Effective Ways to Beat Sunburn

With a blazing summer ahead, most of us dread the sweltering heat and the possibilities of the searing sun literally baking us to a golden tan, often concealing a livid blister. These can cause quite a bit of distress resulting in skin redness, and pain.  Nevertheless, with simple natural remedies we can keep ourselves comfortable until Mother Nature heals the burn.


What is Sunburn?

A sunburn, photographed two days after a five-hour exposure to the sun (Image source: Wikipedia)

According to Med lexicon’s medical dictionary, ‘Sunburn is an erythema with or without blistering caused by exposure to critical amounts of ultraviolet light, usually within the range of 260-320 nm in sunlight (UVB)’.


When we are burnt in the sun, we are to a large extent killing skin cells since  the superficial layer of skin on our body called epidermis when over exposed to Ultraviolet rays of the scorching summer sun destroys the living cells in the epidermis. When the immune system comes to our defence, there is an increase in blood flow in the affected area opening up the capillary walls so that white blood cells can come in and remove the damaged cells. This increase in blood flow makes our skin warm and red.  Since the damaged cells, release chemicals that activate pain receptors the nerve endings start emitting signals to our brain, which makes sunburned skin extremely sensitive.


Symptoms of Sunburn
Sunburn symptoms

Sunburn symptoms (Image source: sxc.hu)

Symptoms may differ in each individual. Redness of the skin may not occur many hours after the burn.  Instead, to notice the severity of the burns it might take 12-24 hours while minor burns cause nothing more than insignificant redness and tenderness to the affected areas. However, in acute cases sunburns can be painful and may require quick medical attention or hospitalization.


In severe cases, symptoms include fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, weakness and symptoms of shock signifying low blood pressure with fainting.


Causes of Sunburn

The primary cause of sunburn is due to exposure to reflected sunrays from the sea, cloudy days, or snow.


The amount of sun exposure required to produce sunburn changes with an individual’s skin pigmentation, the geographic location, the season, the time of day and the weather conditions.


Nevertheless, the body’s natural defense is skin pigmentation known as Melanin that absorbs the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.


People with less melanin are those possessing fair-hair and light eyes. They are more susceptible than dark-skinned people are to sunburn.


The technique of using the sun’s rays called PUVA therapy; to treat certain skin complaints such as psoriasis can cause sunburn.


Certain drugs like antibiotics and other drugs used for treating acne including certain herbal medicines can also make the skin more sensitive to sunburn


Prolonged or frequent exposure to the red-hot fiery ball of fire sun is a major risk factor for the development of skin cancers.


Treatment Options: Natural Remedies For Sunburn
Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera is the classic universal remedy for centuries in history as a medicine across many traditional cultures for treating burns.  It has been used to soothe burns since it contains ingredients that help counter inflammation besides removing the sting and redness out of sunburn.  Wash the affected area gently with soap and water. Then simply slit open a broad leaf and apply the clear, jelly-like sap, which aids circulation in the tiny blood vessels in the skin, as well as eradicate bacteria.  For better results, apply five to six times a day continuously for several days.


Baking Soda

Fill bath with 1 – 2 heaped cups of baking soda and soak for 15 to 20 minutes.  Do not overdo since soaking for longer duration makes the skin extremely dry.  Resist the urge to towel off instead air-dry, without wiping off the baking soda.  Alternately, dissolve baking soda in water, apply to a clean cloth, and drape the cloth over the affected skin or fill a bottle with cold water by dissolving 1/4 cup baking soda and spray it on the skin for a refreshing feel.



Oatmeal makes a terrific remedy for sunburned skin. Fill a bath with cool water scoop 2 cups oatmeal and mix it in. Soak in bath for about 30 minutes.  As with the baking soda, air-dry your body and don’t wipe the oatmeal off your skin.  Remember not to use cold water because that can send the body into shock.



