Most people know what a sunburn is. A proper definition would be a type of skin damage caused by extensive exposure to the sun. It causes the affected area to be red and sore, which may end up being tender or itchy. The affected area shows flakes in a couple of days and the area usually heals on its own within a week. That being said, it should not be treated lightly because repeated cases of sunburn may cause melanoma (skin cancer) in the long run.
Severe sunburns may result in blisters and they may take a lot longer to heal.
Home Remedies to Get rid of Sunburn
Despite the potentially catastrophic implications of getting sunburnt, it may at times cannot be avoided because of a myriad of different reasons. In such an eventuality, you need not panic as there are several home remedies available to cure you of this affliction.
- Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is used a natural sun block in a bunch of different cultures, such as those in southern parts of India and Thailand. Besides being used as a sunscreen, coconut oil can also be used to treat a case of sunburn. This is because of two main reasons:
- Coconut oil consists of small and medium chain fatty acids. This allows it to be absorbed by your skin sooner, compared to other oils that have larger fatty acid chains.
- Lauric acid is present in abundant quantities in coconut oil, which has anti-microbial properties. This protects the burnt area from secondary infections.
- It is rich in antioxidants, which cools the affected area.
You can simply take some extra virgin coconut oil and gently apply it on the affected area. You need not worry about washing it off because if given adequate time, it will be absorbed in its entirety by your skin.
Coconut oil may stain your clothes; so be mindful of the same while you utilize this treatment.
- Apple Vider Vinegar
There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that points towards apple cider vinegar (ACV) as a potential cure for sunburn. Vinegar in general and apple cider vinegar in particular are known for their disinfectant and anti-microbial properties, hence it makes sense that it would protect the sun burnt area from secondary infections.
You can try treating your sunburn with the help of the following steps:
- Take a full-sized spritzer and pour half a cup of organic ACV in it. Fill the remaining part of the spritzer with tap water at room temperature. You may adjust the amount of ACV or water to ensure that a ratio of 1:5 is maintained.
- If you have never used ACV before, spray a bit of the mixture on an unaffected part of your skin. At worst, you should feel a minor stinging sensation, which should go away in a few seconds. However, if you feel a persistent burn, it might mean that you are allergic to ACV and this treatment is not right for you!
- If you are not allergic to ACV, then spritz the affected area with the mixture and then let it dry naturally.
Alternately, you can also mix ACV with tap water in the aforementioned ratio and apply that on the affected area with a cotton ball.
For best results, use organic ACV that has the “mother of vinegar” still in it!
- Cold Water
Water has a very high specific heat capacity, which means that compared to other substances it can draw away a significant amount of heat before there is a tangible rise in its temperature. This property makes it a very useful remedy for sunburns. You can use cold water to treat sunburn via the following methods:
- Cold compress: Following is how you can treat sunburn with a cold compress:
- Take a piece of washcloth and soak it in water that is cooler than room temperature (the usual temperature of tap water in temperate climates).
- Apply the washcloth for a few minutes before you repeat the process. Do it for about fifteen minutes.
- Be careful to not use ice cubes or water that is freezing cold because they would constrict the blood vessels and reduce the blood flow in the affected area, which may have adverse effects.
Instead of water, some prefer using milk or buttermilk to apply the cold compress. This is because the fat and other nutrients present in milk may present with additional emollient properties.
- Soaking: Simply soak yourself in a tub filled with cool water for about 15 minutes for some immediate relief. However, do not soak yourself for any more than that because it may get rid of the sebum (the natural oil on your skin) leading to dry skin that may increase the itchiness on the affected area.
- Hydrate yourself: If you are sunburnt, chances are that you are dehydrated as well! Make sure you drink lots of water at adequate intervals to stay hydrated as it may help you recover from sunburn sooner. If drinking lots of water does not sound too appealing, you may consume fruits that have a large amount of water in them. Some examples are watermelon, honeydew and cantaloupe.
- Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is one of the most commonly cited remedy for sunburn because it is one of the most effective. This is because of the following:
- Aloe Vera gel is about 99% water, which we already established is an effective cure for sunburn.
- The remaining 1% contains tannins and selenium (among other nutrients) which are known to get rid of a sunburn really fast.
The most effective way to use aloe would be via scraping the gel from an aloe leaf. It is really easy to do. Simply pluck the leaf, chop off the rinds, take the leaf apart and scrape the gel with the help of a cotton bud. Use more if you are burnt over a larger area.
If you cannot get hold of an aloe plant, visit your local drugstore and buy a bottle or organic aloe vera gel and use it instead.
This treatment can be repeated as often as you would like!
- Witch Hazel
Witch hazel is a highly effective treatment for sunburn because of the following reasons:
- It has anti-inflammatory properties that can ease the pain.
