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5 Home Remedies for Sunburns

Updated on May 24, 2012

Yes, I did it again...

I'm pretty well known for saying "I don't get sunburnt anymore". Years of unprotected life under a California sun (even though I wasn't specifically trying to tan or be in it) for a while seemed to make me immune to the usual burn my pasty complexion would normally imply I should have after about...five minutes in the sun. Needless to say, besides needing to get checked out for skin cancer, now that I live in a state where I can't go outside for four to six months without freezing to death, I really should start remembering to wear sunblock.

But I don't always...

Point in case, yesterday I spent an hour and a half down by the pool, engaged in some heavy R&R in a bikini and 90 degree (F) weather.

And I forgot to spray myself before I went down there.

After my lounging, I hurried upstairs, looked at myself in the mirror to see how lovely and golden tan I was, and instead went ... "Oh crap. I'm gonna be crispy soon... Didn't I remember my sunblock? Argh!!! No, I didn't!"

It happens to the best of us.

I hurriedly took a shower, a tool I've used to help avoid TOO MUCH pain after prolonged sun exposure, got dressed in my fancy little summer LBD, and went out with my boyfriend for the night. When I got home again, I noticed just how lobstery I looked. I quickly threw on some lotion, cuddled up on the couch to watch a movie with my man, and promptly fell asleep. When I woke up, everything but my stomach was a nice golden tan instead of a painful, burning red. My stomach, on the other hand, had never seen the light of day until last summer when I broke down and bought my first two-piece in years.

Needless to say...I'm willing to try out a few things. So, I hereby give my poor burnt stomach over to you for the sake of science and experimentation. Here's what I'm doing, and how it seems to work (short-term, at least, since I did this just before writing this blog).

Baking Soda

This was a no.
This was a no. | Source

5. Baking Soda

Some sources online have suggested taking entire baths with baking soda, some suggest applying in paste-form (i.e. adding water to and scrubbing with) baking soda. Since I had limited time and burnt places, I opted for scrubbing with baking soda paste.

I have to say that this is my least favorite method, but it works...a little.

I scrubbed a quadrant of my burnt belly and noticed, as I was doing it, that I felt pretty much like I was just scraping something against my already pained skin - basically, that was what I was doing. Baking soda acts as an exfoliant this way, and as such, 'gently' removes a layer or two of skin.

Not enough for my liking. Besides, even after I washed it off again, I still seem to have this powdery baking soda residue in that area.... Not too great, but if you're desperate, it kinda works.

I'm not hurting there too much anymore, I still do a little, but I have other methods to explore yet...

Iced Green Tea infused with Lemongrass

Tasty, but pointless...
Tasty, but pointless... | Source

4. Brewed Iced Tea

Yes, according to an article I was looking at on wisebread.com, Iced Tea is supposed to help relieve symptoms of sunburn.

I happened to brew some of that miraculous concoction just yesterday, so as I was pouring myself a glass, I poured a bit over a paper towel and "gently dabbed" as the instructions on the website said. It was cold, lemony fresh, and.... didn't really do much at all.

I felt better directly after application, but a few minutes later, my skin feels like it's burning yet again. And so I went back and read the fine print on the article:

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!

Keep applying? Well...it relieves it for a little while, but I'm kind of an instant-gratification type of girl, and that just doesn't cut it. But I smell very nice now, and it didn't hurt like the baking soda scrub.

On to the next...

Ice, Ice, Baby

I like the towel better than the method
I like the towel better than the method | Source

3. Ice

According to the Huffington Post:

Common sense would tell you that if you have a burn, you should put something cold on it. And it's true -- experts agree that a cold shower can help cool the skin and make it feel better.

But Ice?

Naturally, ice is a cooling tactic too, but be careful when applying ice to a burn as it can make the burn sensation worse by creating an "ice burn" -- additional damage to the burn wound

Okay, that's more like it. I was always told that if you burn yourself you should do lukewarm water, NOT freezing cold water and DEFINITELY not ice, because then you'll just make it worse. Still, they go on to say that ice or ice water can a good thing in small doses, so I stuck a few ice cubes in a kitchen towel, and let it sit on my belly a while. Which didn't even...really get that cold. Hmm. So I took out an ice cube and gently rubbed it on the afflicted area breifly.

