dermatologist in Michigan. If you don’t have time for a trip to the store, make a paste of oatmeal and milk and apply to the sunburn. Beta-glucans, a molecule found in oatmeal, have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, says Lupo.
Thought to have anti-inflammatory qualities, chamomile tea has long been used as a remedy for rosacea. For sunburns, brew the tea, chill it thoroughly, and soak a compress in it. Then apply to skin until the compress is no longer cool. “The tea acts as a classic old-fashioned poultice with known anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that helps the skin heal and feel better faster,” says Krant.
Don’t discount the obvious: Ice packs and cool showers can help soothe sunburns dramatically. “The main thing is to get something cool on the skin to absorb the heat,” says Kleinsmith. “The cooler the better.” And drink lots of water. When you have blistered or damaged skin, you become dehydrated more easily, says Dr. Ali Hendi, a dermatologist and skin cancer specialist.