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How to Get Rid of a Sunburn

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Want the fast answer for how to get rid of a sunburn? Don’t get one – sun burns happen when your skin is unexposed to UV radiation from the sun. You’ve got ample opportunities to avoid that with basic skin care, like a broad spectrum sunblock and protective clothing.

You may burn without them, and increase your risk of skin cancers carcinoma and melanoma, which can be very aggressive.

Of course, you’re reading this article for sunburn relief. Relax – we all burn from time to time. You can get rid of a sunburn with proper care, including a cold compress and ointment or gel with menthol or aloe.

You may also find some home remedies for sunburns may help as well, which we’ll discuss at the end of this article.

Sunburns Explained

A sunburn is the result of skin exposure to sunlight for a period of time. But there’s a little more going on below the surface each time this happens.

Consider the three forms of UV radiation:

UVC light does not reach the Earth’s surface. UVA and UVB do, however, and can lead to skin damage if you’re not careful.
The most obvious sign of sun damage is a sun burn. You’ve got to look deeper than this however – UV light can alter your DNA and prematurely age your skin. This can put you at risk for more serious health concerns beyond a little redness. Think skin cancer, including melanoma, to say nothing about the fact that sun exposure is the single leading cause of wrinkles.

Your sunburn risk depends on a variety of factors, including your skin type, sun intensity and how long you’re exposed to sunlight. For example, a woman with blond hair and blue eyes in Rio de Janeiro will burn faster than a person with darker complexion on a sunny day in New York City.

Signs of Sunburn

Your skin turns red and causes pain when you get a sunburn. If it’s severe enough, the sunburn may swell and cause blisters. You can even get flu-like symptoms if it’s particularly nasty, with chills, nausea, headaches and weakness.

A sunburn will peal several days after it forms. Your skin may itch while this happens – this is your body trying to shed sun-damaged skin cells.

More ominously, a peeling sunburn appears to dramatically increase your risk of skin cancer later in life. That’s yet another reason why it’s important to prevent a sunburn whenever possible.

How to Get Rid of a Sunburn

Sunburn treatment does to things. First, it reduces redness and inflammation. Second, it helps to reduce your pain. The following care tips should help you get rid of a sunburn after one too many pina coladas by the pool…

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Use a Cold Compress – Apply a cold compress to the sunburn for pain relief. You can also take a cold bath for a similar effect – and it goes without saying not to expose it to hot water.
Use a Cream or Gel – Look for a cream or gel with menthol, campor or aloe. Now rub it gently on your sunburn. Refrigerate it first for extra relief.
Try an NSAID – A Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug (NSAID) like ibuprofen or naproxen may relieve swelling and pain.
Stay Hydrated – It’s important to stay hydrated when you have a sunburn. Drink plenty of water and other fluids.
Finally, while many sunburns can be treated at home, see your doctor if you get chills, fever over 102 degrees or higher, severe pain or blistering on more than 20% of your body. Also, watch for a dry mouth, thirst, dizziness, fatigue or reduced urination. They’re all signs of dehydration and need medical attention.

Sunburn Prevention

Of course, you’re better off preventing a sunburn where ever possible. You might do that with these basic summer skin care tips , which should help you prevent a sunburn and the related DNA damage to your skin that can have both cosmetic and medical consequences:

Watch The Clock – The sun’s rays are generally hottest between 10AM and 4PM. Try to avoid the sun during these peak hours, or at least seek out some shade if you can’t.
Wear Long-Sleeved Clothing – Cover up if you’re out in the sun. Think about sun-protective clothing. A wide-brimmed hat should help, along with a long-sleeved shirt and pants.
Use a Broad Spectrum Sunscreen – Slather all unexposed skin with at least an ounce of Broad Spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Put it on about 30 minutes before sun exposure. Reapply every two hours and/or after sweating or time in water.
Also, don’t forget to use sunscreen even on overcast days. UV rays can (and do) penetrate through clouds and prematurely age your skin. Bear in mind that regular sunscreen use can actually slow visible aging for further incentive to stay smart in the sun.

Two Natural Remedies For Sunburns

You could also try these natural remedies for sunburns. They’re antidotal for the most part, but they may be worth trying – there’s probably little to lose if you have these ingredients in your home, and your skin is, well, feeling a little burnt.
Sunburn Remedy #1 (Courtesy of

You’ll Need:
A Clean Wash Cloth
Raw Apple Cider
Organic Coconut Oil
(Optional) Peppermint and Lavender Essential Oils

Wet the washcloth in cold water and splash on some of the raw apple cider. Gently apply the cloth to your burn and hold there for several minutes.
This should bring relief.
Now, with your skin dry, liberally apply the coconut oil to the affected area. As an optional step, add two drops essential lavender oil and one drop peppermint to your hand. Mix them together and apply to the affected area.
Sunburn Remedy #2 (Courtesy of

Copyright: inxti / 123RF Stock Photo

You’ll  Need:
A Bath Tub (Ideally ceramic, to prevent stains)
A Pitcher
An Old Rag (It will get stained)
Three Bags of Black Tea (Earl grey should be fine)

Fill the pitcher with lukewarm water and add the teabags. The water should just be warm enough to brew the tea – you don’t want to add hot water to the already searing pain of burnt flesh.
When the water is black, add the ice. Now dunk the rag in the water and gently apply to your sunburn. Let it absorb into your skin – don’t wipe it off. If you do this at night, leave the application on while you sleep and shower it off when you wake up.
You might also try directly applying the teabags to your sunburn.
Whichever method you choose, sooner is better. Do this quickly after a sunburn for best results. You may find you get rid of a sunburn with this, or the first home remedy we’ve talked about, and bring much-needed relief as the days get hot.

About Sandra Bishop

Avatar photoSandra Bishop a science writer and a large contributor to many different health forums and strives to always remain up to date on the ever-changing world of medicine to bring you the best information.

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