How to treat the “DREADED” sunburn

Ouch! Now you’ve done it. You can hear me in the back of your head saying, “apply your sunscreen every day! Reapply every 2 hours if you’re outside! Use SPF 30 or higher! No exceptions!!” But, you lost track of time and maybe you left your sunscreen at home. The result…The DREADED sunburn.

Your skin feels like its on fire, you’re in pain, you’re swollen, and maybe some blisters are starting to appear. Now what do you do? Luckily, there are some home remedies you can do and most, if not all, of the ingredients and supplies needed you already have in your own home.

The first thing you will want to do is take some ibuprofen or aspirin. They will help with the discomfort you are feeling while reducing some of the inflammation. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is okay to take as well. It will help with the discomfort, but it doesn’t have anti-inflammatory properties like ibuprofen and aspirin.

If you do develop blisters, avoid picking or rupturing/draining them. Doing so may lead to scarring and/or infection. They will resolve on their own during the healing process.

After taking the medication draw up a cool bath. The water should be just below room temperature. Do not use cold water. You may already be experiencing chills from the sunburn and using cold water could be too traumatizing to your body.  Cool water will soothe you by bringing down the temperature of your burned skin, and may help relive the stinging sensation you are feeling. Avoid using any soaps or shower gels. They can dry and dehydrate your skin making you more uncomfortable and delay healing.

Need more relief? You can add baking soda and oatmeal to the bath water to enhance the soothing properties of the cool water. Soak for 15-20 minutes, but no longer to avoid over drying your skin. After your bath, it is best to let your skin air dry or gently dab your skin with a soft, clean towel. No rubbing.

Got milk? Cold milk from your refrigerator can provide you with soothing and cooling relief in an instant. It actually has healing properties to assist in the healing process. Pour some cold milk into a bowl and soak a soft washcloth or gauze until saturated. Apply the cold milk compress to the burned areas and reapply as needed.

Did you know raw potatoes can help too? They are known to soothe skin irritations, rashes, and burns. They can also help with inflammation. All you have to do is peel a couple of potatoes and throw them into a blender along with some cool water. Blend until soupy. Soak a soft washcloth or gauze in the blended potatoes until saturated and apply to burned skin. Reapply as needed. If you don’t have a blender you can grate or slice the potatoes and apply directly onto your skin.

Brewed tea is another great remedy. Use black or green tea mixed with mint. You can use mint tea or fresh mint leaves. Black and green teas contain tannins, which are known to help heal damaged skin, while the mint has a cooling effect on the skin. Bring at least a quart of water to a boil. Then add 5-8 tea bags along with the mint. Remove from the heat and let it sit covered for at least an hour. Remove the tea bags and mint and place in the refrigerator until chilled. Once chilled apply as a compress or pour directly on the skin. I like the idea of putting it into a spray bottle and spritzing your skin as needed.

Lastly, vinegar has been a sunburn remedy for ages. I remember hearing about it as a kid. Oddly, in doing my research I couldn’t find any hardcore evidence on why or how it works, but I know people who swear by it. From what I have read it seems the raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar is recommended for best results. Apply as needed as a compress or spritz with a spray bottle. You can also apply cucumber slices to your skin to further enhance the soothing and healing properties. You may smell and look like a salad, but don’t worry. The aroma of the vinegar will dissipate after drying.

Once you have soothed the pain, reduced the swelling, the healing process has begun. Now is the time to stay hydrated and keep your burned skin moisturized.

The sunburn has dehydrated your skin. Drink plenty of water to replenish hydration on the inside, and apply an unscented moisturizer to replenish hydration on the outside. It is necessary to apply the unscented moisturizer several times a day to promote healing and keep the burned skin moist. You can also apply aloe vera gel along with your moisturizer to cool the skin while promoting the healing process.

Most importantly, the best way to heal a sunburn is to AVOID getting one in the first place. Aside from the pain and discomfort, it is DEADLY. Put on your sunscreen every day, reapply every 2 hours if you’re outside rain or shine, and learn to love big, colorful, floppy hats. It’s a fashion statement! Be smart, be safe. It’s summertime!

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