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Sunburn Relief -
How To Treat and Soothe Sunburn Pain

sunburn-reliefIt is best to practice sunburn prevention before you head outdoors; everyone knows that right? You are supposed to apply and re-apply sunscreen, wear a hat and wear clothing with tightly woven fabrics. O.K., we all know things happen. You hang out at the beach longer than planned. You fall asleep in the hammock. Your company softball game goes into extra innings and your sunscreen wears off. Whatever the reason, the results are the same: you spent a little too much time outside and have now ended up with a sunburn. 

At first you may notice that you are a little pink, but by bedtime you are going to look like a lobster. Not to worry my little sunburned crustacean, there is good news. If you act fast, you can minimize that lobster-like redness and the associated stinging pain, as well as the damage to your skin caused by the sun. If you want sunburn relief and to know how to treat and soothe sunburn pain, then follow these tips and at-home remedies. Ahhh…, feeling better already.

Sunburn Relief - How To Treat and Soothe Sunburn Pain

Soak and Soothe Grandma-like Home Remedies

Cool off with a soak in H2O
Soaking in a tub of cool water is a good way to soothe the burn and ease the sting of sunburn, especially if the burn is widespread or on a hard-to-reach area (like your back). Avoid using soap, which can irritate and dry out the skin. Also skip the washcloth, loofah, and/or bath sponge. When you’re done soaking (20 minutes), gently pat your skin dry with a soft towel. Don’t be tempted to linger in the tub for hours. If you are, skip the bath and take a cool shower instead. Soaking too long can cause or aggravate dry skin, which can increase itching and peeling.

Take a bath with Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
For a sunburn-soothing remedy add 1 cup of baking soda to a tub of lukewarm bath water. Soak for 15 to 20 minutes - any longer and you risk further drying out your already dehydrated skin. When you get out of the bath do not towel off. You want to keep a thin layer of the baking soda on the skin. Instead, air-dry so you don't wipe the baking soda off.

If you just need to treat smaller areas, like the tops of your feet or ears because you missed them when putting on sunscreen, create a paste by slowly adding water to a tablespoon of baking soda. Apply the paste directly to the affected area. Baking soda can also be used in the same manner to help treat bug bites.

Soak in oatmeal
Another wonderful relief for sunburned skin - oatmeal. Fill the bathtub with lukewarm water and mix in 1 cup of oatmeal. You can also use an oatmeal powder like Aveeno. Just follow the packet's directions. As with the baking soda, air-dry your body and don't wipe the oatmeal off your skin.

Take a bath in Epsom salt
Mix 1 cup of Epsom salt with boiling water so that it dissolves. Next, pour the solution into a lukewarm bath. Soak for 15 to 20 minutes. When you are done soaking, gently pat your skin dry with a soft towel.

Soak in vinegar
Adding ½ cup vinegar to your cool bathwater will help take the sting out of the sunburn.

Do not soak in cold water after getting sunburned because doing so can send the body into shock.
Do not use bath salts, oils, or bubble bath since they can irritate and dry out the skin.

Aloe Vera

Botanical Aloe Vera
aloe-vera-sunburn-treatmentKeep an aloe vera plant in your home to treat minor burns or irritations. The thick, gel-like juice of the plant has both anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties which allow it to take the sting and redness out of a sunburn. Just slit open one of the broad leaves, squeeze out the gel-like juice, and apply the gel directly to the burn. Continue to apply the aloe vera gel five to six times per day for several days. According to Karl Gruber, a surgical pathologist and CEO of Luca Sunscreen, “Aloe vera is the best remedy for sunburn…It's even used in hospital burn units." Fortunately, this healing plant is widely available and can be found at your local nursery or even in the grocery store's floral department.

Aloe Products
Jericho Aloe Vera GelYou don’t happen to have an aloe plant handy? Try Jericho Aloe Vera Gel ($16 Its parabon-free formula with added natural Dead Sea minerals is almost as good as the real thing and will cool your skin after just one application.

