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Sunburn Center

Alternative Medicine for Sunburn

by
author image Mona Gohara, M.D.
Mona Gohara, M.D., practices general dermatology in Connecticut as part of the Advanced DermCare team. She graduated from the Medical College of Ohio, where she was a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha honor society. She completed her medical internship at New York University Medical Center and her residency in dermatology at Yale University.
Alternative Medicine for Sunburn
Photo Credit Marcela Barsse/Vetta/Getty Images

Overview

Sunburn can be tender, painful, hot and uncomfortable because of the inflammatory response the body mounts to counter the toxic insult of ultraviolet (UV) rays. If there are not concerning symptoms, such as high fever, vomiting or extensive blistering associated with the sunburn, some may opt to treat their symptoms at home. It is important to discern when you may be doing more damage than good. Often ingredients touted as having a beneficial anti-inflammatory effect can alter the optimal pH of the skin, which is 5.5, causing more irritation in the context of sunburn. Some examples of these common household favorites include witch hazel, vinegar and baking soda.

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Oatmeal Soak

This quintessential skin soother is easy to find and economically reasonable. Grab a cup of colloidal oats, blend it to a fine powder and sprinkle it evenly in a lukewarm bath for symptom relief of sunburn. Oatmeal is also commonly used to quell eczema, another skin condition that causes itchy, pink patches on the body. This is a particularly effective treatment for small babies or children because it does not require a big deviation from their normal routine and it does not create a shock to any of their senses.

Use a Cool Compress

Putting a cold cloth or an ice pack wrapped in cloth on hot, tender, inflamed skin can be soothing. Doing this two to three times a day for 10 to 15 minutes at a time can help to decrease redness and provide symptomatic relief. An easy trick is to wet a washcloth and then freeze it for use on burned skin. A bag of frozen vegetables will work too. It is also calming to take a cool shower or bath, followed by the application of aloe vera or a moisturizing lotion to reduce flakiness and peeling. Try to avoid petroleum products in this instance as they can trap heat in, which is not ideal.

Make a Body Mask With Milk or Yogurt

Milk and yogurt are loaded with anti-inflammatory proteins that can reduce the discomfort associated with sunburn. It is optimal if the milk or yogurt is chilled prior to application. To do this, douse a washcloth with the chilled milk or yogurt, ring it out slightly and apply to the body. If you choose yogurt, the Greek varieties contain more protein than sugar, making them the better choice.

Green Tea Bags for the Face

This is a particularly effective treatment for sunburn around the eyes or on other parts of the face. Green tea is a well-established antioxidant that combats free radicals created by UV light and environmental pollution that wreak havoc on the skin and cause premature aging. Green tea also has tannins that act as a potent anti-inflammatory. Cold tea bags are very soothing because they also draw heat away from the affected skin.

Use Aloe or Soy

Using a product with aloe or soy is a classic remedy to sunburn. Choose wisely. Use a gel that is 100 percent aloe, preferably chilled. Or keep an aloe plant in your home and cut open a leaf for fresh gel straight from the source.

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