- Sunburns are common and respond well to home care.
- Cool showers, aloe vera, over-the-counter pain relievers, proper hydration, and loose clothing can all treat sunburn pain.
- The best way to address sunburn is to prevent it by wearing proper sunblock and using other sun-safe practices. Sunburn that is severe or has many blisters may require medical care.
It’s important to know how to treat sunburns effectively. Safe home remedies include aloe vera, chamomile compresses, and other natural sunburn remedies.
In this article, we’ll discuss nine home remedies, as well as how to prevent sunburns. We’ll also explain when to seek medical attention for a sunburn.
If your skin has even been mildly sunburned, it requires plenty of moisture to rehydrate and heal. Sweating from sun exposure and heat can increase fluid losses, so aim for fluid intake that keeps urine at a light or pale yellow color.
Take a Cool Bath or Shower
When your skin turns pink or red from excessive sun exposure, it becomes inflamed and painful. A cool shower or bath can help soothe the surface of the skin and ease pain. Water should be comfortably cool, not so cold it causes discomfort.
Apply a Cold Compress
If your burn is isolated to a few areas, a cold water compress may help provide relief. You can wet a clean cloth and place it on the affected area for 10 minutes several times per day. If you use an ice pack, wrap it in cloth. Never apply ice or frozen items directly to the skin, as this can cause a cold burn and worsen pain.
Use Aloe Vera
One of the most popular sunburn remedies, aloe vera that comes straight from the plant’s leaf is an excellent way to soothe sunburnt skin. You can also buy aloe vera gel from pharmacies or stores. If using a store-bought kind, read the ingredients. Avoid fragrance and other additives that may further irritate inflamed skin. Avoid preparations that contain alcohol.
Apply aloe vera gel several times a day or as often as needed for relief. It may feel sticky when first applied but will dry as it soaks into the skin.
Take OTC Anti Inflammatories
Sunburn leads to inflammation in the skin, and even if it isn’t extremely painful, NSAID pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) may help speed the healing process and reduce inflammation. Follow all dosage and intake instructions.
Avoid Touching Blisters
If you get blisters after a sunburn, this is a sign of a more severe sunburn. Do not pop blisters or peel skin, as doing so can slow the time it takes for the skin to heal. It can also increase the risk of infection, though infection due to sunburn is very rare.
If you develop blisters over large parts of the body from sunburn, consult a medical provider.
Wear Loose Clothing
Sunburned skin can be tender and easily irritated. Wearing tight clothing or clothing that is not breathable can make it harder for skin to heal, especially if there are blisters. Choose loose, lightweight clothing to make it easier for the skin to repair itself. Natural fibers, like bamboo or cotton, are the most breathable.
Use a Chamomile Tea Compress
Chamomile tea is soothing for the digestive tract and may also be healing for sunburned skin, though this has not been proven in any scientific studies. To make a chamomile compress, brew tea as normal and allow it to cool to at least room temperature. Soak a clean cloth in the cooled tea and apply to the affected areas. Repeat a few times per day or as needed for relief.
If you have never tried chamomile tea or you have an allergy to pollen, avoid this remedy as it could lead to an allergic reaction or skin irritation.
There are many effective ways to prevent sunburn.
- Wear sunblock of at least SPF 30 and reapply every few hours and after sweating or swimming.
- Reapply more often on more sensitive areas like the face and neck.
- Take breaks from direct sun exposure throughout the day and avoid being outside during the sunniest parts of the day
- Wear waterproof sunblock if you will be in water or sweating a lot.
- Wear protective sunglasses.
- Use a wide-brimmed hat or beach umbrella.
- Wear protective clothing.
If you have recently had a sunburn, remember that your skin is still delicate and more likely to burn again. It can take several months for skin to fully return to normal after a moderate sunburn. Don’t expose freshly burnt skin or skin that is peeling or blistered to more direct sunlight.
When to See a Medical Provider
Most sunburns do not need medical care. However, signs that you may need more than home care for a sunburn include:
- Blisters or peeling skin that covers multiple parts of the body
- Signs of dehydration (dry, chapped lips or dark-colored urine) and inability to drink oral fluids
- Nausea or problems keeping food and liquid down
- Extremely painful sunburn
- Fever higher than 101ºF
- Blisters that show signs of infection (yellow or green fluid or pus), severe pain
- Blisters that do not heal on their own
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K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
Sun exposure (sunburn). (2022).
Allergy to natural honeys and camomile tea. (1995).
The efficacy of aloe vera used for burn wound healing: a systematic review (2007).