Yes, we need moderate exposure to the sun in order to provide the body with the essential vitamin D. However, excessive exposure, or exposure during the hottest part of the day can easily cause painful sunburn.
Contrary to what you might think, you don’t have to be out on the beach sunbathing to get sunburn. Even a brief exposure to the ultraviolet radiation from the sun can cause damage to the skin if you are not careful.
Even spending about 15 minutes out in the sun during the hottest part of the day can burn your skin, but you may not realize it at that time because the symptoms can take a few hours to appear.
When ultraviolet radiation hits the skin cells, it damages the DNA just like nuclear radiation does. The body reacts to this by attempting the repair of slightly damaged cells and killing off the severely damaged ones.
The redness of the skin and the burning sensation you experience are not the real damage; they are the result of your body’s response to the damage already caused to the DNA of the cells.
The skin increases the production of melanin to block off further radiation, resulting in the darkening that we refer to as a tan. Once a tan has developed, further exposure to the sun may not bring about as severe a burn as the initial exposure.
Prevention Is Best!
It is always better to prevent sunburn because DNA damage can result in premature aging of the skin. It is a major cause of skin cancers too. But once the damage is done, the best we can do is try to relieve the pain and suffering. Here are number of home remedies to help you with that. All of them contain simple ingredients that you can find in your kitchen and pantry.
We know lighter skin people are more prone to sunburn. Apart from the skin type, the severity of the burn depends on the intensity of the sun’s rays and the duration of the exposure. You should choose the right remedy not by the availability of the ingredients or the ease of preparation alone, take into account the severity of the sunburn also.
Home Remedies For Very Mild Sunburn:
The mildest form of sunburn appears as redness on fair skin or darkening of the skin by a shade or two in people with darker skin. The area may feel hot to touch, and you may feel a slight burning sensation. This is because of increased blood circulation in the area as the body tries to repair the damage, so it’s not a bad thing altogether. What you need at this stage is a soothing face wash, or if the burn is widespread, a gentle body bath formula that will help take away the heat.
It is one of the most readily available items that you can use to treat mild sunburns. Milk is gentle on the skin and can be used straight from the carton. Unless you have a severe allergy or strong aversion to dairy products, there’s no reason why you can’t avail of its benefits as soon as you realize you have been affected.
Wash your face, hands, and all other affected parts of the body with plain water and air dry slightly before applying milk. Take a cup of cold milk in a bowl and leave it out for 5 minutes. If you are bothered about the milk smell, you can add 3-5 drops of lavender or peppermint essential oil. Both have additional benefits, but they are not essential.
Dip a cotton pad in the milk and apply gently on inflamed areas. You can let the milk dry on the skin; it will form a thin layer that seals the moisture in. Skimmed milk is best; if you use full-fat milk, the skin may feel too oily.
Wash off the milk film on the skin after a few hours and repeat the process. You can switch to other home remedies if milk treatment doesn’t suit you, but it is the best for immediate relief.
Tea freshly brewed from tea leaves and cooled to room temperature and below can soothe skin and take away the burning sensation. Irrespective of the color of the tea, all contain polyphenolic compounds such as tannins, catechins, and epicatechin. These act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. They are known to have anticancer properties against several types of cancers, including skin cancer. That makes them particularly beneficial here, since DNA damage from sun exposure is one of the leading causes of skin cancer.
Bring 4 cups of water to a rolling boil. Add 5 tablespoons of tea leaves and remove from heat. You can use 5 teabags of unflavored tea instead. Keep it covered for 30 minutes and drain. You will have very concentrated tea now. Dilute it with 4 cups of ice cold water. Soak cotton or a soft washcloth in the tea and apply to your face, hands and shoulders. Alternatively, you can use it in a spritz bottle to spray evenly on the affected areas. Repeat as often as you can.
If you happen to have mint or lemon essential oil, try adding 10 drops of it to the cooled tea to make it even more soothing. If you have used tea bags for brewing the tea, you can place them on your eyelids when they have cooled. Store them covered in the refrigerator in a clean vessel containing a bit of tea.
This pantry staple is a traditional remedy for all types of skin rashes, including diaper rash in babies. You can use it as such or as a paste or solution. For small areas such as a burnt nose or earlobes, make a paste of 2 tbsp of cornstarch with just enough water to form an easily spreadable paste and apply with fingers.
If you have burnt your face, hands and chest, make a thin solution with a cup of cornstarch in 2 cups of water. Shake well to get a uniform mixture. Apply on the skin using a wet washcloth dripping with the solution and allow it to dry on your skin. It is a messy affair, so do this in the bathroom to make cleaning up easier.
When you have generalized sunburn or a burnt back, it may be more practical to sprinkle cornstarch on damp skin and spread it gently with a soft sponge or fluffy powder puff. It is a good idea to sprinkle it on bedcovers to prevent chafing when you sleep.
This is an oral remedy to be used concurrently with any of the skin remedies mentioned above. Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, a carotenoid with powerful antioxidant capacity. As we explained earlier, the sunburn you see on the skin surface is the aftermath of tissue damage that has taken place in the lower layers. Tissue damage is accompanied by the formation of some highly reactive particles called free-radicals. Unless they are neutralized by antioxidants, they will run around causing more damage.
Relax with tall glasses of tomato juice until your sunburn is resolved. Better still; enjoy your favorite Mexican Chili or other tomato sauce based dishes. Tomatoes cooked with oil have more lycopene in the absorbable form.
