Having fun in the sun is among the most favorite activities for many people around the world, but it carries along a fairly painful side-effect: the sunburn. Sunburn spoils the fun, thwarts your tan, and makes you cover up when all you want to do is put on a swimsuit and frolic in the sunny outdoors. However, a sunburn can happen any time of the year, not only in the summer, since it is caused by the harmful UV rays of the sun. This is particularly well known to the skiing and skateboarding community, as they tend to get painful burns on their faces when they spend a lot of time in the mountains in the snow.
But how do we get sunburnt? When the UV (ultra-violet) rays penetrate your skin, it produces melanin. Melanin is the dark pigment situated in the outer layers of your skin, known as the epidermis, that gives you that wonderful bronzy color, and also depends on how tan you can actually get. When you spend the time in the sun, your body produces more melanin thus protecting you from the sun and shield you from the UV rays. However, since the production of melanin is determined by your genetics, people with fair skin will produce less of it, and, consequently, are more likely to burn.
The melanin in your skin gives you a shield of about SPF 4, however, if you want to avoid the painful redness, the best thing you can do is protect yourself even further. To avoid peeling of the skin, redness, and pain that comes with a sunburn, here are some of the most effective remedies which you can use to heal your skin faster.
An old proverb says “Prevention is better than cure”, and in this case, it is absolutely true. Before you get a painful sunburn, it is much better to protect yourself against it in the first place. Stay out of the sun during the peak hours, from 11 AM to 6 PM if you can. Wear light clothing that covers most of your body and chooses light colors such as white, eggshell, light-grey, and others. Try to wear clothes made of natural materials instead of synthetics, since it will let your skin breathe and not make you sweat profusely.
Always wear an SPF cream. Always! Even if you are stepping out only for a few minutes. Even during the winter and autumn. At all times, use SPF. In summer, aim for at least SPF 45 as it can block up to 98% of harmful UV rays. For comparison, SPF 30 blocks about 97%, and an SPF 15 can block about 94% of UV rays. You can, of course, use a sunscreen with a higher SPF, however, none of the creams can offer a 100% protection.
If you do end up with a sunburn, reach into your kitchen cabinet and get some lovely potatoes. Potatoes are a well-known pain reliever, and they work particularly well on skin irritations, they can soothe the insect bites and minor burns, and they can also help reduce the inflammation. For this remedy, you will need two potatoes, and, depending on the method, a grater, knife, or a blender, cotton pads, gauze, or a facial tissue.
Start by washing the potatoes. If you choose to use slices, slice them up. If, however, you prefer another method, use a grater or put them in a blender. Grate or blend your potatoes and take a cotton ball or a face tissue and soak it into the mixture. Apply the cotton ball onto the sunburn and leave it on for about 15 to 20 minutes. You should feel relief in a matter of minutes.
Use a Compress
Using a compress is definitely one of the quickest ways to relieve the burning sensation on your skin. There are a few “recipes” here, so take a look at what works best for you and try some of them.
Cool milk. For a cool milk compress, you will need a washcloth or a gauze and cold milk. Simply soak the gauze with the chilled milk and squeeze out the excess. Put it on your burns and press lightly to make it stay in place. You can leave this compress on for as long as you need, but make sure you always soak your gauze in cold milk, so if it reaches a room temperature, pop it in the fridge for a while before dunking your compress in again.
Cold water. The simplest compress you can make is a cold water compress. Pour come water into a bowl and add a few ice cubes to cool it down. Soak your cloth or a gauze into the water and apply it to your skin. You can apply this compress several times a day, which you can re-soak when it warms.
Witch hazel. Take a cloth and moisten it with witch hazel, a great astringent with numerous anti-inflammatory properties. You can apply this compress as often as you wish.
Cornstarch and Baking Soda
These ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen, which is amazing since they are great for soothing the sunburn. Cornstarch or baking soda can be used to make this remedy, and both can alleviate the pain, and reduce the redness of the skin.
You will only need cool water and cornstarch or baking soda. Depending on the size of your sunburn, eyeball the amount of water and cornstarch/baking soda you need. Mix the cool water and the other ingredient until you get a paste and simply apply it to your sunburnt skin. Leave the mixture on until you feel relief, and rinse it off with cool water.
You should do this either way, but especially when you have a sunburn. When our skin is burnt, it is dried out, which means that our bodies are dehydrated as well. Keep a bottle of cold water and sip on it throughout the day to hydrate your body, which is essential if you want to heal your skin.
Cool with Mint
Mint is well known for its cooling effect, so it is no wonder that it can do a lot for sunburns. You will need 3.5 cups of water, five green tea bags, 3 cups of fresh mint, and cotton pads or a clean cloth. Boil the water and add the tea bags and mint into a bowl. Pour the boiling water over the mint and the tea bags and let them steep for about an hour. Strain the tea and let it cool. Once the concoction cools completely, soak the cotton pads or a cloth into the liquid and apply to the sunburns. Leave on for a while and re-soak when the cloth gets warm.
Aloe vera gel is a famous remedy for sunburns because it has a cooling and soothing effect. It reduces the redness and relieves the pain. If you have an aloe vera plant, take a few big leaves and slit them down the middle, but not all the way through. Place the leaves on your sunburnt skin and leave on for a while.
If you are using a commercially produced gel, make sure you find a high-quality one. Apply it over the burns several times a day. This version is more economical for bigger burns, unlike the plant which is more suitable for smaller burns.
A plethora of probiotics and beneficial enzymes that live cultured plain yogurt has can help your skin immensely. If you get a sunburn, the easiest thing you can do is to apply plain yogurt to your burns, just make sure you are not using the flavored versions and that you get one that contains probiotics.
To treat your skin, simply apply the plain yogurt to the burns and let it sit for about five to seven minutes. You should feel immediate relief from the burning sensation and the pain. Once the time has passed, rinse off the yogurt with cool water and apply an aloe vera gel if you have one.
Cucumber is a great antioxidant and has an analgesic effect to the burnt skin. Simply chill a cucumber in your fridge, slice it up or blend it in a blender and apply to the skin. If you are using cucumber slices, flip the slice when one side warms up. If you are making a paste, you can add some aloe vera gel or cornstarch to the blended cucumber for a better effect and a thicker paste.
You can also take a simple over-the-counter pain reliever to soothe the burning skin. Ibuprofen such as Advil or Motrin, or naproxen such as Aleve, can help reduce the inflammation and relieve the pain. However, be careful not to go overboard with them and always make sure you are not allergic to some of the ingredients that these medicines contain.
Avoid the Soap
Soap can dry your skin and irritate your sunburns even further. Do not take bubble baths and do not soak in the soapy water. If you absolutely must use it, opt for a mild version and make sure you rinse it off well. You can take cool soap-free baths to soothe your skin and do not rub it with a towel when you are done.