3 Natural Sunburn Remedies That Really Work (And One That Doesn’t)

by Gio
4 natural sunburn remedies

Got a sunburn?

You can turn to corticosteroids to reduce the inflammation. It’s what the doctor would recommend. It’s also pretty harsh. Isn’t there a gentler way to heal this thing fast?

You’re in luck. Mother Nature has given us plenty of natural sunburn remedies – and they’re scientifically approved too!

Here are three natural, science-backed ways to soothe a sunburn naturally and help it heal faster (and one you should avoid like the plague):

What Is A Sunburn?

A sunburn – red, painful and hot to the touch skin – happens when you spend too much time in the sun without adequate sun protection. Here’s how it works:

Melanin, the pigment that gives skin its natural colour, is your natural sunscreen. When you’re in the sun a little too long, your body doubles down on melanin production.

In other words, you tan. Yep, you’ve read that right. A tan is your body’s natural defense against sun damage.

FYI, the merest hint of a tan is your body’s way of telling you, “Get out of the sun NOW!” If you don’t, all hell breaks loose.

Unable to handle the excess UV radiation, your skin gets damaged. Skin cells die off. Blood vessels dilate to increase blood flow and bring immune cells to the area to heal it faster.

This repair mechanism triggers redness, swelling and inflammation. In other words, a sunburn.

A sunburn will eventually heal on its own. But some of the damaged cells will have mutations that your body can’t repair. One day, these mutated cells may become cancerous.

Wear your sunscreen, ladies!

The sunburn will eventually heal, but some of the surviving cells will have mutations that escape repair. These cells could eventually become cancerous.

Related: A Tan Isn’t Worth Dying For

What Are The Symptoms Of Sunburn?

You’ve got a sunburn if you’re experiencing:

  • Pinkness or redness
  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Itching
  • Skin that feels hot to the touch
  • Small fluid-filled blisters
  • Headache, fever and nausea (if the sunburn is severe)

Ouch!

How do you treat it? Here are the best (and worst) natural sunburn remedies:

Natural Sunburn Remedy #1: Aloe vera

WHY IT WORKS

The Journal of Ethnopharmacology confirmed what we all already knew: aloe vera has anti-inflammatory properties that soothe inflamed and irritated skin. While it’s at it, Aloe Vera also moisturises skin, making it softer. This helps with the peeling that always comes along with sun damage, too.

HOW TO USE IT

You can use an aloe gel/cream, like Skinfood Aloe Vera 93% Soothing Gel. Or you can extract juice directly from the plant and apply it on the sunburn. Whatever you do, don’t use anything that also contains lidocaine or benzocaine- they can cause an allergic reaction and make your sunburn worse!

P.S. This is my fave natural sunburn remedy. I’ve always relied on it in the past and it never let me down.

Related: 9 Soothing Ingredients That Calm Down Irritated And Sensitive Skin

Natural Sunburn Remedy #2: Cucumbers

WHY IT WORKS

Ever wondered why your grandma used cucumbers for everything? A 2010 study shows cucumbers have analgesic properties that can lessen pain. Plus, like Aloe Vera, cucumbers are mostly made of water. Translation = they’re super hydrating.

HOW TO USE IT

With a blender, turn your cucumbers into a paste. Apply the mixture on the sunburn. It’ll reduce the inflammation and make your skin softer, too.

Natural Sunburn Remedy #3: Cool milk

WHY IT WORKS

Amy Pappert, dermatologist at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, recommends treating a sunburn with milk: “Milk is the beverage of choice for relieving the discomfort of sunburn. The coolness soothes the initial heat felt by the skin and the milk will create a protein film that helps ease the discomfort.”

HOW TO USE IT

Apply cool (not cold!) milk with a clean cloth or gauze to the sunburned area to soothe the inflammation.

A Natural Sunburn Remedy You Should NOT Try: Ice pack wrapped in a towel

Common sense says that cooling your skin is the best way to soothe a sunburn. Wrong. Putting ice or ice packs on the sunburn may give you some relief in the short term, but it slow down the healing process in the long run.

A 2002 study tested the effectiveness of a cooling treatment similar to ice compared to a placebo to soothe burns. The results? The cooling treatment didn’t reduce pain or inflammation any better than the placebo.

Worse, it can actually do more damage. In 1997, researchers tried to soothe burns with ice cubes and other treatments, for around 10 minutes each. Ice cubes caused “the most severe damage.”

Turns out, putting ice on burns can cause frostbites and harm skin. Don’t do it!

What are your fave natural sunburn remedies? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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8 comments

Kiss & Make-up June 28, 2013 - 2:52 pm

Oh yes Aloe Vera can work wonders!

Reply
beautifulwithbrains June 28, 2013 - 6:38 pm

Kiss & Make-up, aloe is wonderful, isn’t it?

Reply
Icaria June 28, 2013 - 5:26 pm

Milk compresses are my go to. Used them last summer on my daughter and it worked wonders. We followed with Aloe to soothe and the next day used CeraVe over the aloe gel and did this for several days. No peeling! Oh and for the first 2 nights I gave her ibuprofen and that too helped a lot.

Reply
beautifulwithbrains June 28, 2013 - 6:40 pm

Icaria, thanks for sharing. I’m glad these remedies worked well for your daughter and that she experienced no peeling.

Reply
Makeup Morsels June 29, 2013 - 3:56 am

Always knew about aloe, but had no idea about milk. It’s great actually, because milk is definitely more accessible than aloe vera haha, don’t always keep that in the house. Although hopefully I don’t get sunburned in the first place this summer, not a fun feeling!

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beautifulwithbrains June 29, 2013 - 1:19 pm

Makeup Morsels, I hope you won’t as well. Although it’s good to know there are lots of remedies for it, just in case.

Reply
Tavia June 29, 2013 - 6:25 pm

I had no idea of the milk but I was familiar that yogurt is a good remedy too.Many of my friends have used fat yogurt even last year at the sea when the sleep on the beach. :)))

Reply
beautifulwithbrains June 29, 2013 - 7:11 pm

Tavia, I’m glad that yogurt helped your friends. Milk is very effective too, and is something that we all have at home.

Reply

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