While the cold water was on there, it definitely cooled it...no change in redness or pain though. Scrap that idea.

White or Red?

Source

2. Vinegar

Yeah. I don't like it either, but I'm gonna try it. After all, the worst that'll happen is...well, more pain, but I'm hoping that since multiple websites recommend it, that is NOT the case. After all, vinegar in the right concentration is an excellent cleaning agent, so that leads me to believe it might be a bit...well... harsh for delicate skin. Still, I'm feeling brave today, and I went for it.

I'm glad I did.

I smell like a salad between that and the tea, but I'm glad I tried it.

At first, as I poured a small amount of vinegar on a paper towel (I'm not ruining a kitchen towel or a washcloth, no way), I was gagging at the horribly acidic smell wafting up from the bottle. I'm more of a ranch girl for my salads than an oil and vinegar dressing, but this...this was just straight vinegar...and smelled absolutely horrifying. I HATE the smell of vinegar.

But I forged on! In the name of science! Okay, in the name of BOREDOM! Same thing.

And you know what?

As soon as it hit my skin, if felt like the most divine thing on earth. Instantly the vinegar's acidity cooled the burnt spot and soothed the nerves underneath it. I kept dabbing and applying, and it just got better and better. Soon it felt like just plain-old regular skin again. And you know what that means...

This is now my second-favorite method of relieving sunburns. If there's no way to do my No. 1, from now on, I'm heading to the salad dressing aisle of the grocery store and soaking myself in vinegar. Or ... just checking my pantry to see if I have any, really. That would probably be a bit less...dramatic.

After the application, I went on to try other things in other parts, but now that it's over, I just can't ignore the facts - the quadrant where I applied the vinegar is no longer red or achy. I feel like I never got sunburnt there at all, in fact. It. Is. Amazing.

I would highly recommend this one, unless you have some sort of allergy to vinegar, obviously.

After All is Said and Done, Gotta Love the Lotion

Source

1. My Favorite Combination

After all is said and done, and while I like the effect the vinegar had... I'm still sticking with my old stand-by.

A nice cool (cooler than normal but not cold) shower, some soapy scrubbing with a washcloth to GENTLY get some of the dead skin off, and immediately applying my favorite brand of lotion once I'm dried off from the shower. That was what worked on my back, shoulders, and legs, and probably if I'd done a few more applications of lotion, would've done it for my tummy, too.

While I do not have any affiliation with the Alba brand in any way, shape, or form, I have to say that it is the BEST thing I have found out there, at least for my skin. It's hypo-allergenic, and while not QUITE a "home" remedy, it is mostly-natural, and contains things like aloe and actual coffee extract. Plus it smells like actual coffee! And for a coffee-lover like me, you can't get any better than that.

So I'm gonna stick with this!

And Finally...

Throughout the articles I looked at, there were some pretty average remedies, and some remedies that made one of my eyebrows raise. But there were a few common threads. These are just some of them.

Basically, from what I could understand, the keys are to keep yourself hydrated if you get sunburnt, use some sort of topical treatment to help, and always, ALWAYS watch out for signs of heat stroke or other illnesses. Sunburns, while they have funny cures, can have serious consequences. And remember, once you have heat exhaustion or heat stroke, it's so much easier to get it again - as someone who has passed out from heat exhaustion/dehydration before, that is a key problem for me, not just at the pool but also even in a day-to-day setting.

Water is important...don't take it for granted.

Some of the common threads between these articles, if you're looking for something other than the ones I posted here, are aloe (big one for skin care!), baking powder or cornstarch, oatmeal (always good for your skin), water water water, and, believe it or not, Milk. I can't try milk, I don't have any in my house because I'm lactose intolerant, but supposedly if you warm it up a little and let it sit on you until it starts smelling funky, it will help.

Otherwise, there are a plethora of things you can find on google to help if none of these are your cup of tea.

Hope that helps!

Your Turn...

What are some of your favorite sunburn remedies? What are some really ridiculous ones you've heard about? What happened when/if you tried them?

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