What is the Best Way to Treat Sunburn?

Applying aloe vera to a sunburn can alleviate pain and heal skin.
To prevent a sunburn, a person should apply sunscreen before going outside.
The dangers of dehydration multiply with sunburn.
Dink plenty of water when sunbunrned.
Ultimately, preventative measures and avoiding burning in the first place are the best ways to treat a sunburn.
Article Details
  • Written By: Sherry Holetzky
  • Edited By: Lindsay D.
  • Last Modified Date: 03 December 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Sunburn is condition that occurs to skin that has been overexposed to the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays. Too much time in the sun without protection can result in heightened sensitivity, redness, pain, and even blisters.

The best advice regarding sunburn is to avoid it in the first place whenever possible. Many people fail to realize that sunburn can occur even when the temperature is mild, and even on days that aren't particularly sunny. Sunburn can cause problems later in life, from wrinkles to serious skin conditions. Using sunscreen every time you go outdoors will help protect your skin from damaging UV rays.

If you do happen to get sunburned, there are various remedies you can use to soothe the pain and help heal your skin. Aloe Vera comes highly recommended, but be sure you purchase a product that lists aloe as one of the top ingredients. Always check the expiration date, since aloe is susceptible to losing its curative properties after time. In fact, the very best use of aloe is taking it straight from the Aloe Vera plant. Break open a leaf and remove the gel contained inside. Apply it to the sunburn to help soothe the burn, and to moisturize and protect the skin.

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Also, be sure to drink plenty of water, as the dangers of dehydration multiply with sunburn. It is not wise to drink alcoholic beverages, because they may increase the risk of becoming dehydrated. You may not feel like eating, but you should try to eat a little something to keep up your strength. Sunburn can be like any illness or injury depending on its severity, and your body needs nourishment to heal itself.

Taking a cool bath will also help make you more comfortable. The cool water will help lower your body temperature and reduce the heat of the skin. Soak in the water and rinse gently but do not use soap on burned areas. Soaps can remove naturally occurring oils that your body needs to heal. After bathing, dress in loose comfortable clothing and stay in out of the sun until your sunburn begins to heal. Be sure to get plenty of rest.

If your sunburn starts peeling, it may begin to itch as well. Try not to scratch, which can cause further damage. Apply calamine lotion to alleviate itching and use plenty of moisturizer to help re-hydrate the skin.

Never try to open blisters, as this may cause serious infection and scarring. In fact, if you suffer from blisters or swelling along with serious pain, fever, dizziness, or nausea, you need to consult with your health care provider. Sunburn can be very serious and may result in first-degree burns, which require professional treatment.

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anon938785
Post 35

Do not use any ointments or aloe. Just don't. It traps the heat and can make it worse! Please please do not use aloe or any ointments!

anon289055
Post 34

I have been a RN for 12 years, so I thought maybe I would be able to help clear up some things for you. Immediately following a sunburn, the best thing to do is to cool the skin and you want to just use cool water, not cold nor hot (as some say put heat on it to draw all the rest heat out, which is wrong, it can make the burn worse) because your body is already dealing with the shock of the burn.

You can place cool compresses on the burn or soak in a cool tub, which will also help bring down your temperature, should you have one. Do not use soap on the burns because it will dry the skin out more. Make sure to pat dry and not rub dry once finished. There are several things that will help with the pain. The most common is aloe vera gel, preferably straight from the plant. Once you break the plant, apply the gel liberally to the area. Reapply as needed. You can also use moisturizing lotions and they now make a spray that has benzocaine and aloe combined that helps cool the burn but also helps numb it. You must be careful with this though, because it cannot be used on children les than two years of age and certain adults. Make sure to read the warnings.

Now, for things that aren't done a lot in hospitals but can be: aspirin. Take and crush a few tablets of aspirin up until it's smooth and add water until it's like a paste. Then take and apply over the burn area for several hours then rinse and reapply as needed. This is for adults only! Do not use on children or teens due to the risk of Rye's Syndrome.

