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  • How to Treat a Sunburn: Instant Relief and Home Remedies 2024

Last Updated: January 11, 2024

Tips and Tricks for Soothing Your Skin

Whether you're spending the day at the beach, hiking in the mountains, or simply lounging in your backyard, too much sun exposure can quickly turn into a painful and uncomfortable experience. As someone who has suffered from more than her fair share of sunburns, I understand just how frustrating it can be to find the right treatment.

If you're like me, you probably have a few bottles of aloe vera gel lying around the house. This magical plant has been used for centuries to soothe burns and heal wounds, and for good reason. Aloe vera contains compounds that have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, which makes it an excellent choice for treating sunburns.

I actually grow my own aloe vera plant, and I can't tell you how satisfying it is to break off a leaf and apply the fresh gel directly to my skin. Not only is it incredibly effective at reducing inflammation and redness, but it also provides a cooling sensation that feels amazing on hot, sunburned skin.

How to Relieve Sunburn Pain

Of course, aloe vera isn't the only treatment option out there. There are plenty of products on the market that claim to soothe and heal sunburns, but it can be tough to know which ones actually work. Personally, I've found that products containing lidocaine or menthol can be helpful, as they provide a numbing sensation that can alleviate pain and discomfort.

But before you reach for that bottle of Aftersun lotion, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First and foremost, be sure to choose a product that is specifically designed for sunburns. Using regular lotion or moisturizer on burnt skin can actually make the problem worse. Additionally, make sure to read the ingredients list and avoid products that contain alcohol, as this can dry out your skin and make it even more sensitive.

Did you know that the sun's rays can travel through clouds, so you can still get sunburned even on a cloudy day? In fact, up to 80% of the sun's UV rays can penetrate clouds, which means it's important to wear sunscreen even when it's overcast outside.

Tips to stop the pain and start the healing process

Keep skin cool and moist

First and foremost, keeping your skin cool and moist is essential for soothing a sunburn. Taking a cool bath or shower is an effective way to reduce the heat and discomfort of a sunburn. The cool water helps to soothe the skin and reduce inflammation, providing immediate relief.

Another option is to apply a cold compress to the affected area. This can be done by soaking a clean cloth in cool water and applying it to the burn for 15-20 minutes at a time. Be sure to avoid using ice or very cold water, as this can further damage the skin.

Safe and Effective Sunburn Treatments

While there are many over-the-counter products available for treating sunburn, it's important to choose safe and effective treatments that won't cause further damage or irritation to your skin.

Here are some tips on how to choose the best sunburn treatments for your needs:

Avoid Products That Contain Benzocaine

Benzocaine is a local anesthetic commonly found in over-the-counter sunburn treatments such as Solarcaine, Lanacane, and Americaine. While it can provide temporary pain relief, it can also cause an allergic reaction or irritate the skin, making the burn worse. Instead, opt for more natural remedies or products that contain lidocaine or hydrocortisone cream, which are less likely to cause an adverse reaction.

Choose Soothing and Moisturizing Products

One of the most important things you can do to treat sunburn is to keep your skin moisturized. Look for products that contain aloe vera, which can help soothe and hydrate the skin. You can also try using products that contain hyaluronic acid or glycerin, which can help restore moisture to the skin.

Avoid Products That Can Dry Out or Trap Heat in the Skin

Avoid using any products that contain alcohol, as it can dry out the skin and make the sunburn worse. Additionally, you should avoid using any oily or greasy products as they can trap heat in the skin and exacerbate the burn. Avoid using any exfoliating products or harsh soaps, as they can further irritate the skin.

What to do for instant relief from a sunburn relief

If you're looking for quick relief from sunburn, there are several home remedies that can help. Aloe vera gel is a popular choice, as it contains anti-inflammatory properties that can soothe the skin.

Simply apply a generous amount of aloe vera gel to the affected area and let it dry.

Aloe Vera

You can also try applying cold milk or yogurt to the burn, as the lactic acid helps to exfoliate and reduce inflammation. Other natural remedies include a cool bath and compresses made with green tea, witch hazel, or vinegar. Just be sure to dilute the vinegar with water before applying it to your skin.