- It has anti-microbial properties that protects the area from secondary infections.
- It is rich in tannins and catechins, which has emollient properties.
Simply procure a bottle of organic witch hazel from your local health food store and apply it on the affected area with the help of a cotton swab as many times as you would like during the course of the day. No need to wash it off as your skin will absorb all of it.
- Sliced Vegetables
Nature has provided us with a vast range of vegetables that can be sliced and diced to cure your sunburn. Following are a couple of options:
- Potatoes: Potatoes are a natural emollient that can help soothe the stinging sensations of sunburn. Simply wash the potatoes thoroughly, chop them into fine slices (without removing the skin) and rub them on the affected area to get some relief from the stinging sensation. Raw potatoes are rich in vitamins and minerals, that can slowly help cure the affliction as well! Instead of using potato slices, some insist on grating potatoes to form a pack or a poultice to cure sunburn. There is no evidence to prove that it is any more effective than potato slices.
- Cucumber: Cucumbers contain a lot of water, as a result of which they provide some relief from the stinging sensations of sunburn. Besides that, cucumber also has antioxidant and analgesic properties, making it an effective cure for the affliction as well. There are a couple of ways you can use cucumber to treat your sunburn:
- Cucumber slices: Simply chill a cucumber in the fridge for about ten minutes, chop them up into fine slices and gently apply them on the affected area. As one side heats up, you can flip it and apply the other side instead.
- Cucumber paste: To create the cucumber paste, you will need the following ingredients:
- Two regular sized cucumbers.
- One tablespoon of aloe vera gel.
- One tablespoon of cornstarch.
Simply throw all the ingredients in the blender, and apply the resulting paste on the affected area. Leave it on for about fifteen minutes or till the paste dries and then wash it off!
Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant that has a cooling effect on the skin. It also contains Vitamins A and C, which are necessary for healing the skin after a sunburn. The best way to use tomatoes to cure sunburnt skin would be to create a natural homemade lotion with it. To make it you will need the following ingredients:
- 3 regular sized tomatoes.
- 1 tablespoon of yogurt.
You can make the lotion with the help of the following steps:
- Throw the tomatoes in a juicer or a blender to extract the juice.
- Mix the yogurt in the juice. Be thorough to ensure that the yogurt is evenly distributed in the juice.
- Apply the lotion on the affected area.
- Leave it on for about 20 minutes before washing it off.
This treatment can be applied for up to three times a day.
In the previous section, we recommended that you add yogurt to tomato juice to prepare a lotion for treating sunburn. Although yogurt acts as a binding agent, it is not the only reason why it was added to the treatment mentioned earlier. Yogurt contains probiotic bacteria which produces enzymes that not only helps with digestion but can also soothe the sunburnt skin. Simply apply it on the affected area, leave it on for about twenty minutes and then wash it off. You can apply it as often as you like!
- Oatmeal Baths
Oatmeal’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties can be used to treat cases of sunburn. There are several ways you can do this:
- Oatmeal baths: Take a handful of oatmeal in cheesecloth and soak it in a bathtub filled with cool water for about twenty minutes, then soak yourself in the resulting tub for about fifteen minutes. You can use the oatmeal poultice as a compress on the affected area while you are taking a bath.
- Oatmeal paste: To make this paste you will need the following ingredients:
- ½ cup powdered oatmeal.
- 3 tablespoons of honey
- ¼ cup of milk.
Simple mix the ingredients to create a paste and apply it on the affected area. Leave it on for about 15 minutes before washing it off.
- Essential Oil Treatment
There are a few essential oils that can help you recover from being sunburnt. Following are a few examples:
- Peppermint essential oil: Peppermint essential oil can help in the case of sunburn because:
- It contains menthol, which will help cool the affected area.
- Its anti-microbial properties will protect the area from secondary infections.
Simply mix some peppermint essential oil with a carrier oil (such as almond or jojoba oil) and apply it on the affected area. Just like the coconut oil treatment, you need not wash it off as your skin will absorb all of the oil in due course. The carrier oil also helps moisturize your skin, which will reduce flaking and will help you recover sooner!
- Lavender essential oil: Lavender essential oil has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, which as stated earlier is useful for treating a sunburn. You can incorporate a few drops of lavender essential oils while applying a cold compress, or while taking a cool bath. You can also make a highly effective sunburn spray using lavender essential oil. To make this spray you will need the following ingredients:
- 4 drops of lavender essential oil
- ½ teaspoon of organic aloe vera gel
- 1 drop of helichrysum essential oil
After you have procured the ingredients, you can make the spray with the help of the following steps:
- Mix the ingredients thoroughly (minus the water) and scrape the resulting paste into a dark spray bottle.
