Don't feel the burn, heal the burn!

Home Remedies to Soothe the Sizzle of Sunburn

by Renee Futrelle

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With summer's approach, many of us have gravitated outdoors for warm-weather activities and projects. The warmth of the sun is a welcome respite after a long cold winter. However, prolonged basking in the sunshine can lead to sunburn; and whether obtained through work or play, sunburn hurts just the same.

Having very fair skin myself, I have suffered more than my share of sunburns, and I have the dermatologist bills to prove it. I was probably thirty years old before I accepted the fact that I would never sport a dark, tropical tan like the models in the magazines. Consequently, I have gleaned a number of home remedies to soothe the sizzle of overexposed skin. I have tried most of these myself, and I know from experience that anything that will cool stinging skin is worth its weight in gold!

One important advantage in using natural remedies such as these is that the ingredients are not poisonous. If children get sunburned, it is always preferable to apply something that will not harm them in case they ingest the remedy.

Probably the most commonly used remedy for burns from the sun and other sources is Aloe Vera. Aloe Vera gel purchased from a store or squeezed fresh from a plant can be liberally smoothed directly on any burned area and is easy to apply to large areas. Cooled vitamin E oil can also be liberally applied to large areas. It possesses both relieving and moisturizing properties.

A few good options to apply to a burned face (or other small area) are found in the kitchen. These items, which may be cooled and applied directly on the skin, include raw slices of cucumber, apple, or potato. Tea bags soaked in cool water are helpful when placed on burned eyelids.

Compresses are an especially good way to treat larger burned areas such as arms, legs, or the trunk. An old stand-by, a cloth soaked in apple cider vinegar, is a particular favorite of mine. Another good compress brings an almost breath-mint sensation to baked skin - a soft cloth soaked in witch hazel. Milk has historically been used to pamper skin, and a compress made from one part skim milk to four parts water will help skin rebound from the harshness of the sun. Although it may sound like the ingredients of a salad dressing, yogurt and cucumber make an excellent compress. Grind up the cucumber and mix with enough yogurt to make a paste on the cloth.

Comfrey root is an herb that helps to soothe burns. Place one tablespoon of comfrey in one cup of water and bring it to a boil. After it simmers a few minutes, let it cool. Saturate a cloth with the strained liquid and apply to the burned area.

If the burn is more generally all over the body, a bath may be your salvation. Plain, cool water is good, but even better is the addition of several shakes of baking soda. I have also taken a milk bath, pouring a gallon of milk into the cool bath water. An oatmeal bath is helpful for any kind of skin irritation. Place regular oatmeal in a cheesecloth or old stocking. Let the cool water run over it into the tub. Discard the oatmeal and relax as you soak away your discomfort.

The key to any burn remedy is the cooling effect, and any of these applications should be cool to the touch, yet never ice-cold. Also, most of these treatments can be repeated every two to four hours.

A final hint is to sprinkle powder or cornstarch on your sheets before you retire. This will reduce the friction of skin meeting linens. Perhaps the thing to remember most is that if the sunburn is very severe and blisters develop (yes, I've had them, too), don't try to heal yourself - see a doctor immediately.

We can have fun in the summer sun if we take precautions. But if the sun catches you unprepared, be assured that soothing agents lie no further than your own cupboards. Remember that you don't have to "feel the burn" - you can heal the burn!

Reviewed May 2017

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