Remember, when treating sunburn, it's important to avoid anything that can further irritate or damage your skin. This includes hot showers, harsh soaps, tight clothing, and excessive exposure to the sun's rays. Be gentle with your skin, and give it time to heal properly.

Take an over-the-counter pain reliever

Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or aspirin can be helpful in reducing inflammation and relieving pain associated with sunburn. Ibuprofen and aspirin are both nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that can help to reduce redness and swelling from mild sunburn.

However, it's important to follow the recommended dosage on the label and not exceed the recommended amount. Additionally, it's important to note that children under the age of 16 should not take aspirin.

Really Bad Sunburn can lead to Blisters

If you've ever had a bad sunburn, you know how painful and uncomfortable it can be. But when that sunburn leads to blisters, the pain and discomfort can be even worse. Sunburn blisters can range in size from small bumps to larger, fluid-filled sacs that can be quite painful. So what can you do to treat them?

The first step is to avoid popping the blisters. While it can be tempting to relieve the pressure, doing so can lead to infection and scarring. Instead, try to keep the affected area clean and dry. You can cover the blisters with a sterile, non-adhesive dressing to protect them and help prevent infection.

Over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams can also be helpful in reducing the inflammation and itching associated with sunburn blisters. Some popular brands include Cortizone-10 and Aveeno Anti-Itch Cream. Just be sure to follow the instructions on the package and only use these creams as directed.

In some cases, prescription-strength corticosteroid creams may be necessary to treat severe sunburn blisters. If you have a large number of blisters or they are causing you a lot of pain, talk to your doctor about whether this type of treatment is right for you.

Healing a Sunburn

As your sunburn begins to heal, it's important to continue moisturizing and protecting the affected area. This can help to prevent peeling and scarring. Choose a gentle, fragrance-free moisturizer and apply it several times a day.

If you need to go outside, be sure to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. It's also a good idea to wear loose, breathable clothing to avoid further irritation.

Keep Up with the Right Fluids

Replacing body fluids is also an important consideration when treating sunburn. Sunburns can cause dehydration, which can lead to headaches, dizziness, and other symptoms. It's important to drink plenty of water and other fluids to help replenish the fluids lost during sunburn.

Coconut water or sports drinks that contain electrolytes can be particularly helpful in restoring lost fluids and electrolytes. It's also important to avoid alcohol and caffeine, as they can further dehydrate the body. If you're feeling particularly dehydrated or experiencing severe symptoms, it may be necessary to seek medical attention.

Treat peeling skin gently

If your sunburn begins to peel, it can be tempting to pick at the skin or scratch at the affected area. However, this can lead to infection and scarring.

Instead, use a gentle exfoliating scrub or a washcloth to remove dead skin. You can also use a moisturizer that contains alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), which can help to exfoliate and remove dead skin cells.

There are many moisturizers on the market that contain alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs). Some popular brands include:

  • Alpha Skin Care Renewal Body Lotion: This moisturizer contains glycolic acid, which exfoliates dead skin cells and improves skin texture.
  • Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Lotion: This lotion contains 8% glycolic acid and other AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) to exfoliate and renew skin, as well as provide hydration.
  • Glytone Exfoliating Body Lotion: This moisturizer also contains glycolic acid, which helps exfoliate and renew skin while providing hydration.
  • The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution: This product is technically a toner, but it can also be used as a moisturizer. It contains glycolic acid to exfoliate and improve skin texture.
  • CeraVe Renewing SA Lotion: This moisturizer contains salicylic acid to exfoliate and renew skin, as well as hyaluronic acid and ceramides to provide hydration.

These moisturizers are typically formulated to gently exfoliate and remove dead skin cells, which can help to improve the appearance and texture of the skin. However, it's important to note that AHAs can increase the skin's sensitivity to the sun, so be sure to use sunscreen and limit sun exposure while using these products.

If you're unsure about which products to use, speak with a healthcare professional. They can recommend the best products for your skin type and the severity of your sunburn.

