Most people use sunscreen when they go out to soak up some of the sun’s rays, but sometimes we completely forget to reapply sunscreen. And for some of us, extremely fair complexions mean getting burned every time when we step out in the sun, leaving our skin to endure a nasty sunburn. While a serious sunburn may need to be treated by a doctor, few require medical intervention. Sunburns usually fade within a few days; however, there are some things you can do to stop the irritation, itching and burning sensations you experience when you have one. Best of all, these remedies are natural, and you may already have what you need at home.
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A cold compress is one of the easiest ways to stop skin irritation from a sunburn. To prepare a basic compress, all you need to do is soak a clean cloth in chilled water and apply it to the skin, rewetting the compress when it becomes warm.
If you experience a lot of itching, aluminum acetate that comes from packets can be added to the water (be sure following the manufacturer’s instructions). Adding a few tablespoons of witch hazel to the cool compress water can help to relieve inflammation as well.
Pure Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is one of the most common and effective natural sunburn remedies. You can buy pure aloe vera from some health and drug stores, but you can also get it from fresh leaves if you are able to find or grow the plant yourself.
To extract the aloe directly just remove the first two layers of the inside of the leaf until you feel the thick gel inside. Fresh aloe vera may have a slightly thinner consistency than you’re used to if you usually buy packaged aloe products, but it works just as well for sunburns.
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Oatmeal is commonly used to relieve irritation related to allergic reaction, but it can also be used to stop itching and burning sensations from the typical sunburn. To use oatmeal as a sunburn remedy, wrap a small amount of dry oatmeal in cheesecloth and pour water over it into a clean bowl or basin. Soak a clean compress in the liquid and apply it to the affected area every 2 to 4 hours, or as needed.
Mixing a single cup of milk with 4 cups of cold water and a handful of ice cubes is a simple, effective way to make a mixture that can be used with a compress. For the best results, keep the milk and water mixture chilled in the refrigerator and apply it for about 15 to 20 minutes. Repeat the process every 3 to 4 hours with another clean compress.
Steer Clear of Soaps
While washing after a day at the beach or exercising in the sun might seem necessary, washing sunburned skin with harsh soaps can make inflammation and tenderness considerably worse. If you really need to wash, take a quick shower in relatively cool water and wash the soap off quickly. Be gentle to your skin while washing and try to avoid using coarse or rough materials, such as a loofah or washcloth.
If you prefer to soak in the tub, make sure you don’t use soapy bubble bath. Instead, try a generous amount of baking soda to relieve itching or a cup of apple cider vinegar to soothe your skin.
After showering, a cold compress can help to relieve any irritation the soap might have caused.
Dealing with a sunburn is far from comfortable, but sometimes avoiding one is close to impossible. While over-the-counter treatments can work, they aren’t really necessary. Any one or combination of the basic remedies above will help soothe a mild to moderate sunburn.
Virginia Cunningham is a freelance writer from California who writes about a range of health topics, including skin and hair care, holistic medicine and fitness. To treat her sunburns, she prefers using natural products to soothe her skin.