Another thing is to dip compresses in milk and leave on for two hours then rinse the skin (no soap.) One of the best ones I know of is Lavender Oil. You have to buy it at a health food store but it works. Run a cool bath and add two tablespoons of the lavender oil to the water. Soak for a while and push the oil up on the burned areas. I went as far as to take the oil itself and rub all over me. I feel asleep in a tanning bed for over two hours once and was told this treatment.

After trying this, my severe sunburn went away in two days and I had zero peeling! It doesn't smell pleasant but it works.

Okay, one more thing. For those of you who are already peeling and you are itching something terrible, calamine lotion really helps with that. Try not to peel the skin because it can cause more damage but if you have lots of really loose flakes, try a really soft, dry washcloth, and lightly run over the area.

Anyway, sorry that was so much. Hope it helps! Oh, and don't forget about using vinegar in your bath water or mix in a spray bottle with water. It will help take the sting out of the burn! The price you pay is to smell for a while!

anon274160
Post 33

I got burned kind of bad on my face so I used cetaphil lotion and my sunburn didn't peel. It also got rid of some of the pain.

anon271804
Post 32

I never thought about trapping the heat in but that makes total sense. The sun is so hot now it's crazy. I applied sunscreen three times on all the kids and they still got burned, some worse than others. I got a lot of good info from this page. Thanks everyone.

I know vinegar takes the sting out and an aloe plant will help prevent blisters. I know there are things that draw heat out of your mouth. I wonder if some of those things will draw heat out of your skin. Your mouth is damp so some things wouldn't work, but I'll bet some things would. I'm going to do a trial and error. Some of you should try, too.

anon271566
Post 31

I got a horrific sunburn on my back. How should I treat back burns?

anon267778
Post 30

Use Sarna lotion. You can find it at walgreens, cvs, etc. I had a really bad burn last summer that was one of the worst pains ever and itched uncontrollably. I put saran on it and took some tylenol. The pain and itching were relieved immediately, and were gone within two days.

anon142908
Post 28

I'm the opposite of most of you. I did put on sunscreen. And i put enough. Except my hair was in pigtails and hello, burned back of the neck. It's not too bad and at least my long hair covers it.

anon109889
Post 26

Vinegar is the way to go. You can try Chrispy Critter After Burn Gel that combines vinegar with Vitamin E and aloe.

anon104310
Post 25

I have burned my face and I don't want it to peel. I took a cold shower and I'm drinking a lot of water.

It's still hurting me and I don't want to get more freckles. I usually take care of my skin but I forgot to wear sunscreen this time and I'm regretting it. Help. Thank you.

anon96900
Post 23

A few days ago I got burned real bad. It sneaked up on me. I didn't realize I had burned for a day and a half after being out.

The first night of burn I didn't do anything and it progressed to a real irritated area. Aloe vera didn't help the next day when I finally got some. I heard about vitamin E healing skin so I got some wheat germ oil and rubbed it on. Immediately it soothed the itch and the pain. It didn't absorb but stayed there for hours.

The next morning I bathed in lukewarm water and the skin had started to peel, leaving very sensitive areas. I was able to work with little discomfort. The wheat germ oil still helps but the sensitive areas where peeling has occurred are irritated.

Cornstarch sparkled on the burns is amazing. The sensitivity has immediately gone as well as the itch. I'll be alternating between the two for the next few days.

By the way, I have several areas that are first degree burns.

anon91969
Post 21

My health center also recommended a pain killer such as tylenol or aspirin. It makes sense to use a pain killer if you are in pain.

anon91191
Post 20

How long does it take for sunburn to go? I'm not badly burned, no blisters or peeling yet. Will it be gone in five days?

anon90599
Post 19

You should absolutely never take a

cool or cold shower. Those will only

close your pores and trap heat in your skin, and not get rid of the sunburn as quickly. Taking a warm or hot shower, while it may not provide immediate relief, is much better in the long run.

anon89839
Post 18

OK, after being severely sunburned my grandma told me to put buttermilk over my back. I laughed it off as a joke and just took a shower. However, by back kept on bothering me so I just but that buttermilk for the hell of it. The milk became hard within few minutes, so I took another shower and I swear my back felt much better.

