Living down in Florida has its benefits and its consequences. A perfect example is sunbathing. There isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t witness one of my patients coming into the office with serious sunburn. Even with my constant preaching of being careful in the sun many of my patients still let their guard down when it comes to sun protection.
Regardless if you’re on tropical vacation…fall asleep for a couple hours in a backyard lounge chair…. or maybe you just lose track of time playing with your kids at the park it’s easy to forget to apply sunscreen. It happens to the best of us. That’s why I’m feel it’s important to arm you with the steps you need to take care of yourself when these situations arise.
When the worst-case scenario happens, and you find yourself with a nasty case of sunburn, don’t panic—there are plenty of things you can do to soothe the pain and help your skin heal with minimal discomfort. The good news is many of these remedies are natural solutions! It’s no surprise that Mother Nature is sometimes the best caregiver of our bodies. The following list consists of my favorite natural ways to treat sunburn:
1) Aloe–This gel, derived from the leaves of the aloe plant, is perhaps the best-known natural treatment for sunburns. It is so commonly used, you won’t even have to make a special trip to a natural foods store, as most drugstores stock it in gel form. It is cooling and supplies anti-bacterial properties. If you have access to an aloe plant, you can strip off the leaves’ outer layers and use the oil that comes directly from the plant.
2) Milk–Have you ever tried a new dish in a Mexican or Indian restaurant that packed a lot more heat than you bargained for? Maybe the waiter suggested a glass of milk to curb the fire on your tongue. The same principle applies to sunburn. Soak a cloth in skim milk and place it on the infected area for a soothing, cooling effect.
3) Yogurt–Natural yogurt with live and active cultures has a similar effect to milk, but with a creamy consistency that may make it easier to rinse off and avoid the sour smell.
4) Black tea–The tannins present in black tea can cool down inflamed skin. Steep some tea bags in room temperature water and apply them to the sunburn.
6) Apple cider vinegar–This is another household item that will relieve the pain caused by sunburn. Soak a cloth with the vinegar and rest the compress on burned skin. Re-soak the compress if it dries out in order to keep the area moist.
7) Vitamin E–This powerful anti-oxidant can be used in ointment or oil form to help soothe and moisten the burned area.
8) Vitamin C–This anti-oxidant should be taken in pill form in order to strengthen the immune system. When you get sunburned, the sun’s UV rays damage your cells, making it difficult for your body to defend itself against infection.
9) Calendula–Applied as a cream or oil to the skin, this natural plant substance is soothing and has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties.
10) Baking Soda–Add half a cup to a cool bath and have a long, relaxing soak to relieve the pain of sunburn. Allow your skin to air-dry instead of rubbing with a towel, which could cause irritation.
It is also important to note that you should not put creams, ointments or oils on an open sore or blister, as these could make it more susceptible to infection. If you have a fever with your sunburn, you may be suffering heat stroke and should see a doctor right away. If you have blisters or feel uncomfortable treating sunburn on your own, it is always best to consult your physician as soon as possible. Every case of sunburn is unique, so the above list should only be used as alternative remedies.
Finally, keep in mind my tips for avoiding sunburn in the first place:
1) Wear a wide-brimmed hat, cover up with clothing, and wear UV-blocking sunglasses when outdoors.
2) Wear a generous amount of sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher everyday and reapply every two hours.
3) Try to stay in the shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when outdoors, and do not actively seek a tan.
4) Do monthly skin self-exams and see your dermatologist every year for a full skin check.
Jay Brachfeld, M.D.
Photo Credit: hereisthecity.com