10 Home Remedies for Sunburn

sunsburned shoulder
Sunburns are harmful to your skin and can cause a good amount of pain. See these remedies to ease sunburn discomfort and soothe your skin.

The sun. People have worshiped it for thousands of years. But only in the last century have people worshiped the sun by baking themselves to a golden tan, which often masks an angry red burn.

If you've overexposed your skin to the sun and end up with a sunburn, these home remedies can make you a bit more comfortable until Mother Nature can heal the burn. Keep in mind, though, that these remedies cannot reverse the very real damage caused by unprotected exposure to the sun's rays.


Get started on the next page with easy remedies using simple kitchen items and things commonly found around the house.

1: Take a Bath

baking soda
Baking soda can be added to bath water for an extra sunburn relief.
Associated Press/Richard Drew

Adding a few heaping tablespoons of baking soda to cool bath water makes a sunburn-soothing remedy. Just keep your soaking time down to 15 to 20 minutes. If you soak any longer, you risk drying out your already lizard-like skin. When you've emerged from the bath, resist the urge to towel off. Instead air-dry, and don't wipe the baking soda off.

Oatmeal added to cool bathwater offers another wonderful relief for sunburned skin. Fill up the bathtub with cool water--not cold water because that can send the body into shock. Don't use bath salts, oils, or bubble bath. Instead, scoop 1/2 to 1 cup oatmeal -- an ideal skin soother -- and mix it in. Another option is to buy Aveeno, an oatmeal powder found in the pharmacy. Follow the packet's directions. As with the baking soda, air-dry your body and don't wipe the oatmeal off your skin.


2: Add Some Aloe Vera

A pot of cosmetic cream and an aloe vera plant.
An aloe vera plant contains a natural gel that can help heal a sunburn.

The thick, gel-like juice of the aloe vera plant can take the sting and redness out of a sunburn. Aloe vera causes blood vessels to constrict. Luckily, this healing plant is available at your local nursery or even in the grocery store's floral department. Simply slit open one of the broad leaves and apply the gel directly to the burn. Apply five to six times per day for several days.


3: Apply a Cool Compress

Stack of washcloths.
A washcloth soaked in cool water can be placed on sunburned skin to relieve discomfort.

Soak a washcloth in cool water and apply it directly to the burned areas (do not apply ice or an ice pack to sunburned skin) for several minutes, rewetting the cloth often to keep it cool. Apply the compress multiple times throughout the day as needed to relieve discomfort. You can also add a soothing ingredient, such as baking soda or oatmeal, to the compress water. Simply shake a bit of baking soda into the water before soaking the cloth. Or wrap dry oatmeal in a cheesecloth or a piece of gauze and run water through it. Then toss out the oatmeal and soak the compress in the oatmeal water.


4: Drink Water

ice water close-up
Make sure you drink plenty of liquids while recovering from a sunburn.
Digital Vision/Getty Images

As the sun fried your skin, it also dehydrated it. Be sure to replenish liquids by drinking plenty of water while recovering from a sunburn. Being well hydrated will help burns heal better. You'll know you're hydrated when your urine runs almost clear.


5: Cool Off With a Soak

If you take a cool bath, remember to avoid using soap and skip the washcloth and bath sponge.

Slipping into a tub of chilly water is a good way to cool the burn and ease the sting, especially if the burn is widespread or on a hard-to-reach area (such as your back). Avoid using soap, which can irritate and dry out the skin. If you feel you must use soap, use a mild one, such as Dove or Aveeno Bar, and rinse it off well. Definitely skip the washcloth, bath sponge, and loofah. Afterward, pat your skin gently with a soft towel. If you're tempted to linger in the tub for hours, skip the bath and take a cool shower, instead. Ironically, soaking too long can cause or aggravate dry skin, which can increase itching and peeling.


6: Moisturize

woman putting lotion on legs
Apply moisturizer after you soak or bathe.

The sun dries out the skin's surface and causes cells and blood vessels to leak, causing even greater moisture loss. In addition, while cool baths and compresses can make you feel better, they can also end up robbing moisture from your injured skin. To prevent drying, apply moisturizer immediately after your soak. For cooling relief of pain and dryness, chill the moisturizer in the refrigerator before using.


