Despite our best efforts, sunburn happens. No one is immune to the power of our hot, Australian sun. Whether it's a forgetful moment, unplanned sun exposure or an unchecked UV index rating; everyone has experienced sunburned skin at one point or another.
No one plans to get sunburnt, so when it happens, you'll likely look through your cupboards trying to find something to bring relief to your burnt skin. Or, maybe you're here looking for natural remedies to avoid harsh chemicals or other toxins that may cause further irritation. Whatever the reason, there are many natural remedies you can turn to.
Today, we'll look at the top 7 natural remedies you can use to soothe sunburnt skin and provide tips on how to treat sunburn immediately following exposure.
The top 7 natural remedies to soothe sunburnt skin
While reaching for your vitamin E moisturiser may seem the most obvious choice, there are plenty of natural options and home remedies to soothe the pain and promote healing. Many of which you may already have sitting in your cupboard!
1. Aloe vera
Aloe vera is a popular choice for sunburn treatment because it provides instant relief. It is scientifically proven to promote healing in first to second-degree burns, with recent research showing it aloe vera has anti-inflammatory properties.
While it can be purchased as a gel, aloe vera can easily be used straight from the plant. When you cut a branch, you can see the gel sitting inside. Scrape it out and put it straight on your skin. Plant aloe in your garden or in a pot, and you'll have one of the best home remedies for sunburn on hand 24/7.
2. Witch hazel
Witch hazel is commonly used in skin products because it promotes healing, is anti-inflammatory and helps with redness. The plant's bark produces tannins that help with swelling and redness and can ward off bacteria.
To use it on sunburn, soak a clean cloth in a bowl with three to four tablespoons of witch hazel liquid and dab it on the affected area.
3. Oatmeal bath
Oatmeal is another of the natural remedies that comes with anti-inflammatory benefits - ideal for inflamed, sunburned skin. Oatmeal assists with restoring the natural barrier of your skin and helps with hydration which is a common reason why it is used in creams and treatments for dry, itchy skin.
If you have reached the later stages of sunburn with skin peeling, oatmeal baths can be a great natural remedy and relief.
You can purchase oatmeal bath mixes, or you can make it yourself at home. Put one to two cups of whole rolled oats in the food processor and blend into a fine powder. Run a cool bath and mix the blended oats into the bath water. It should become a milky white colour. Soak in the bath for 15 minutes and pat dry afterwards.
4. Coconut oil
Coconut oil has become a popular natural alternative to moisturiser and has obvious hydrating benefits for red and dry skin.
Be careful, however, not to use it too soon. The benefit of coconut oil is that it traps moisture, but it will also trap heat. If used too soon, it will worsen the symptoms. Wait a couple of days until the heat of the sunburn has left before applying.
5. Baking soda
Baking soda or corn starch can be used in either a bath or as a paste to reduce inflammation and help with itching from peeling skin. Put a few heaped tablespoons into a cool bath to help relieve irritation and reduce damage. Or mix with a little water into a paste and apply it to your skin.
NOTE: be careful not to scrub your skin with the baking soda bath water or the paste. Gently pat and avoid rubbing with a towel to avoid exfoliating and damaging the affected area.
6. Tea bags
Like witch hazel, tea has naturally occurred tannins and antioxidants that can relieve the symptoms of sunburn. You can use any kind of tea from English breakfast to green tea or even chamomile tea. Black tea, however, has higher levels of tannins and green tea is reported to be the most soothing for pain.
Soak a washcloth or cotton pad in brewed tea that has been cooled and use it on your sunburn to relieve the symptoms and swelling.
7. Lavender oil
If you like to use essential oils, there are several that can be used to help treat sunburn. Lavender oil is at the top of the list thanks to its anti-inflammatory and analgesic, healing properties. If you are particularly worried about your sunburn and the sun damage to your skin, lavender oil is popular for relieving stress and anxiety.
There are several ways to use lavender oil including mixing it into a bath mix or making a cool compress with it.
Additional tips for treating sunburnt skin
Sunburn may happen slowly, but it's still a burn just like any other. If you're laying on the beach and realise your skin is burned by the sun, here are the very first steps to treat your sunburnt skin. Once you're out of the sun and cooling down, then you can seek out the above natural remedies to soothe your skin.
Avoid more sun exposure
If you've woken up on the beach or had originally planned to spend the rest of the day outdoors - seek shade immediately and plan to stay inside. Removing yourself from the reach of the sun can be the difference between minor sunburn and painful, damaged skin.
Cool down your skin
As with any burn, the first port of call in most non-emergent cases is to cool down the burn site. Cool water, an ice bath, a cold shower, or a cold compress can help quickly and easily cool sun damaged skin - with the added benefit of bringing instant relief.
Hydrate your body
In response to the burn, your body will draw moisture to the skin's surface to heal, taking it away from other areas of your body. It's important to drink water and eat lots of fruits and vegetables to hydrate and nourish your skin. If you don't keep up your fluids, sunburn can also lead to severe dehydration and a whole host of other medical concerns.
Eat more fruit
Eating a diet rich in fruits can provide numerous benefits for your skin health, as fruits are packed with a variety of nutrients that can help protect your skin from damage caused by the environment and ageing. The antioxidants found in many Australian fruits, such as vitamin C, beta-carotene, and lycopene, can help neutralise harmful free radicals that contribute to skin damage.
Know when to seek professional help
If sunburn induces neurologic symptoms, listlessness or seizures, call an ambulance immediately.
These types of symptoms should not be treated at home and can be a sign of serious heat stroke.
If the skin has blisters, looks white or feels numb, see your doctor as soon as possible. It is also advised to see a doctor if the sunburn is on a child under the age of one.
Stay sun safe with an annual skin check
If you are looking for a sunburn remedy, you already know that the best way to care for your skin is to avoid sunburn and harmful exposure to UV rays in the first place. You can do this by applying a good sunscreen and making more sun-safe choices in the future.
Another way to give your skin the best care is to incorporate regular skin checks into your healthcare routine. If it's been more than a year since you've had a skin check, book a check-up at your local skin cancer clinic. A quick, easy, non-intrusive skin check is all it takes to give you peace of mind.