Cheap and Simple Sunburn Remedies That Really Work
Oops, I did it again. Thinking that just one unprotected hour in the sun would be alright, I fried my fair Danish skin. I really know better, but it can happen to the best of us. Here are some very useful home concoctions and common sense tips for easing the pain and feeling better quick. (See also: Sunscreen Savings: How to Spend 50 Percent Less Without Even Trying)
A sunburn isn't just a painful nuisance — it can wreak havoc on healthy skin and put you at risk for getting skin cancer later in life. (In fact, two or more severe sunburns before age 18 greatly increase the chances, as skin has a sort of a "memory" of burns and tans year after year. While the best treatment is prevention with an effective sunblock, sunscreen, or a proper physical barrier from the sun, things can sometimes go wrong.
So what do you do when you return home from an outing and you resemble a well-done lobster bake? Try one of these time-tested home remedies…and give yourself a chance to heal.
Paul Michael was the first to introduce me to this cure, in his 254 Uses for Vinegar piece. Apply vinegar (or a half-water, half-vinegar solution) with a spray bottle or dab on with a towel. Then cover the area with a tea towel for overnight relief. While a bit stinky, it does wonders to "cool" down the burn.
Recommended for adult sunburn victims with a known tolerance to aspirin, this is the treatment I used most recently. Simply crush a couple of aspirin in a bowl or cup with the back of a spoon. By adding a small amount of water, you can create a "paste" which can be applied directly to the burn. (Be sure to crush the aspirin very well.)
A variation on this is to add it to Maalox (the tummy stuff) instead of water and brush it on with a basting brush or a cotton ball. Since aspirin alone can cause burns, be certain you don't have an intolerance to it being applied topically, and don't let it sit on your skin any longer than overnight.
If in doubt, simply take the aspirin orally as recommended. (Be aware of your tolerance to aspirin, first.)
Whip up a batch of tea (either from boiled tea bags or sun tea), and cool it in the fridge along with some ice. Spray directly on burned skin or dab with a soft rag. It instantly cools and relieves the burn, so keep applying for best results!
Apply gauze dipped in lukewarm milk to the burned area. Leave on for minimum of 20 minutes, and rinse the area when it starts to get a bit funky-smelling (or no more than an hour or so later).
Growing up, we always had an aloe plant in the home for minor burns and afflictions. Break off a piece of the plant and squeeze it so that some of the goo (gel) drips out the end. You can rub this directly into the sunburn for the same kind of soothing relief you can get from those "after-burn" gels and over-the-counter commercial products (only better). When the gel starts to dry, the area may become stiff, so keep applying or cleanse the area and apply with some new gel.
I'm no doctor, but also no stranger to sunburns. If prevention has failed, and you experience a nasty burn, stay home, stay hydrated, and stay rested. Using simple techniques to relieve pain and maintain the integrity of your skin, it is possible to get back to your daily routine the next day. If you experience any of the following symptoms, see a doctor for proper care:
- Intense Fatigue
You will also want to be aware that some prescription medications increase your sensitivity to sunlight and put you at added risk of getting burnt. These include certain:
- Birth Control Pills
- Diabetes Medications
Medicated soaps, perfumes, and Retin-A can also make you susceptible to overexposure.
Take it easy year-round to prevent sunburns and other dangerous skin conditions. A regular visit to your dermatologist can keep skin concerns under control and decrease your chances of cancer-related illness or death. (For more information, see how to get a free skin cancer screening in your area.)
(Information contained in this article is not intended to be a substitute for advice and treatment from a licensed physician — use at your own risk.)