Nothing kills summer fun faster than a painful sunburn. Of course, the best treatment is prevention, notes board-certified dermatologist Marthe Dika. "Most importantly, protection with sunscreens, when used properly, prevents burning even in fair-skinned individuals," says Dika. While we can all agree on the importance of sun protection, there are still those occasions when excess sunshine gets the better of us. Whether you neglected to pack sunscreen on your last vacation or forgot that sunburn can happen all year round, we’ve all been there. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to expedite the healing process, all with supplies you likely have on hand. Here are six of the best home remedies for sunburn.
Meet the Expert
Marthe Dika, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist specializing in skin cancer prevention and treatment, as well as the management of conditions such as acne and eczema. She practices at the Franklin, Wisconsin office of Forefront Dermatology.
Apply Aloe Vera
This is one of the most well-known home remedies for a sunburn, and with good reason. Aloe vera soothes and restores damaged skin and can be used for both fresh sunburns and skin that is peeling. Be sure to avoid aloe vera gels that include alcohol and dyes since these can dry out skin. Try to get a pure aloe vera gel.
Try Brewing Some Tea
We’re all familiar with the health benefits of drinking tea, but it turns out to be good for external applications as well. Brew a pot of tea (black tea may be most effective on account of its tannic acid content, which helps to naturally restore skin’s pH balance), then allow it to cool completely before applying to skin with a washcloth.
Customize a Soothing Bath
Another natural pH fix is provided by apple cider vinegar. This potent ingredient balances the acidity and alkalinity of sunburned skin and supports the natural healing process. Add two cups to a warm bath and soak for 15 minutes.
Cool Things Down With a Cold Compress
"Sunburn is best treated with cool, wet compresses," says Dika. For immediate sunburn relief, shield the skin from direct contact with ice, and avoid using abrasive materials. Keep your cloth clean and dry to avoid skin irritation.
Products formulated with lidocaine can also help keep the affected area cool, notes Dika. "Topical anesthetic preparations containing lidocaine provide some relief," she says. Preparations containing benzocaine, however, "should be avoided, as it’s a sensitizer."
Bring on the Botanicals
Natural botanicals like chamomile and lavender can help soothe the sensations of stinging and soreness that come with sunburned skin. Add a touch of essential oil to a bath drawn with cool water. Natural peppermint can also have a cooling effect.