7: Pat Down With Potatoes

Potatoes are a known pain-relieving remedy throughout the world.
Publications International, Ltd.

The plain old potato makes for a wonderful pain reliever. It's a time-tested technique known throughout the world. Take two washed potatoes, cut them into small chunks, and place them in a blender or food processor. Blend or process until the potatoes are in liquid form. Add water if they look dry. Pat the burned areas with the pulverized potatoes. Wait until the potatoes dry, then take a cool shower. Another less messy method is to apply the mash to a clean gauze and place on the burn. Change the dressing every hour. Continue applying several times a day for a few days until the pain is relieved.


8: Use Cornstarch

Girl with bad sunburn on her back and shoulders.
Dust cornstarch on burn spots to ease chafing.
©iStockphoto.com/Ron Sumners

Sunburns often strike where skin meets bathing suit. Sensitive and hard-to-reach spots you've neglected to smear with suntan lotion (along bikini lines, underneath buttock cheeks, or around the breasts and armpits) often fall victim. These burn spots then have to face daily irritation from tight elastic in bras and underwear. To ease chafing, cover the burned area with a dusting of cornstarch. Don't apply petroleum jelly or oils, which can exacerbate the burn by blocking pores. If the burn is blistering, however, don't apply anything.


9: Try a Topical Anesthetic

spray-on deodorant
Topical anesthetic sprays are good to use on widely sunburned areas.

Topical anesthetics such as Solarcaine may offer some temporary relief from pain and itching. Look for products that contain lidocaine, which is less likely than some of the other topical anesthetics to cause an allergic reaction. Because some people do have allergic reactions to such products, test a small area of skin before using it all over. Topical anesthetics come in both creams and sprays. The sprays are easier to apply to a sunburn, especially when it is widespread. If you use one, avoid spraying it directly onto the face. Instead, spray some onto gauze and gently dab it on your face.


10: Take an OTC Pain Reliever

Aspirin Tablets
Aspirin can relieve pain and inflammation.
Iconica/Getty Images

Nonprescription pain relievers such as aspirin and ibuprofen can relieve pain and cut the inflammation of a sunburn. Take with food as directed on the bottle, and discontinue use if you develop stomach upset. If you can't tolerate aspirin or ibuprofen, consider taking OTC acetaminophen, which can help ease pain but won't relieve inflammation. See this list of precautions to take when using over-the-counter analgesics.

No matter which home remedy solution you choose, remember the discomfort your sunburn has caused -- and next time, take precautions to avoid overexposure to the sun. Sunburn can be relieved naturally, but it is never good for the skin.

Sunburn Home Remedies FAQ

Can you get rid of sunburn redness overnight?
Unless it's a really mild sunburn, you're unlikely to be able to heal your skin and get rid of the redness overnight.
How do you get rid of a sunburn on your face?
Use cool water to wash your face to avoid further irritation, drink lots of water, take an aspirin or ibuprofen to reduce inflammation and pain, and moisturize the skin with aloe vera or a moisturizer meant for sunburns every couple of hours.
What's the best home remedy for a sunburn?
If you don't have time to run out to a pharmacy, you can use things around the house to treat a sunburn. First, cool your skin with a short shower or soak in the bathtub - just keep the water cool, skip the soap, and avoid using a washcloth. Then, pat your skin dry and apply a generous amount of any fragrance-free moisturizer that you've got. Stick it in the fridge if you want it to be extra soothing. Drink lots of water (you're dehydrated, after all), wear loose-fitting clothes, apply a cool washcloth to burned areas periodically, and reapply moisturizer frequently.
What gets rid of the sting from a sunburn?
If your sunburn is stinging and itchy, try a topical anesthetic containing lidocaine (such as Solarcaine) for some temporary relief. You can also put blended-up raw potatoes on burned skin, which acts as a wonderful pain reliever.
Do sunburns make your skin darker?
Some people's sunburn tends to fade to a tan over time. However, the skin tends to return to a normal color for those who are fair skinned. For example, many redheads don't tan after a burn due to a faulty MCR1 gene.

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