Yes, we all need a little sunshine in our lives. But always remember that too much sun can burn your skin, apart from aging it and even upping your risk of skin cancer. Melanin, the pigment which darkens your skin, can protect it to some extent but if sun exposure exceeds the protective ability of this pigment, you could end up with a sunburn – that’s warm, red skin which is painful and starts to peel off after a few days.
People who are light skinned are more likely to get sunburned. In fact, if you have very light skin, even 15 minutes of exposure to the midday sun can give you a sunburn while a person with darker skin may not get burnt for hours.1
If you have symptoms of severe sunburn like chills, a temperature of 100.4F or higher, blistering, and swelling of skin you need to see a doctor. Symptoms like dizziness, headaches, and nausea also warrant a doctor’s visit as they could mean that you have heat exhaustion. Your doctor may recommend burn dressing, a hydrocortisone cream, or other creams for sunburn.2
If your sunburn is not severe, it should typically heal in around a week. Here are a few steps and remedies that can help the healing process along.
Home Remedies For Sunburn Relief
1. Cool Down
One of the first things you should do if you have a sunburn is cool your skin.3
What to do: Cool your skin by taking a bath or shower with cold water. Sponging down with some cold water can also be helpful.
2. Drink Plenty Of Fluids
Drinking lots of fluids will not only help you cool down but also stop you from getting dehydrated.4
What to do: Don’t forget to drink lots of water. You could also juice a couple of cucumbers. Cucumber juice is not only cooling but also helps alleviate pain.5
3. Stay Out Of The Sun
It’s important to stay out of the sun till your skin heals. Also remember to cover up and avoid sunlight (even through the windows) till your skin heals.6
What to do: Make sure your skin is not exposed to sunlight even through the windows. You can also cover up with light clothes till your skin heals.
4. Tap Into Green Tea
Studies show that epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a compound present in green tea, reduces DNA damage caused by UV radiation and functions as a sunscreen. Animal studies have even discovered that the topical application of green tea extracts can lessen the development of cancerous skin cells.7
What to do: Apply a cool, damp green tea bag to your sunburn.
5. Apply Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is known for its skin healing properties. It has anti-inflammatory properties which can help reduce the reddening of skin caused by exposure to UV rays. 8 Polysaccharides and anthraquinones found in this beneficial plant also help your skin to heal.9
What to do: Crack open an aloe leaf and scoop out the gel inside. Spread this gel on sunburnt skin for relief.
6. Go For Cucumbers
Cool cucumbers can be your best ally when it comes to treating sunburns. They have a soothing effect and are also rich in antioxidants that can push back against the damaging effects of the sun’s rays10 11
What to do: Slice a cucumber open and apply it to your skin. And as we saw earlier, drinking cucumber juice can also be helpful as it reduces pain.12
7. Apply Some Witch Hazel
Soothing witch hazel is well known for it anti-inflammatory properties and can be used to deal with sunburns. One study that looked at the effect of a lotion containing witch hazel on skin inflammation and reddening induced by exposure to UVB rays found it to be effective as an aftersun lotion.13
What to do: Use a compress to dab some witch hazel solution on your sunburnt skin.14
8. Try Plantain Leaves
Here’s an unlikely remedy for sunburns – plantain leaves! Plantain leaves contain allantoin, a compound that helps heal your damaged skin cells.15
What to do: Traditionally, a plantain leaf poultice is applied directly to burns to heal and soothe.16 To make a poultice, mash a plantain leaf in cold water to make a paste and wrap it in a fine clean cloth. Apply this on sunburnt skin.
9. Put Calendula To Work
Calendula has anti-inflammatory properties and can help with tissue repair and pain when applied topically to burns. Flavonoids present in this herb are thought to be responsible for these healing effects.17
What to do: Prepare a tea by steeping a couple of teaspoons of calendula flowers in a cup of boiling water for around 10 to 15 minutes. Now strain and let the tea cool down. Applying a clean dressing dipped into this tea can help soothe sunburnt skin.18
10. Soak In Some Oats
Oats have been used in baths for ages to soothe itchy and irritated skin and can help sunburnt skin as well. Colloidal oatmeal becomes a sticky gooey mass when it’s mixed with water. This can coat your skin and seal in moisture. The gluten present in oats is thought to be responsible for this moisturizing and soothing property.19 20
What to do: Add sufficient colloidal oats to your bath so that it turns a milky white color. Generally, 2 to 3 cups should do the trick. Now enjoy a soothing soak.
Take Precautions To Prevent Sunburn
Prevention’s always better than cure. So here are a few tips that can help protect your skin.
Make sure you use a broad spectrum sunscreen which offers protection from both UVA and UVB rays before you go out in the sun. And remember, using a lip balm which has sunscreen helps protect your lips.
Wear Protective Clothing And Gear
Use a hat and other clothing like long-sleeved shirts which can cover and protect your skin from the sun’s rays. Wear sunglasses with UV protection.
Avoid Peak Hours
Avoid going out in the sun when it’s at peak strength– that’s between 10 in the morning to 4 in the evening.21
|↑1, ↑21||Sunburn. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑2||Sunburn. National Health Service.|
|↑3, ↑4, ↑6||Sunburn. National Health Service.|
|↑5, ↑11||Kumar, D., S. Kumar, J. Singh, B. D. Vashistha, and N. Singh. “Free radical scavenging and analgesic activities of Cucumis sativus L. fruit extract.” Journal of Young Pharmacists 2, no. 4 (2010): 365-368.|
|↑7, ↑9||Korać, Radava R., and Kapil M. Khambholja. “Potential of herbs in skin protection from ultraviolet radiation.” Pharmacognosy reviews 5, no. 10 (2011): 164.|
|↑8||Reuter, J., A. Jocher, J1 Stump, B. Grossjohann, G. Franke, and C. M. Schempp. “Investigation of the anti-inflammatory potential of Aloe vera gel (97.5%) in the ultraviolet erythema test.” Skin pharmacology and physiology 21, no. 2 (2008): 106-110.|
|↑10||Mukherjee, Pulok K., Neelesh K. Nema, Niladri Maity, and Birendra K. Sarkar. “Phytochemical and therapeutic potential of cucumber.” Fitoterapia 84 (2013): 227-236.|
|↑12||Duke, James A. The green pharmacy: New discoveries in herbal remedies for common diseases and conditions from the world’s foremost authority on healing herbs. Rodale, 1997.|
|↑13||Hughes-Formella, B. J., K. Bohnsack, F. Rippke, G. Benner, M. Rudolph, I. Tausch, and J. Gassmueller. “Anti-inflammatory effect of hamamelis lotion in a UVB erythema test.” Dermatology 196, no. 3 (1998): 316-322.|
|↑14, ↑15||Duke, James A. The green pharmacy: New discoveries in herbal remedies for common diseases and conditions from the world’s foremost authority on healing herbs. Rodale, 1997.|
|↑16||Plantain. University of Michigan.|
|↑17||Calendula. University of Michigan.|
|↑18||Calendula. University of Michigan.|
|↑19||Shenefelt, P. D., I. F. F. Benzie, and S. Wachtel-Galor. “Chapter 18: Herbal Treatment for Dermatologic Disorders.” Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Copyright (2011).|
|↑20||Land, Victoria, and Leigh Small. “The evidence on how to best treat sunburn in children: A common treatment dilemma.” Pediatric nursing 34, no. 4 (2008): 343.|