You can also try CVS/pharmacy Brand Aftersun Cloth Wipes. If you have ever stepped into a shower after a sunburn, then you know the pleasure/pain you feel as each cool drop pounds down on your sensitive skin. Use the pre-moistened cloths immediately following your outdoor burn instead. They contain aloe and vitamin E, and are mild and cleansing.

Apply Cool Compresses

Soak a washcloth in cool water and apply it directly to the burned areas for several minutes, rewetting the cloth often to keep it cool. Apply the compress multiple times throughout the day as needed to relieve discomfort. Caution: Do not apply ice or an ice pack to sunburned skin because it could further injure the skin that’s already been irritated by the sunburn.

You can also add a soothing ingredient, such as oatmeal or baking soda, to the compress water. Simply wrap dry oatmeal in cheesecloth or a piece of gauze and run water through it, then toss out the oatmeal and soak the cheesecloth/gauze in the oatmeal water. Or you can shake a bit of baking soda into the water before soaking the washcloth.

Chamomile Tea
Brew dried chamomile in a tea - combine1 teaspoon dried chamomile with 1 cup boiling water - or use a pre-packaged chamomile tea bag. Cool to room temperature and apply the tea onto the affected areas. Caution: Do not use chamomile if you have pollen allergies, or you may suffer a skin reaction to go along with the sunburn.

Soak a washcloth in equal parts cool water and cold milk, wring it out, and gently press it on the burned areas.

Take an Over-the-Counter (OTC) Pain Reliever
Joel Schlessinger, president emeritus of the American Society of Cosmetic Dermatology and Aesthetic Surgery recommends taking an aspirin or Advil to relieve pain and cut the inflammation of a sunburn. Since these non-prescription pain relievers have anti-inflammatory effects, they will minimize your discomfort. Take with food as directed on the bottle right after exposure and every 4 to 6 hours for the next day or so. If you develop stomach upset discontinue use. If you cannot tolerate aspirin or ibuprofen, consider taking OTC acetaminophen. It can help ease pain, but will not relieve inflammation.

Use a Topical Anesthetic
To temporarily relieve the pain and itching often associated with sunburn try using a topical anesthetic like Solarcaine Aloe Extra Burn Relief Spray ($6.15 burn relief spray. Topical anesthetics come in both spray and cream forms. The sprays are easier to apply to widespread sunburns, but avoid spraying them directly onto your face. Spray some of the product onto a bit of gauze instead, and then gently dab it on your face. Whichever topical form you choose, look for a product that contains lidocaine. It is less likely than some of the other topical anesthetics to cause an allergic reaction. Caution: Because some people have allergic reactions to such topical anesthetic products, be sure to test a small area of your skin before using it all over.

Slather on Sun Repair
Ahava-Aftersun-Rehydrating-Balm-Body-FaceAfter sitting out longer than you should have, jump-start your skin's healing process right away by smoothing on some Ahava Aftersun Rehydrating Balm For Body & Face ($29

Because sunburn dries out the skin's surface, it causes cells and blood vessels to leak, resulting in moisture loss. Unfortunately, while compresses and cool baths can help treat and ease sunburn pain, they can also end up robbing your sunburned skin of even more moisture. To help your skin retain its moisture, apply a bland moisturizer (those without fragrances or irritating ingredients) immediately after your soak. Tip: Chill the moisturizer in the refrigerator before using for an added cooling relief of pain and dryness.

Drink Water
Not only did the sun fry your skin, it also dehydrated it. Luckily, good old H2O can help replenish your body. Being well hydrated will help burns heal better and faster, so drinking lots of water while recovering from sunburn is essential. Tip: You know you are hydrated when your urine runs almost clear.

As a rule, the best treatment for sunburn, of course, is not to get it in the first place. But if you happen to find your skin reddening after a few hours out in the sun, there are plenty of things you can do for sunburn relief to treat and soothe sunburn pain. Next time, just make sure that you don’t get burned again.

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