It’s summer again, that time of year again where people are heading out to the beach, the pool, and spending much more time outdoors and in direct sunlight for all our summer activities and vacations. Chances are good if you have fair or light colored skin at some point you will experience a sunburn. For this reason I’ve compiled a list of home remedies for sunburns that you can find in just about any kitchen or pantry when you’re at home, or stock up from any grocery store, no matter where you happen to be on vacation.
Avoiding a sunburn to begin with is always the best defense. Plenty of eco-friendly sunscreen brands will protect you if you apply them regularly. However, even prevention only goes so far and the chances are good that if you spend a lot of time in the sun this summer, you’ll put yourself at risk for getting too much. It’s always good to have the knowledge to help heal sunburns quickly and efficiently, and these natural and soothing remedies really do the trick.
- Yogurt: Plain, organic yogurt is great especially for treating facial burns. You can take a glob of thick, cool yogurt and smear it across your face, cheeks and nose. Let it sit for 5 – 10 minutes and then gently wipe off with a cool damp cloth. Live cultured yogurt has enzymes that help heal the skin and promote healthy cell growth. Make sure it’s truly plain, unflavored, yogurt without sugar or fruit, that it is organic, and that it has the requisite probiotics.
- Milk Compress: Take a glass of cold milk and soak a small cotton washcloth in it. Lay the soaked washcloth across the affected area as you would with a compress. The cold milk will help to ease the heat and create a layer of protein to protect your skin and further soothe discomfort.
- Sour Cream: Seeing a pattern here? (hint: dairy) Sour Cream is another great way to ease the pain of a fresh sunburn. Like yogurt, you will simply want to spread it across the affected area. As with yogurt there are enzymes that help heal your skin. The cold temperature also counteracts the heat of the burn which helps ease the pain.
- Baking Soda & Corn Starch: Cornstarch, has a cool, silky texture, that soothes a sunburn. Baking soda alkalizes skin burns and draws heat out of skin tissue. Combine a couple tablespoons of each with a little water to make a spreadable paste and spread the paste on the affected area. Additional use for this remedy: immediately apply the paste directly to insect bites and bee stings to neutralize the poison.
Tea Bags: Using black tea to treat a sunburn is a popular remedy that has been around a long time. Fill a two quart (half gallon) pitcher with hot water, and steep 3 – 5 family-sized tea bags until you have a very strong, dark tea. Next, take a sponge and dab the dark tea on your sunburned areas. Let the area dry and then add another coat — the more coats the better. The sooner you can do this after the burn occurs the more effective it will be. You can also opt for a tea bath. Drop five to seven family-sized bags into a bathtub of lukewarm water, steep until the water is dark brown, then soak in it for up to 20 minutes. (Avoid bathwater that is too hot. You want the skin to soak up the tea remedy, and if the water is too hot, the body will start sweating and purging in response.) Coating the burn in tea before bed is a great way to let the treatment take its course. Once you wake up, in most cases the burn will be almost completely healed. The tannins in black tea draw the burn out of skin tissue and neutralize it. This remedy is very effective at preventing peeling after a sunburn as well.
- Cucumber: A cold cucumber can provide instant relief to the most scorched skin. The coolness is an obvious pain reliever but cucumbers also have antioxidant and analgesic properties that promote healing and additional pain relief. For this remedy, cut up a cold cucumber and lay the slices on the affected skin. Flip each slice over when the first side loses it’s cool, the way you flip a pillow to get the cool side up. For a longer lasting effect, chill one or two cucumbers and toss them in a blender to create a paste. Feel free to add in some aloe vera gel or cornstarch which also promote healing and will make the cucumber paste easier to spread.
- Witch Hazel: The effective ingredient in witch hazel comes from the bark. This bark contains the same phytochemicals as in black tea called tannins, which have been shown to help reduce swelling, repair damaged skin, and kill unwanted bacteria. Most people keep witch hazel around the house in a liquid extract form, which is simply distilled from the dried leaves, bark, and twigs of the plant. In some cases it may also be referred to as “witch hazel water”. Soak a cotton ball in the witch hazel and generously swab over the skin that is sunburned. Reapply over the course of the next hour a couple more times, then over the next day, once every couple of hours. Do not wash off.
- Red Potato Paste: If you’ve found yourself with a terrible burn, red potatoes have been known as a pain reliever throughout the years, working particularly well on minor skin irritations. I mention red potatoes specifically since they have more of the phytochemicals that help with healing than a typical white potato does. Some people feel that the juice of the potato works the best, while others feel just slices are sufficient. Try both, and see which one is the best remedy for your needs. Wash and scrub your potatoes thoroughly, and then either grate them over a bowl or cut them up and put them in a blender. There is no need to remove the peels as these contain valuable mineral content that can aid in the healing process. If you’re using a blender, give them a whirl until they’ve become completely liquefied. If the mixture seems too dry, you can add a small amount of water. Pour out the mixture, soak cotton balls thoroughly in it, and apply to the burned area and let sit for 20 to 30 minutes before patting or rinsing dry.
- Oatmeal Bath: The polysaccharides in oatmeal will coat and heal your skin, while the water cools you down and keeps your skin hydrated and moist. Make sure your bath is tepid, or slightly on the cooler side. Cold water will seal off pores and your body will want to trap heat. Make sure the bath is not too cold or it won’t be as effective. The best way to make your oatmeal bath is to fill a clean cotton tube sock with uncooked oatmeal and tie off the top. Make sure the top is closed off tightly, or the oatmeal will leak out. The more water in the tub, the more oatmeal you will use and the longer you will probably want to soak in it, which will increase the healing effects of this remedy. For maximum effectiveness you may even want to use multiple oatmeal socks. Once you have run a lukewarm bath, toss in the sealed, oatmeal filled socks and let them soak for 15 minutes before jumping in yourself. Don’t linger for longer than 15 minutes once in the tub, as an overly long session could have the effect of unnecessarily drying out your skin.
- Mint Leaves: Bring one quart of water to a boil. While water is heating, put three cups of fresh, organic mint leaves into a glass pitcher (metal or plastic will leach into your herbal remedy. All herbs are delicate and should always be prepped and dispensed in glass containers if possible). Pour the boiling water over the mint leaves and then cover with a lid, letting it steep for approximately one hour. This will enable all the beneficial phytochemicals in the mint to infuse the water for maximum healing results. Strain the mint leaves out of the mint water, and then chill further in the refrigerator (for about an hour). Soak a clean, soft cloth, thoroughly in the super cold mint water and apply it directly to your sunburned areas. Mint is a known cooling agent with a host of anti-oxidants that will help heal the burn. Note: This is a wonderful make-ahead remedy to have in your fridge all summer – both to use for sunburn, and to drink (diluted with water or ice tea) for a refreshing and cooling antidote for summer’s hot days.
Aloe Vera gel is another widely used and effective treatment for sunburns, one that you are probably already familiar with. Hopefully, by giving you this list of other easy, inexpensive home remedies, some of them will find their way into your summer wellness repertoire, both at home and on the go.
Finally, remember to stay hydrated when you expect to spend a long amount of time outdoors, even if you are swimming. Sunburn is a signal that you are dehydrated and you’ve lost critical amounts of your body’s inherent moisture, both internally and on the surface of your skin. Keep rehydrated regularly with a healthy amount of water.