By Lindsay Cohn
No matter how diligent you are with the sunscreen, burns happen. But you don’t have to suffer with painful, itchy red skin. With these soothing, natural remedies, you can feel better fast. And the best part? Many of them may already be in your pantry or fridge.
Perhaps the best known botanical sunburn remedy is aloe vera. “It delivers an immediate soothing, cooling sensation—especially if stored in the fridge,” says dermatologist Tsippora Shainhouse, MD. This powerful anti-inflammatory calms redness, tenderness and swelling. It also contains compounds that promote healing and repair cellular damage.
Though there is an array of aloe products on the market, holistic wellness practitioner and registered nurse Audrey Christie McLaughlin doesn’t recommend them, because many contain additives. “Straight from the source is best,” she notes. “Grab an aloe plant, break a off a leaf, squeeze out the clear gel and apply a thin layer to skin as often as needed.”
Cucumbers are 95 percent water, so they’re exceptionally hydrating and cooling. According to dermatologist Debra Jaliman, MD, you can use these salad staples topically to help soothe the inflammation, irritation and redness. She suggests pulverizing cukes into a paste and applying to burned areas.
That carton of milk lurking in your fridge can come to your aid as a skin soother—but make sure it’s whole, not skim. “Because it contains more fat and protein, it’s more effective at decreasing inflammation and swelling,” explains Dr. Jaliman. It also helps locks in moisture and promotes healing. “Try a cold milk-soaked compress—applied for 15 minutes at a time.”
APPLE CIDER VINEGAR
Is there anything apple cider vinegar can’t do? Along with aiding digestion, this natural wonder is an anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and analgesic. “When applied after sun overexposure, it helps soothe skin, balance pH, kill germs and ease discomfort,” explains McLaughlin. “In a spray bottle, combine equal parts distilled water and ACV, and spritz on when you need some relief.”
Known for its anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antioxidant abilities, chamomile tea has been used as a topical treatment for centuries. Ready for relief? Dr. Shainhouse recommends a chamomile compress. “Steep multiple tea bags in a pot of boiling water and then let cool. Saturate a washcloth or cotton gauze with the chilled tea and apply to the affected area to help reduce pain and redness.”
This pantry staple is another age-old remedy for various skin ailments, and promising research is beginning to show that when ground up and combined with liquid, it can alleviate dry, itchy skin and reduce inflammation. “Oatmeal baths are great for soothing irritation as a result of sun exposure. We also recommend them for other inflammatory skin conditions like eczema,” says dermatologist Dhaval G. Bhanusali, MD. Pick up a packet of Aveeno Soothing Bath Treatment at your local drugstore, or DIY it by blending rolled oats in a food processor.
You may already be using coconut oil as a moisturizer, lip balm and makeup remover, and now you can add it to your list of sunburn helpers. “UV rays compromise the skin’s protective barrier, leading to moisture loss. That’s what causes the sensation of skin tightness,” explains Dr. Shainhouse. “Coconut oil acts as a shield to reduce excessive transepidermal water loss.” It also contains vitamin E, omega 3-fatty acids and lauric acid, which has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. After showering or bathing, gently pat yourself dry and slather on a small amount of coconut oil to nourish, lock in moisture and protect skin.