No matter how careful I try to be, there always seems to be at least one day in the summer when I'm distracted by the fun and I forget to apply sunscreen before I head out the door. Invariably, my Irish-Scottish skin gets roasted, and I find myself in desperate need of some sunburn relief.
Fortunately, there are lots of natural sunburn remedies you can find hiding in your kitchen and bathroom cupboards. So the next time you find yourself with a nasty burn, follow these tips to get relief.
Use cool compresses. Cool inflamed and sunburned skin with a soft washcloth dipped in cold water. Add witch hazel to ease swelling. For an extra blast of cool, turn on a fan and aim it at your skin.
Drink up. Sunburns "draw fluid to the skin’s surface and away from the rest of the body," says the Skin Cancer Foundation. So it's important to replenish those fluids as quickly as possible while you recuperate. Grab some water or a sports drink frequently.
Raid the kitchen. There are a number of common pantry staples you can apply to your skin to ease discomfort. Try these foods recommended by Prevention:
- Cool milk: Mix a cup of milk with four cups of water and a few ice cubes. Dip a washcloth in the milk and apply it to your skin.
- Yogurt: Apply plain yogurt directly to your sunburn, then rinse it off in a cool shower.
- Cucumbers: You can slice a cuke and put the slices on your sunburned eyes. Or throw a cucumber in a blender to make a paste, and apply the paste to your skin.
- Tea bags: Another great option for sunburned eyes — just steep and cool the tea bags, then place them on your eyelids.
- Cornstarch and water: Make a paste and spread it on your skin. Rinse it off with cool water.
- Lettuce: Boil lettuce leaves in water, then take the leaves out and cool the liquid. Use the lettuce water on a washcloth for a cool compress.
- Oatmeal: Wrap dry oatmeal in cheesecloth and run water over it into a bowl. Use a washcloth to soak up some water and apply the compress to your sunburn.
Grab your shaving cream. A Texas woman used shaving cream to treat her sunburn, and she posted her photos on Facebook. The photos show her covering her entire upper back with shaving cream, and she let it on for at least 30 minutes. "It’s very possible that shaving cream could help ease the pain and discomfort of sunburn," Dr. William Huang, associate professor of dermatology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, told Health.com. "The number one ingredient in shaving cream is typically water, so it’s very hydrating. But also there are a lot of oils, usually palm or coconut oil, which are very soothing and nice to help replenish damaged skin.”
Hop in the tub. A cool (not hot!) bath can help draw out the heat and ease the pain and inflammation of a sunburn. Skip the soap as that will only dry your skin and make things worse. Instead, you may want to add either (but not both) apple cider vinegar or baking soda. Both have natural properties that help combat sunburn pain. But it's worth knowing that if you add them together, your bath will turn into bubbling volcano! You also can try an oatmeal bath, which is especially helpful when the sunburn starts to itch.
Go with aloe. Aloe vera is the standard over-the-counter sunburn remedy and for good reason. The naturally-occurring gel from an aloe plant contains both anti-inflammatories and nutrients that aid in skin growth and repair. Break a meaty leaf off an aloe plant and apply the gel directly to your skin. Or grab a bottle of aloe vera gel from a drug store or grocery store.
Leave it alone. As your sunburn heals, it may begin to blister or peel. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), you should avoid popping blisters or peeling skin as this can leave your skin open to infection.
Two things to remember for next time
Shade up. According to AAD, if you feel a sunburn coming on, get out of the sun as soon as possible. If you can't get indoors, shield your tender skin with a lightweight coverup or towel.
Use sunscreen. You know the pain you're feeling now? Memorize it. And conjure up that memory the next time you think just a few minutes in the sun won't hurt you. As you heal from this burn, take extra precautions to avoid future sunburns — stock up on sunscreen, stash a sunhat in the car or set an alarm that reminds you to get out of the sun when you know you will be outdoors for any length of time.
Editor's note: This article has been updated since it was originally published in July 2016.