sunburn istock 9673045 682x408


Tips for healing a sunburn

As the summer draws near, so do long days spent in the bright sunshine. Keeping your skin protected in the sun is important as well as knowing what to do if you get burned. Here, Jessica Dehler, PA, shares her take on sunburn care, natural remedies and how to manage the pain of a sunburn.

What do you recommend doing right after you realize you've been sun burned? 

It is important to get out of the sun right away—even if you are just slightly pink.  

Hydration is key! Any burn draws fluid to the skin surface and away from the rest of the body. So drink extra water for a few days and watch for signs of dehydration—children are especially vulnerable. 

Cold showers can be helpful. Moisturize after bathing to soothe skin and repeat frequently to make peeling less noticeable.  Most sunburns can be managed at home, but if blistering covers 20% or greater of the body—see a medical provider.

What do you recommend to cool sunburned skin?

Cold compresses several times a day for 10-15 minutes and/or cold showers can be helpful; Aluminum acetate keeps skin from being too dry and itchy; Witch hazel applied to the skin provides anti-inflammatory relief; Avoid soap since this can dry skin and make worse (good to stay away from bubble baths).

Does Aloe Vera really help? 

Aloe contains chemicals that have anti-bacterial/anti-inflammatory properties. Make sure you use 100% aloe products to soothe burns, but remember that the best immediate first aid for burn, of any type, is cold water, not an ointment or cream.

Are there any natural remedies you would recommend for healing a sunburn? 

Cucumbers have natural anti-oxidant/analgesic properties. Something you could do would be to chill cucumbers, mash them in blender and apply paste to skin for relief.

Tea bags are another option, after cooled, with cloth—tannic acids in tea draw heat from sunburned skin and restore pH balance.

Cider vinegar can promote healing and restore pH balance. To use this, add one cup of cider vinegar to a bath.

Is it okay to take a pain reliever to help with the pain?

It is fine to use over the counter pain relievers such as Advil or Motrin after a sunburn to help with discomfort. This is encouraged tor the first 48 hours and can reduce the amount of swelling/redness that can occur.

What is the best way to protect yourself against damaging sun rays? 

My best advice is to avoid the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Be sure to cover up with hats, cover-ups and umbrellas for sun protection and use sunscreen with at least 15-30 SPF. Remember to replenish sunscreen every 2 hours or after swimming, and don't forget to protect your lips. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes prior to going outside—even if it is overcast.


Share this article


The ABCs of skin cancer

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, but do you know what it looks like? Dermatologist Kevin Christensen, MD, explains what to look for and when you should see a professional.

Continue reading


Get fun, inspiring, provider-reviewed articles sent to your inbox.

Sign up for our email newsletter