May 25, 2013

10 Natural Remedies for Sunburns

Shared from Huffington Post

Everyone knows that applying lots of sunscreen and staying in the shade (and out of the sun's UV rays) are the best way to avoid a sunburn. And scientists have recently discovered a protein in the body that triggers pain from sunburn, as well as an antibody that seems to reduce the sensitivity to that pain in mice.

But while we're waiting on that cure for sunburn pain, what is there to do once the burn has already set in?

Taking a pain-reliever, like ibuprofen and aspirin, is a sure-fire way to relieve sunburn pain, dermatologists say. But there are also a bounty of natural options that can help.

We asked dermatologists and wellness experts to review 10 home remedies that supposedly work to prevent or relieve sunburn pain. Here's what they said:

1. Aloe Vera
If you look in any pharmacy or drug store aisle, you're sure to find shelves of aloe vera gel to soothe sunburn pain. That's because the plant has a long history of providing sunburn relief because of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Gel fresh from the plant is better than over-the-counter products -- which could list aloe on the label but may not actually provide any relief, said Huffington Post wellness editor Dr. Patricia Fitzgerald.

Though it feels soothing, most scientific evidence doesn't show that aloe vera actually speeds up healing of sunburns, said Dr. Jonette Keri, M.D., associate professor of dermatology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

"But it feels good, and it makes [the skin] feel cold," Keri told The Huffington Post. So if relief is your goal, it's still worth it to slather up.

2. Shaving Cream

Weird as it sounds, shaving cream often shows up in searches for home sunburn remedies (even though yes, it's technically not a "natural" substance). While there's no scientific evidence that shaving cream works to relieve sunburn, that doesn't mean it doesn't work, Keri said.

"Shaving cream in a lot of cases has menthol and other chemicals, and those things are naturally cooling and feel good to the skin," Keri said.

That's because menthol is a highly volatile compound that evaporates fast and takes the heat from the sunburn with it, said Dr. Jessica Krant, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York City and founder of private practice Art of Dermatology.

3. Vitamin E And Vitamin C

Several natural health websites recommend applying vitamin E oil to sunburns to relieve pain, as the vitamin helps to moisturize the skin.

Science agrees that the vitamin helps, but preventatively: Both vitamins E and C have been shown in studies to work as a preventive measure against sunburn, Krant said. That's because the vitamins act as antioxidants to heal sunburn that is a result of oxidative damage to skin cells.

The vitamins are "more effective when used regularly, rather than with a single application," Krant told The Huffington Post, but there's "no evidence of soothing a burn after it's already happened."

4. Vinegar

The vinegar bath is (specifically apple cider vinegar) a famous home remedy for sunburn. But does it actually work?

There haven't been any studies on the effects of vinegar on sunburn, but it's likely effective, said Keri, because vinegar is an antiseptic and helps to cool the skin as it evaporates.

Theoretically, vinegar could help to balance the body's pH levels to take away the stinging feeling of the burn, though it likely works by just providing a cooling sensation to the skin, said Krant.

5. Ice And Cold Showers

Common sense would tell you that if you have a burn, you should put something cold on it. And it's true -- experts agree that a cold shower can help cool the skin and make it feel better.

But what about a hot shower? "Some people say that heat makes more heat come out [of the skin], but that's not true," Keri said.

Naturally, ice is a cooling tactic too, but be careful when applying ice to a burn as it can make the burn sensation worse by creating an "ice burn" -- additional damage to the burn wound.

6. Baking Soda

While there are no studies to back it up, many turn to baking soda for sunburn relief. It makes sense, said Keri. Baking soda creates an alkalized environment that is soothing to the skin. It has antiseptic properties, can help with the itch and work as an exfoliant.

Fitzgerald recommends mixing together baking soda and water, and then using cotton balls to apply the solution to the affected area. Or, add a half cup of baking soda to a tepid bath and soak.

7. Milk

A cold glass of milk is refreshing, and even more so -- a cool swipe of milk on a sunburn can help relieve pain, several health websites point out.

Milk is known, anecdotally, to help soothe pain, itching and burning when used in cold compresses, Krant said. Yogurt also seems to have a similar effect. However, there aren't yet any scientific studies backing this up.

8. Honey

Honey is hailed as a helpful healer for a variety of ills -- including sunburn pain.

Honey is antibacterial and multiple studies have shown that honey can help to heal wounds, Keri said. Because of this, applying honey to a sunburn could help the skin re-epithelize (grow new epithelial skin cells), she said.

Fitzgerald recommends using manuka honey in particular because of its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

9. Tomato

Yes, may sound crazy, but some people claim rubbing tomato on a sunburn can help soothe the burn.

While science doesn't quite show that tomatoes actually heal sunburns, they could be useful in preventing them, Keri said.

A German study shows that smearing tomato paste on the skin helps to prevent sunburn, likely because tomatoes are rich in the chemical lycopene that helps to reduce the sunburn response from ultraviolet radiation, she said.

10. Oatmeal

Putting oatmeal on sunburn is one of the oldest home remedies in the book, and science seems to back that up.

Oat extract has been shown in studies to have anti-inflammatory properties that could help relieve sunburn pain, Krant said. "It's likely that making up a batch of oatmeal and chilling it down will soothe sunburn when applied to the skin."

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