For Adults: 5 Ways to Treat a Sunburn

Stay Hydrated

Drinking plenty of fluids is essential to keep your body hydrated when you have a sunburn. Sunburns can cause dehydration, which can lead to headaches, fatigue, and other symptoms. Be sure to drink water, sports drinks, or other fluids that can help to replenish electrolytes.

Get Plenty of Rest

Rest is important when your body is trying to heal from a sunburn. Avoid strenuous activities and get plenty of sleep to help your body recover. You can also elevate the affected skin area to reduce swelling and discomfort.

Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine

Both alcohol and caffeine can dehydrate your body, which can make your sunburn worse. It's best to avoid these substances until your sunburn has fully healed.

Avoid Direct Sunlight

It's important to avoid direct sunlight until your sunburn has fully healed. This can make your sunburn worse and slow down the healing process. If you need to go outside, wear protective clothing and use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.

Additionally, seek shade whenever possible, especially during peak sunlight hours.

stay in the shade

Wear Loose, Breathable Clothing

Tight clothing can rub against your sunburn and cause further irritation. Wear loose, lightweight clothing made from breathable materials like cotton or linen.

This will help to keep you cool and reduce further irritation.

Wear a Wide-Brimmed Hat

To protect your face from further sun exposure, it's a good idea to wear a wide-brimmed hat whenever you're outside.

This will help to shield your face from the sun's harmful rays and give your damaged skin a chance to heal.

Wide brimmed hat

Skin Care While Your Sunburn Heals

There are a few things you should keep in mind to ensure that your skin stays healthy and hydrated as it heals.

Avoid Harsh Scrubs or Exfoliants

Your face is a delicate area, and using harsh scrubs or exfoliants can further irritate the skin and cause more damage. Instead, opt for gentle cleansers that won't strip your skin of its natural oils. Look for products that contain soothing ingredients like aloe vera, chamomile, or oatmeal.

Use a Gentle Moisturizer

After cleansing your face, it's important to keep your skin hydrated with a gentle moisturizer. Look for products that are specifically formulated for sensitive skin, and avoid anything that contains fragrance or other harsh ingredients.

Avoid Direct Sunlight

Just like with any other sunburn, it's important to avoid direct sunlight until your skin has fully healed. If you need to go outside, be sure to wear protective clothing and use broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.

By taking these steps to care for your skin, you can help to speed up the healing process and prevent further damage from occurring. Remember, a sunburn on your face can be particularly uncomfortable, so be sure to take the time to treat it properly and give your skin the TLC it needs to recover.

When to Seek Medical Advice for Sunburn

While most sunburns are mild and can be treated at home, severe sunburn can cause serious health problems and may require medical attention. If you experience any of the following symptoms, it's important to seek medical advice:

  • Severe pain
  • Swelling
  • Blistering over a large area
  • High fever
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness or confusion
  • Fainting

In some cases, sunburn can lead to dehydration, heat exhaustion, or even heat stroke. If you have any of these symptoms, it's crucial to seek immediate medical attention. Additionally, if you have a history of skin cancer, you should be especially cautious about sunburn and seek medical advice if you experience any unusual changes or symptoms.

Remember, prevention is the best way to avoid sunburn, so always wear protective clothing and sunscreen when spending time outdoors.

In Conclusion

When it comes to preventing sunburn in the first place, there are a few things you can do to minimize your risk. Wearing sunscreen with a high SPF is a no-brainer, but don't forget to reapply every 2 hours throughout the day. 

Staying in the shade during peak sun hours (typically between 10 am and 4 pm) can also be helpful, as can wearing protective clothing like hats and long-sleeved shirts.

Sunburns are no fun, but they're also pretty much inevitable during the summer months. Whether you prefer to use aloe vera straight from the plant or opt for a store-bought treatment, just be sure to choose something that is gentle and effective. And most importantly, remember to protect your skin to avoid getting burnt in the first place.

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About the Author

Sharon McKenzie

Sharon McKenzie is an Advanced Certified Scuba Diver who loves to explore the ocean depths. She is an advocate for marine and eco conservation, promoting sustainable products. In her free time, Sharon also enjoys paddleboarding and snorkeling. She has two upcoming diving expeditions to Bali and the Great Barrier Reef, which are destinations she has always wanted to explore.

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