Although you might associate sunburn with those blistering hot days at the height of the summer, in many areas you are more likely to get burned in the late spring and early summer. This is when the rays of the sun are their strongest relative to the sun’s position in the sky.
When the weather starts to improve in the spring, you are more likely to get outside. Since the temperatures are often pleasant, you may stay outside longer, thus getting more sun exposure. By the height of the summer, it may be too hot to stay outside all day, and it actually serves as a reminder to get in the shade and cool off — which limits the duration of your time in the sun.
Natural Remedies for Sunburns
Knowing when the sun is at its most dangerous can help you prevent overexposure that results in a sunburn. You can also use sunscreen and protective clothing. It is always better to prevent a sunburn than to have to heal the damage the sun’s UV rays can cause.
However, sometimes, even despite your best efforts, you do get sunburned. When that happens, here are some natural sunburn remedies to reduce the pain and heal your damaged skin:
1. Potato Paste
Potatoes are good natural remedies for skin irritations, scratches, bites, and sunburns. They seem to relieve the pain and also reduce swelling. You do not have to peel the potato for this application. Simply grate a potato and apply the pulp to your sunburn. You can also use a blender or food processor to puree small pieces of a raw potato.
Soak a cotton ball or some gauze in the resulting liquid and apply it to your sunburn. It may also work to slice the potato thinly and lay the slices on your burn, depending on how large an area it covers.
2. Baking Soda
A paste made from baking soda can reduce the pain and redness of a sunburn. Mix cool water into the baking soda a few drops at a time until it forms a loose paste. If it is too stiff, it will require too much pressure to spread on your skin — and that will hurt.
Spread the baking soda paste over your sunburn and let it sit. You will see the heat from your skin drying the paste, and it will begin to crack. Rinse the paste off with cool water. You can repeat this treatment until the heat and pain subside.
3. Aloe Vera
The natural gel of an aloe vera plant makes a good home remedy for sunburn. Break a piece off of the plant and squeeze the gel out of it directly onto your sunburn. You could also slit the leaf open lengthwise and lay it flat, gel side down, on your skin.
Aloe vera gel is also available over the counter in many drug stores. Apply the gel directly to your skin and let the cooling effect ease your pain. If you do purchase the gel, keep it in the fridge so that it’s cold when you need it.
4. Cold Milk Compress
Cold milk can speed healing to a painful sunburn, giving a coating of protein over the skin to protect during the healing process. Use milk right out of the refrigerator to get the best chilling effect.
You can soak a washcloth or some gauze in the milk and apply it directly to your sunburned skin. Let the cloth sit on the skin until the heat from your skin warms the milk. Then, remove the cloth and replace it with a fresh cold compress.
An oatmeal bath can soothe and heal sunburned skin. Fill an organza bag, nylon knee high or an old sock with about two cups of rolled oats right out of the package. Run tepid, not cold, water into the bath tub. Put the bundle of oatmeal in and let it soak for a couple minutes.
Squeeze the water out of the oatmeal bundle into the bath and let it continue to soak while you get in the tub. When you are finished soaking, get out and air dry or pat your skin dry gently with a soft towel.
Make Your Own Burn Cream
If none of these remedies appeals to you, you could also make your own burn cream and apply it. It takes at least 24 hours for the burn cream to fully infuse, though, so this is not a quick solution. You may want to make your burn cream in advance of the spring sunburn season and have it on hand when you need it.
To make your own sunburn remedy, you will need water, witch hazel, aloe vera gel, fresh mint, and baking soda or cornstarch. Witch hazel and aloe vera gel are available in most drugstores. Many grocery stores carry fresh mint, or you can find it at a local farmers market. If you have a kitchen garden, you probably have a supply of fresh mint on hand.
To make this burn cream, start by combining two tablespoons of water, one tablespoon of witch hazel and one teaspoon of aloe vera gel in a bowl and let it sit for two hours. Add fresh chopped mint leaves and enough baking soda or cornstarch to make a loose paste. Put the paste in a tightly covered container and let it sit for 24 hours. When the cream is ready, apply it to your sunburn.
Beyond Home Remedies for Sunburn
Sunburn is more than just a painful nuisance. It damages your skin, the largest organ in your body. There are no real cures for sunburn other than to relieve the pain and wait for your skin to heal itself. If your sunburn covers a large area of your body or is severely blistered, you may need to seek medical attention. A sunburn is similar to any other burn you might get on your skin. At its worst, it can open you up to a serious infection.
The best cure for a sunburn is prevention. Using sunscreen and good judgment when you go outside will help you avoid the pain and damage of a sunburn.