11 Sunburn Remedies That Actually Work
These sunburn remedies might be a little unorthodox, but consider giving them a try the next time your burnt skin twinges.
Soak in milk
“Soaking in milk will have a drawing effect on a burn—it’s due to the pH, fat, and cold temperatures,” says Francesca Fusco, MD of Wexler Dermatology in New York City. If you don’t have enough milk handy to fill up an entire basin, simply soak a washcloth in a bowl of cool milk, then gently lay the milky compresses on the burnt areas of your body. The milk will help create a protein film along your skin that reduces heat, pain, and sensitivity. Want to avoid getting sunburned in the first place? Avoid these common sunblock mistakes.
Refrigerate a tub of Vaseline
“When you have a sunburn, it is important to keep your skin well-hydrated and moisturized, as it will improve the pain and accelerate the healing process,” says Samer Jaber, MD of Washington Square Dermatology in New York City. “A great trick is putting Vaseline in the refrigerator for a few minutes so it goes on cold. The cold will soothe your sunburn, and the Vaseline will help restore your skin barrier, improving the healing process.” Find out the sunscreen myths that make dermatologists cringe.
Take an oatmeal bath
One of the worst side effects of a bad sunburn is the insatiable urge to itch peeling skin. Drawing a lukewarm bath is just one of the many sunburn remedies that can quell the itch and soothe the burn. Add at least one cup of finely ground oats to the bath water and use your hand to swirl the water and evenly distribute the oatmeal. Then soak your body for 15 to 20 minutes. “Oatmeal is a humectant, meaning it helps moisturize skin, and it contains inflammation-quelling compounds,” Ranella Hirsch, MD, a Boston-based dermatologist, told Prevention. You’ll enjoy the itching relief so much that you’ll probably want to repeat this oatmeal bath a few times a day. Here’s more about how to treat a burn—sun-induced or otherwise—using oats.
Create your own topical cream
“For an isolated area like a finger or your lips, dissolve an aspirin in a tablespoon of cool water and make a paste. Apply to the affected area,” advises Dr. Fusco. (Be careful not to lick your lips because it’s super bitter.) Rinse off the paste after allowing it to sit on the affected area for five minutes. While you’re waiting for it to absorb, you could also take one of those aspirins to ease your pain and inflammation.
Use yogurt as an antibacterial cream
Never fret if you don’t have aloe handy—there are plenty of kitchen ingredients that can work as highly effective substitutes for sunburn remedies. For example, plain Greek yogurt has been known to provide immediate coolness and hydration to burnt skin when applied topically. Further, the yogurt’s antibacterial properties will help keep infections at bay on the areas you can’t stop scratching. On the flip side, here are 10 things you should never do after getting a sunburn.
Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is something of a miracle home remedy when it comes to rashes and burns. This is because, as an anti-fungal and antiseptic liquid, apple cider vinegar can be used to detoxify your skin. Simply dab a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar onto your sunburn (do this directly or using a cotton ball). It will not only clean the problem area but will also rehydrate the skin by restoring your pH levels.
Press tea bags onto your burn
“Tea acts as a classic, old-fashioned poultice with known anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that helps the skin heal and feel better faster,” Jessica Krant, MD, a dermatologist in New York City, told Real Simple. As such, you can brew chamomile tea, thoroughly chill it, then use the tea bags or a towel compress to apply it to your burn. Here are some other clever tricks for getting rid of the redness in a sunburn.
Bust open a few vitamin E capsules
Desperate times call for desperate measures, so we won’t judge you for breaking open your vitamin E supplements and slathering their contents all over your skin. Why would you ever do this, you ask? Well, sunburns are painful because UV rays have produced free radicals in your body. To prevent these free radicals from stealing electrons from your healthy molecules, vitamin E is one of the best sunburn remedies that can provide electrons for them, thus preventing your healthy molecules from depleting. You can take the vitamin E orally, but it’s believed to be less effective than applying it straight onto your body. And yet, Vitamin E isn’t the only pill that can ease sunburn—this supplement can too!
Take a baking soda bath
By now you may be noticing a trend in these sunburn remedies, and it’s that soaking is generally a great way to heal and moisturize your burn. One way to accomplish this is to take a baking soda bath. Baking soda might sound a bit too harsh for your skin, but it will actually do an excellent job of reducing itching and improving inflammation. Just pour a cup or two of the powder into a tepid bath, then soak until the water turns cold.
Create a cucumber paste
Cucumbers are anti-inflammatory (hence why we wear them on our puffy eyes), they contain natural antioxidants, and they have analgesic (pain-relieving) properties. To take advantage of these benefits, chill and then blend two cucumbers to make a raw paste. Apply the creamed cucumber to any burnt or peeling areas on your body to soothe and heal them more quickly. Besides a nasty sunburn, learn about the other weird ways the sun affects your body.
Every product is independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.