It happens to the best of us. We apply sunscreen. We miss a spot. We get a raging sunburn and vow never to step foot in the sun again. Until the next time.
Sunburns are serious business and if you’ve overdone it, you’ll want to take immediate steps to help your body defend itself and get your skin back on track. According to the International Dermal Institute:
“A sunburn is the skin’s response to extreme ultraviolet (UV) exposure and indicates severe damage. In as little as 10 minutes of intense UV exposure, the skin sets into motion a system of defense against this enemy. The first indication of damage is redness. This is the body’s inflammatory response in situations requiring repair and is a result of dilating blood vessels. The skin will then start to lose moisture and hydration, which will be apparent with a feeling of tightness.”
The top recommended steps for treating sunburn are: get out of the sun immediately, drink plenty of water to re-hydrate, and do not return into the sun until your skin is fully healed. It may take a few days but it’s important to let your body heal. If your skin is severely blistered or you’re experiencing fever and chills, call your doctor for advice. This is especially important for your little ones. Otherwise you’ll want to reduce the inflammation and try to reduce damage to the deeper layers of your skin.
There are a variety of ways to reduce inflammation. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends these 5 Ways to Treat a Sunburn but what about calming that nagging feeling like your entire body has been lit on fire (can you tell I grew up by the beach and endured my fair share of sunburns?!)
To reduce the sting of a sunburn you can apply an after-sun product (check out Babble’s 25 Soothing After-Sun Products) but if you don’t have access or don’t want to spend money on one, or just prefer natural alternatives, try looking in your pantry. Many household items contain natural ingredients and acids that help cool and soothe sunburn pain. There isn’t a lot of scientific backing but proponents swear up and down that these remedies relieve pain and make sunburns more tolerable.
Aloe, oatmeal, and cucumber are among the most well-known but check out these 10 surprising sunburn remedies, all of which you likely have on hand already:
10 Surprising Sunburn Remedies 1 of 11
Click through for 10 surprising (and inexpensive) sunburn remedies -->
Apple Cider Vinegar 2 of 11
Many people consider vinegar the go-to for sunburn relief. Vinegar contains acetic acid which is one of the components in medications like Aspirin, and can help ease sunburn pain, itching, and inflammation. Apple cider vinegar in particular helps to balance the skin's pH factor, its acid/alkaline balance. Soak a few sheets of paper towels in pure unfiltered apple cider vinegar and apply them to the sunburned areas. Repeat once dried as necessary. OR, take a cool vinegary bath by adding two cups of vinegar to the bathwater before you get in. Proponents of this method say vinegar is most effective after a cool or tepid shower.
Potatoes 3 of 11
Potatoes contain natural starches that help draw the heat out of sunburned skin. You can apply raw potato directly to affected skin or blend the potatoes with a little water until they're in liquid form and apply like a lotion or with gauze. Try applying every few hours until the pain has subsided.
Honey 4 of 11
Not just for bears! Honey may be sticky but its healing properties can help take down the swelling of a sunburn. It's also an antibacterial and known to stimulate new skin cells. Try gently massaging honey into burned skin. Rinse off in cool water, then pat dry.
Plain Probiotic Yogurt 5 of 11
The abundance of probiotics and enzymes in live cultured plain yogurt help heal our skin. Yogurt therefore may help your sunburn recover faster. Try applying plain, probiotic yogurt to the affected area for 5 minutes, then rinse and repeat as necessary.
Baking Soda 6 of 11
Pure, versatile, safe, and affordable, baking soda counts sunburn relief among its many uses. Like apple cider vinegar and yogurt, baking soda helps to balance pH, the skin's acid/alkaline balance. Generously sprinkle baking soda into tepid bathwater for a soak after sun. Instead of toweling off, it's dermatologist recommended that you let the solution dry on your skin. Completely nontoxic, baking soda can help soothe sunburn pain.
Cold Milk 7 of 11
The fat, protein and pH of milk have a soothing anti-inflammatory effect on the skin. Moreover, cold temperatures constrict blood vessels and reduce swelling. Try making a cold milk compress by soaking a clean cloth in a bowl with equal parts milk, ice cubes and water. Hold the cloth on the burned area for five minutes and repeat a few times.
Tea 8 of 11
Tea is another natural, multi-purpose remedy that contains an important sunburn relief property, tannic acid. Tannic acid also contains ingredients that have a protective effect on the skin. If your eyelids are burned, try applying tea bags soaked in cool water to decrease swelling and help relieve pain. You can also bathe in cool water with a few tea bags in it, soak a towel in cooled tea and apply to the affected area, or fill a spray bottle with cool tea and spritz the skin. Black tea and mint tea get the most thumbs up from proponents.
Cornstarch 9 of 11
It's believed you can get relief from cornstarch in a variety of ways: To ease chafing, cover the burned area with a dusting of cornstarch. You can also try soaking in the tub with a mix or cornstarch and baking soda or adding enough water to cornstarch to make a paste and apply directly to the sunburn. I've even read that some proponents sprinkle cornstarch on their sheets to make snoozing with a sunburn more comfortable. Worth a try, right?
Shaving Cream 10 of 11
Not exactly natural but if you're in a pinch, check your shaving cream's list of ingredients. It likely contains a cooling agent like menthol that will soothe and calm the sting of a new sunburn. Gently rub onto the sunburned area and rinse off excess with cool water.
Peppermint 11 of 11
Peppermint is mostly known for helping indigestion or an upset stomach. But when used externally, peppermint has soothing effect, making it another great natural remedy for sunburn. It's also an antiseptic, thereby reducing the chances of an infection. Try soaking in a lukewarm peppermint bath by adding peppermint tea. You can also try applying cool peppermint tea directly to the skin or as a cold compress.
Tell us, what do you do to relieve sunburn pain when you’ve overdone it?
More from Jill Seiman of Glamamom on Babble Beauty this month:
- The Secrets to Jennifer Aniston’s Glowing Skin
- Super Saturday: 8 Beauty Products Whose Net Proceeds Benefit Cancer Research
- 25 Soothing After-Sun Products
- 5 Steps to a Superior Summer Shave