To ease chafing, cover the burned area with a paste of cornstarch and water and allow to dry.  On the other hand, as an alternative remedy Soak in tub or shower with cool water.  Pat skin dry.  Lightly dust skin with cornstarch.  Cool water mixed with cornstarch sprayed all over the sunburned skin too may work wonders and have a soothing effect.


Fill a bath with cool water and add 1-cup cornstarch, dissolve and soak in tub for 30 minutes.

Soak for 30 minutes in a cool bath mixed with 1/2 cup cornstarch and 1/2 cup baking soda.



To alleviate sunburn use apple cider vinegar, plain or diluted since Vinegar contains acetic acid, known to restore the acid in the skin and reduce the sting, itching, peeling and inflammation.  Therefore, one part water mixed with one part vinegar, sprayed directly on the sunburn makes an effective treatment.  If the sunburn itches, take a cool vinegary bath, but add two cups of vinegar to the bathwater before getting in.  Dab over the sunburn a thick paste made using vinegar and baking soda. Apply before bedtime, and leave it on overnight as a remedy. Soak a few sheets of paper towels in white vinegar, and apply them to the sunburned areas. Leave them on until the towels dry.  Repeat the process as and when required.



The tannins and polyphenol compounds in tea leaves can enhance skin’s resistance to UV radiation when they are ingested. However, topical tea application can soothe and accelerate the healing process of sunburns soothing and easing pain. Hence placing cooled used tea bags on the affected areas makes a wonderful remedy.  Permeate 4 – 6 black or green tea bags to make strong decoction of tea on a large pot, refrigerate until it is cold.  Then soak small towels in the tea and apply on the painful sores. This decoction can be sprayed too on the skin for relief. Soak in a cool bath filled with several tea bags of black or green tea in the water for cooling off the burns. Green tea contains ingredients that help protect the skin from damage caused by ultraviolet radiation and reduce inflammation.



Grate potatoes and apply as much of the potato juice to sunburned skin. Since potatoes contain compounds that cool the burn and help, reduce swelling they make an excellent pain reliever.



For tender spots of sunburn, rub the area gently with sliced cucumber. They contain compounds that soothe stinging skin and help reduce swelling.  Slices can be added directly to skin or mashed first.  Grated cucumbers mixed with milk nourish the skin and promote healing of damaged skin.



1/4 cup tomato juice or tomato paste mixed with 1 1/2 cups buttermilk can combat the burning and the irritation caused by sunburn.  Soaking in a cool bath mixed with 2 cups of tomato juice offers tremendous relief.



Boil a handful of fresh mint a pot of water in moderate heat for 10 minutes.  Switch off the heat and allow the mint to be immersed in the pot.  Cover and cool the decoction. Strain the water and allow it to cool.  Spray the water directly on the affected areas. This can also be done by cooling off cooked leaves and applying them directly on the skin.



Applying cool milk to sunburns, using gauze or clean cloth, creates a protein film that helps ease discomfort.



Apply yogurt on the skin for 15 to 20 minutes for instant relief.  Washing the face with buttermilk is an easy remedy for calming off sunburns.


Coconut Oil

Coconut oil contains healing properties and is extremely good for the skin. Hence, coconut oil may be used either as a sun block to protect skin from the harsh rays of the sun or as a relief for the inflammation caused by the intensity of the summer sun.



To recuperate from overexposure to the harsh ultraviolet rays of the sun, drink plenty of fluids, this helps offset the swelling and dehydration generally caused after being baked in the summer sun

  • Take a diet rich in antioxidants (vitamins A, C and E); supported by nutritional supplements, helps combat free radicals, the unstable molecules that may damage skin cells.
  • Avoid going out in the sun between 10 A.M and 3 pm since the sun’s rays are likely to be strongest at that time.
  • Wear loose-fitting, tightly woven clothing that covers your arms and legs
  • Use a strong sunscreen, with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15, for protection from the harsh UV rays and never forget to wear a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Wear Sunglasses with UV ray protection, to prevent eye damage