Getting a sunburn is a terrible idea and should be avoided at all costs but if the worst has already happened, several sunburn remedies are available to soothe the symptoms and aid in skin healing.
Severe Sunburn Remedies
Our readers write to use all the time concerned about what they term as “severe sunburn”, wondering what remedies to use to relieve the symptoms and fasten the healing process.
The term “severe” is subjective and the kind of symptoms it is used to describe may vary from one person to another.
From a medical point of view, severe sunburn (second degree sunburn) is notable for blistering and swelling in addition to the other symptoms of sunburn such as redness, pain, dryness, and sometimes itching to name but a few.
The appropriateness of severe sunburn remedies depends on the symptoms and can be broken down as follows:
- Keep the skin cool by dabbing it with washcloth dipped in cold water
- Apply aloe vera gel or one of the many aloe vera-containing lotions out there
- Take over-the-counter pain relieving drugs e.g. ibuprofen, aspirin etc
- Apply slices of raw, peeled potatoes on the affected areas of skin
- Take some pain relieving medication e.g. ibuprofen, aspirin, acetaminophen etc
- Rest in a quite, cool place
- Take plenty of water as dehydration may be the culprit
- Apply aloe vera gel, juice or aloe vera lotion
- Apply 1% hydrocortisone cream
- Keep the skin moisturized with a good water-based lotion e.g. Eucerin, Lubriderm etc
- Take an oatmeal bath prepared by mixing ½ cup oatmeal flakes (or an oatmeal powder like Aveeno) with bath water
- Take a baking soda bath prepared by adding a cup of baking soda to a bathtub of cool water
- Dab the skin with apple cider vinegar mixed with water in the ratio of 1:1
For blisters: See a subsequent section of this article
When to see a doctor:
See your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Fever, chills, nausea and malaise (general weakness)
- Signs of dehydration e.g. sunken eyes, extreme thirst
- Blisters cover more than 20 percent of your skin. For children, blistering covering the entire back merit medical attention.
Sunburn Peeling Remedies
Sunburned skin tends to peel as it heals. Peeling is the skin’s way of getting rid of damaged skin cells so that they can be replaced by new, healthy cells and may happen after a few days since exposure to UV radiation.
The WebMD website on that notes says that there is not much you can do to prevent peeling after sunburn.
There are however numerous options available to reduce the extent of skin peeling and make it less noticeable.
One excellent way is to keep the skin moisturized by applying water based lotion. Dr. Francesca Fusco, an Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine recommends either Eucerin or Lubriderm but any brand of water based moisturizing lotion or cream will work just fine.
Although petroleum based products such as Vaseline are excellent skin moisturizers, they should not be used on sunburns as they often clog the skin pores, retaining in heat which then makes the condition worse.
Applying aloe vera also helps to make peeling less noticeable by keeping the skin moisturized according to The University of Arkansas.
Sunburn Blister Remedies
Sunburn often leaves you with ugly, raised, fluid-filled blisters that can be particularly painful. This is usually an indication that you are dealing with second degree sunburn which extends beyond the first layer of skin.
So, what are some of the best sunburn blister remedies, you ask? Well, the best remedy for blisters is to leave them alone. Yes, they will go away without any input on your part.
This general guideline will help you to avoid infection and soothe the skin as it heals from the blisters:
- Leave the blisters intact. Do not pop them out
- Soothe the blisters by taking frequent cool baths
- Protect the blisters with a clean, dry bandage (optional)
- Take over-the-counter painkillers e.g. aspirin, Naproxen, ibuprofen etc to relieve pain if necessary
- Take over-the-counter antihistamines e.g. Benadryl to soothe itching
- If blisters break accidentally, wash them with lukewarm water and soap and then dab some antibiotic ointment e.g. Bacitracin or Polysporin
Watch out for signs of infection such as fever, chills, nausea and malaise and seek medical attention promptly
When it might help to pop blisters
As the WebMD website say, large painful blisters may benefit from draining them. To do that:
- Pierce the blisters on their edge using a clean pin that has been sterilized with alcohol rubs, leaving the flap of skin intact.
- Once through, wash the area with warm water and soap and apply an antibiotic cream such as Polysporin or Bacitracin
- Cover the area with a clean, dry bandage.
Sunburn Remedies Redness
Reddening of the skin is one of the first symptoms of sunburn and starts as a small red or pick patch or a mole like spot before growing larger to sometimes cover as much as the whole back or face.
The question then is, “What are some of the remedies that can help to reduce the extent of sunburn redness or to reduce it if it has already occurred?”
Well, according to Schmitt, taking a dose of ibuprofen (sole over-the-counter as Advil, Motrin etc) as soon as the first sign of sunburn, usually skin reddening, and keeping it up for the next 48 hours minimizes the extent of redness as well as skin inflammation.
Taking appropriate measures to keep the skin cool (cool soaks or compresses) and hydrated (aloe vera, moisturizing lotions, adequate water intake etc), will help cut down on the healing time and of course take the redness faster.
Sunburn Itch Remedies or Itchy Sunburn Remedies
Sunburns can get very itchy and make you want to scratch the hell out of them, but that is not a good idea at all. Scratching the sunburned skin only makes the itching worse and can set stage for secondary infection.
Moisturizing the skin can help since dryness is commonly the culprit for skin itching. An apple cider vinegar rinse prepared by mixing the vinegar with water in 1:1 ration) also does help to restore the pH of the skin and relieve the itching
An oatmeal baths prepared by adding a cup of oatmeal flakes to cool bathing water also ranks among the best sunburn itch remedies and so does a baking soda bath.
For baking soda baths, add a cup of baking soda to bathtub of water, soak in it for 20 minutes and then leave your skin to dry naturally. .
Baby Sunburn Remedies
“What remedies works for babies sunburn?” Tamara
That is a question from one of our readers. Babies under the age of 1 year should be treated by your pediatrician. As for those aged over 1 year, they may benefit from any of the remedies mentioned in this guide but you need to keep the following in mind:
- Although steroid creams (e.g. 1% hydrocortisone cream) may help to relieve inflammation and itching, they are not recommended for use in children aged below 2 years and in rectal and vaginal areas for kids aged below 12 years
- Do not give aspirin to children aged below 16 years as it can trigger Reye’s syndrome which is often fatal