This past weekend, I divided my Saturday between a swimming pool and tubing on a river. Even though my son and I applied waterproof sunscreen, we still ended up a bit burned. My favorite soothing remedy for a sunburn is aloe, which is fairly easy to grow yourself. I break off a small piece of the plant, and squeeze out the jelly-like substance, and rub it on the affected area, to help soothe the sunburn. But there are other ways to reduce the pain associated with a sunburn. Here are 6 other things that you can try:
- Cool water: Cold water can help reduce the swelling due to sunburn, and cool the skin. Don’t use ice water, though. Bathe the affected area in cool water, or wet a dish towel or wash rag and use as a compress to soothe your skin.
- Apply potatoes: Slice up a potato for use on your sunburn. Rub gently with the potato slices, which contain specific compounds that can reduce swelling while cooling your skin down. Cucumbers work as well.
- Use a little oatmeal: Grind up a cup of oatmeal (a food processor or blender works great) and put it into a cool bath. This is perfect for when you have a sunburn over a large portion of your body. It can also help you relax a little. There are also skin care products with oatmeal in them that can help.
- White vinegar: The acetic acid in vinegar can help reduce the pain and itching that can come with a sunburn. Use paper towels to soak up the vinegar, and then lay them on the affected areas. Wait until the paper towels are dry.
- Mint: You probably know that mint is soothing and invigorating. Get some peppermint oil, and mix two drops for every one cup of lukewarm water. Put the mixture into the fridge until it has chilled a bit. Then, use it to cool your sunburned skin. You will be surprised at how the mint soothes the skin while the aromatic nature infuses you with optimism and vigor.
- Cornstarch: If you have an especially bad sunburn, and are worried about chafing from your sheets, you can sprinkle cornstarch between your sheets. This will provide a fine, smooth coating that can help you get a little bit of sleep. But you will have to wash your sheets later.
Avoid a Sunburn in the First Place
Of course, it would have been much easier if I had avoided getting burned altogether. I do apply sunscreen, but probably not often enough. Even waterproof sunscreen needs to be re-applied periodically — every two or three hours. You might need to re-apply more often if you sweat a lot, or if you are swimming. This was my mistake last weekend: No re-application until four hours in.
Your best bet is to get sunscreen of at least SPF 15. Try to apply 15 to 30 minutes before you plan to go into the sun. It may take a few minutes for the protection to activate, and you don’t want to be vulnerable to sunburn. It is important to note that recent studies suggest that some suncreens don’t do an adequate job of blocking all types of ultraviolet rays that cause cancer, so you may avoid the sunburn, but still increase your risk of cancer and damage your health. Check to see if your sunscreen is effective against UVA rays as well as UVB rays.
Finally, make sure that you spend some time in the shade. Don’t be in the sun continuously. And remember that the sun’s rays reflect off the water and off sand. Consider that as you arrange your towel, or hop in the pool.