When the sunburn is very mild and you have only a slight discomfort, do not give into the temptation to ignore it. If you have gone out in the sun without protection, start on one of these simple remedies as soon as you come home. Hydrate the skin from the inside by drinking at least 1 gallon of water a day. Apply an organic moisturizer all over the affected area when you go to sleep.
Home Remedies For More Serious Sunburn:
If your skin is an angry red and sore to touch, you may need a different set of home remedies that will reduce your discomfort.
Coconut Milk & Oil
Coconut milk is just as soothing as dairy, but it has some additional benefits. It is one of the few sources of lauric acid, a fatty acid found in abundance in human breast milk. Lauric acid is transformed into monolaurin, a very effective antimicrobial agent. It also plays a role in cell growth and repair. Freshly squeezed coconut milk is a popular sunburn remedy in tropical areas of the world. It is a lucky coincidence that coconuts are freely available in these parts of the world where sunburn is a risk round the year.
If you can find fresh or frozen grated coconut, soak it in warm water for 5 minutes and grind it in a mixer. Pass it through a fine sieve, pressing down to extract as much of the milk as possible. Store coconut milk in the refrigerator and use just enough to apply on the damaged skin.
Coconut oil is one of the best oils for skin care, if not the very best. Besides the antimicrobial power provided by lauric acid, coconut oil has anti inflammatory and analgesic effects too.
After a shower in cold to lukewarm water, you can apply coconut oil directly on the inflamed skin. For widespread sunburn, you can add 2 tbsp oil into a tub of lukewarm water so that a thin film of oil gets deposited all over the body. This oil film will seal in the moisture, preventing the skin from drying out.
Oatmeal & Lavender Bath
Another great way to get relief from sunburn in large areas of the body is by soaking in a tub of water with oatmeal and lavender essential oil. In aromatherapy, lavender oil is counted as soothing for all skin problems. It is anti-inflammatory, and may offer some pain relief too.
Grind oatmeal to a fine powder and add it to the water along with 10-15 drops lavender oil. Stay in the tub for not more than ten minutes as a longer bath will dry out your skin.
Other popular sunburn remedies for unbroken skin are potato paste, cucumber paste and tomato puree. Apply them liberally on the inflamed skin until the pain subsides. Washing the area with half cup apple cider vinegar diluted with one cup water may bring great relief too.
Home Remedies For Very Severe Sunburn:
If you are in pain even when you are not touching the skin in the affected areas, it can be assumed that your skin is literally burnt up as in a 2nd degree thermal burn. Blisters may soon appear, if they haven’t already. It takes anywhere between 6 hours and two days for the blisters to pop up.
They are formed when too many cells in the dermal layer of skin die, releasing the fluid inside them. This clear fluid collects between the outermost skin layer called epidermis and the dermis below it. Other symptoms of severe sunburn are fever and chills.
At this stage, home remedies mainly have a supporting role, especially if severe pain, fever and widespread inflammation necessitate painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and corticosteroid skin ointments.
The leaf pulp of this succulent plant is considered the ultimate skincare product whether the skin is damaged or not. It feels cool on the skin and provides pain relief. Aloe vera has been a popular folk remedy for even 2nd and 3rd degree burns long before cosmetic product companies caught on. Being an excellent moisturizer, this colorless, jelly-like substance will keep the skin hydrated, while the potent phytochemicals in the gel work their magic to heal the skin.
Take a mature leaf and remove the tough outer skin. Blend it to a paste and apply liberally over the affected area, taking care not to burst any blisters. Leave it on as long as you can. Reapply frequently.
This gift from nature is a well known home remedy for burns. Besides having antibacterial properties, honey is hydrophilic. It can draw out fluid from tissues, a better way to deal with blisters than bursting them. The fluid inside the blister has substances that help heal the damaged tissue underneath. Also, bursting the blisters will introduce infection to the wound.
When honey is applied on the blisters, it draws out just the water and makes covering of the blister thicker, reducing the risk of accidental breakage. You can apply unheated organic honey directly on the damaged skin or mix it with powdered oatmeal to make it stay put for longer.
As in any kind of burn, it is essential to stay hydrated on the outside and from the inside as a lot of fluid is involved in inflammatory reactions. Have plenty of water, fresh pressed fruit juices and salads, taking care to include colorful fruit and vegetable that have antioxidant power.
Prevention Is Better Than Cure!
Remember that even though these home remedies give you some welcome relief from the symptoms of sunburn, the actual damage deep inside the skin still prevails. The antioxidant foods you have taken orally may help repair some of the damage by neutralizing the free-radicals, but it will not reverse the aging of the cells. Apart from the risk of cancer, photo aging is the main negative outcome of UV light exposure.
It goes without saying that prevention is the best remedy when it comes to sunburn. If applying a mineral-based sunscreen every time you step out of the house is not practical, protect your body from exposure by covering it well when you go out, especially during the midday hours. In the subtropical areas, early spring and late summer are the time of maximum UV exposure, while tropical areas are affected throughout the year.
Eating a diet rich in the antioxidant lycopene for several weeks prior to sun exposure may act as an insurance against sunburn to some extent. Another way you can make your skin slightly more impervious to the UV rays is by gradually building up the melanin layer. You can do that by frequent sun exposure for less than 10 minutes at a time before spring arrives. It will give your skin a healthy color and glow too.