- Fill the spray bottle with water and shake vigorously.
Store this mixture in a cool area and spritz it on the affected area during the course of the day. Make sure that you shake the bottle before applying the spray.
- Saint John’s Wort essential oil: Saint John’s Wort has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties, which can reduce the pain and swelling caused by sunburn and protect the area from secondary infections as well. It can be applied the exact same way as one would apply the peppermint essential oil.
- Baking Soda
Baking soda can soothe the skin and protect the area from secondary infections, making it a very useful tool for treating sunburn. Simply mix water and baking soda to create a smooth paste and apply it on the affected area. Wait for the paste to dry before you wash it off. If you do not have any baking soda then you can use cornstarch instead.
Both black and green tea are rich in tannins and antioxidants, which helps the skin heal after sunburn. After you brew some tea using tea bags, you can throw them in the freezer for a few minutes and then apply them on the affected area. You can also brew some very strong tea (by using 4 tea bags for a cup of tea), cool it in the fridge and apply that on the affected area with a cotton swab. Rinse the area with some cool water after you have applied this treatment for about fifteen minutes.
- Use a Moisturizer
To ensure that the burnt area heals significantly, it is important that you keep the area moisturized. As mentioned earlier in this article, coconut oil would be ideal for this purpose. However, if you do not like the smell of coconut oil, you can use any unscented natural moisturizer from your local health store and keep applying that on the affected area during the course of the day.
- Over the Counter Painkillers
This particular affliction is called sunburn for a reason; it actually burns! Just like any other burn, it can be extremely painful. If you feel as if you cannot deal with the pain, do not try to be a hero and pop a couple of over the counter (OTC) painkillers. Medical practitioners tend to recommend Ibuprofen (Brand Name: Advil) because of its anti-inflammatory properties as well.
Treatments for Subburn
As discussed earlier there are three main consequences of sunburn. They are:
- A painful burning sensation.
- Incessant itching
The home remedies mentioned above should be adequate for dealing with mild to moderate cases of sunburn. However, in cases of severe sunburns or because of some underlying skin condition, it may not be enough.
If you are severely sunburnt or if the aforementioned home remedies prove to be ineffective, you need to contact a qualified medical professional without hesitation.
- Pain Medications
If there is severe pain, you may have already tried some OTC pain medications. They may at times prove to be ineffective, especially if you are suffering from sunburn that is equivalent to a third degree burn or worse. Physicians typically prescribe a prescription strength topical ointment or a local anesthetic to provide relief from the pain.
In case of a severe burn, the physician may prescribe some prescription painkillers, such as Oxycodone or Vicodin. In such an eventuality please be careful not to exceed the recommended dosage because there is a risk of getting addicted to them!
The market is flooded with various corticosteroids (available via prescription only) to help people suffering from an incessant itch. These tend to carry side-effects, hence only use the one recommended by a doctor who is familiar with your medical history.
Sunburns often result in blisters. In most cases you can take care of blisters on your own without paying a visit to the doctor’s office. Following are a couple of ideas:
- Leave the blister alone and it will probably heal on its own. Avoid touching it or putting pressure on it. It is always a good idea to protect the blister with the help of some loose bandage that you can easily make on your own with some gauze and medical tapes.
- If for any reason the blisters are formed where you may end up allying some pressure, like on your back, your buttocks, the palm of your hands or the bottom of your feet, you may protect the area with some extra cushion such as those provided by doughnut-shaped moleskin pads.
Sometimes the blisters may get unreasonably big, in which case it may need to be drained. It can be done via the following steps:
- Disinfect a needle with rubbing alcohol. If you do not have any handy then you can always disinfect it on an open flame.
- Gently pop the tip of the blister.
- Gently apply pressure on the edges of the blister so that you can coax the liquid out of the hole.
People with compromised immune systems, such as those suffering from cancer or HIV should avoid this step as it may cause secondary infections that may quickly get out of hand.
Despite our best efforts, blisters may get popped. Do not despair and take the following steps to take control of the situation:
- Gently wash the area with a mild soap and water.
- Apply an antibiotic ointment and cover the area with a bandage. Stop using the ointment if there is a rash because it is probably being caused by the ointment.
- Change the bandage at least twice during the course of the day. Leave the area open before you go to bed so that the area dries and heals permanently.
If the popped blister gets infected you should visit your doctor right away. Following are some common signs of an infected blister:
- Pus leaking from the blister.
- Red streaks around the blister.
- Swelling, increased pain and a warm sensation around the blister.
- Fever and general malaise.
Besides the aforementioned reasons, you should also consult a doctor in case of any of the following eventualities after suffering from a sunburn:
- You feel dehydrated even after consuming plenty of fluids.
- You have trouble with your vision, even after you have been in the shade for a while.