My grandma then proceeded to give me her usual "We didn't use have fancy lotions back when I was young". I'm not saying that this works for everybody, but it did make me feel a lot better.

anon89778
Post 17

i have been recently told that neosporin is really good on sunburns too. i am trying it now and it doesn't give the initial cooling effect of aloe but does seem to be relieving the pain.

anon87485
Post 16

actually, if you have blisters, it is right not to pop them or touch them anyhow, but they keep your skin in that area cooled down, the pus inside the blisters are mainly water healing the burn, it is the same whenever you get a blister. --Cusano

anon86442
Post 15

If you got burned a couple days ago, and you were dealing with the pain until it was uncontrollably itchy, do not put on coca butter or any "curel" lotion because it will just intensify the itching.

I have never felt something so itchy in my life. I literally put on shoes and ran over to my buddies' apartment at a world record pace and got aloe vera gel, and that helped more than the normal lotion. Good luck!

anon76596
Post 13

what if you have already applied skin care products to your skin directly after getting the skin burn? Is this bad? I have sunburns on my legs, neck, face, and arms, and I took a cool shower right away, but then i applied products to my face. Anything else to keep me from blistering and peeling?

anon75930
Post 12

I've burned my back and the itch is real bad. i feel like I've tried everything from cool baths to aloe vera. anyone got other ideas?

anon74298
Post 11

I had been visiting the tanning bed for a week starting at six minutes and then going to eight twice. when I went yesterday i decided to stay in for ten. most of my body is fine but there is a strip on both of my inner thighs that turned a light shade of purple. I don't know how it happened because the back half of my body didn't even turn red.

anon60322
Post 10

I'm burnt at the moment and I'm finding aloe vera to be very helpful. and it helps you receive a tan.

anon44336
Post 9

what is the best way to treat blisters? is there any sort of cream/lotion i should put on it? what should i do if the blisters start to spread?

anon39485
Post 8

When I had a fairly bad sunburn, I found aloe vera the very best thing to soothe it. As for getting rid of it, I think time is best.

anon34957
Post 7

I am from Arizona and have had my fair share of sunburns.

I have tried aloe everything - the green gels, lotions, and even taking an aloe vera plant and rubbing its goo right on me. *Nothing* works aswell as the Made from Earth Pure Aloe Face Treatment(from the Made from Earth skin care line).

When I sunburn, I tend to blister and the Made from Earth Aloe Treatment makes it so I don't even peel - it keeps my tan (which I wanted to get), but moisturizes so well that I don't have to worry about all of the ugly peeling!!!

My family went to the lake this week and because everyone loved this lotion so much, they used up my entire bottle - well, I guess that means its time to stock up!! :) Take my word for it, this is *amazing*!!!

anon34745
Post 6

RE: Frbraid

It is true that you should not apply anything immediately to the sunburn. This can trap in heat and also worsen chances of avoiding blisters. The best thing that I have found is to take a cool shower (*not cold*) and to pat dry the sun damaged area. Following a cool shower use a cool damp cloth and continue to draw the heat out by patting it on the area. Once you can notice a dramatic difference in the heat coming from your skin then is the best time to apply Aloe. Try to avoid moisturizers since your skin is *very* sensitive due to the burn it may just irritate it further.

Hope this helps.

anon33523
Post 5

i have one blister on my face from being severely sunburned and my husband is running a fever and feeling nauseated. what would be the best thing to put on our sunburn and what is the best thing to do for his health?

anon24489
Post 4

I had applied a sulfur soap on my sunburn... now it's been hurting me.... what can I do?

anon16912
Post 3

What about on the face? It's harder to do it to the face/ I have a sunburn on my face and it is annoying. Should I put aloe on it? Or put a wet rag on it or something?

Frbraid
Post 2

I was told that one should not apply any cream / lotion immediately after getting Sunburned, as it will trap the heat into the skin. Any thoughts? If this is indeed correct, how long should you wait before add moisturizer to the affected area?

ivanka
Post 1

There are shirts on the market, rash guards, that one can wear on the beach and in the water, that protect the skin from excessive sun exposure. They are UPF rated, and they let only a certain amount of sun rays through.

Of course that would be to prevent sunburn, once you have sunburn, Aloe Vera does seem to be the best treatment that I am aware of.

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