Causes of Sunburn
A sunburn occurs when your skin has been overexposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, usually from the sun or from an artificial UV source such as a sunbed or tanning bed. Sunburn can occur within 15 minutes if the skin is under direct sunlight without any sort of protection. The symptoms of sunburn usually become obvious within 2 to 6 hours after exposure, but in extreme cases the symptoms can become apparent within 30 minutes.
Excessive exposure to UV radiation can increase the risk of certain types of skin cancer. For this reason, it is extremely important to wear sunscreen or clothing such as hats, full-sleeve shirts, and pants if you know you will be in the sun for an extended period of time. All sunscreen lotions have a sunburn protection factor (SPF), and those with a higher SPF rating block a higher percentage of UV rays.
Signs and Symptoms of Sunburn
The main symptoms of sunburn include redness, tenderness, and pain that is proportional to the amount of continuous exposure to UV rays. Pain is usually most extreme in the 8 to 48 hour range after exposure. Other symptoms include itching, rash, peeling skin, and occasionally nausea and fever. In extreme cases, blistering may occur. Peeling skin usually starts in the 3 to 8 day range, and can last for several weeks. The affected area of skin can also feel hot due to the higher concentration of blood that the body sends to the area during the healing process.
It is important to note that there is no way to reverse the damage that occurs by extended exposure to the sun's rays. However, some of the simple remedies listed below can help make you feel a bit more comfortable while your body naturally heals the burn over a few weeks.
Home Remedies and Natural Treatments for Sunburn
The aloe vera plant has thick leaves which contain a gel-like juice that is known to help blood vessels constrict. Therefore, it can help reduce the redness and stinging sensation of a sunburn. Simply slice open one of the leaves and apply the gel directly onto the sunburned area. You can repeat this aloe vera remedy 5 or 6 times per day for a week.
Try mixing a few tablespoons of baking soda into a slightly cool (but not too cold) bath, and soak in it for 15 minutes. This remedy will help soothe the sunburned area and provide some relief from the pain. When you are finished bathing, let your body air-dry instead of using a towel. This will allow the baking soda to remain on your body for a longer period of time, which extends its effectiveness.
Oatmeal is known to be a great skin soother. Therefore, an excellent soothing remedy for a sunburn is to add 1 cup of oatmeal to a bathtub filled with slightly cool (but not too cold) water. Mix the oatmeal around, and then soak in the tub for 15 minutes. When you are finished, air-dry your body instead of using a towel in order to keep the oatmeal on your skin for a little bit longer.
A cold compress can provide some nice relief to sunburned skin. Try soaking a washcloth in some cool water and apply it directly onto the affected area for a few minutes. You can continuously soak the cloth again every few minutes to keep it cool, and then reapply it to the skin. This is a very easy remedy that can be used throughout the day to relieve some of the discomfort.
Another option is to make a cool compress with baking soda or oatmeal. Simply mix a small amount of baking soda or oatmeal into a large pot filled with cool water, and then soak a washcloth into it. You can then apply the cloth directly onto the sunburned area, and re-soak the cloth in the mixture every few minutes.
Since sunburn essentially dries out the surface of the skin, it is important to moisturize your skin. Therefore, try applying a moisturizer cream a few times a day to the burned area, especially after a bath or shower. You can also try chilling the moisturizer in the fridge before using it in order to get a cooling relief.
When you're wearing a bathing suit, certain areas of the body such as bikini lines, below buttock cheeks, and areas around the armpits are often prone to sunburn since they are difficult to cover with sunscreen lotion. Since these areas of the body can easily be irritated by the elastics in bras or underwear, you can try applying a little bit of cornstarch onto these sunburned areas to reduce chafing. Cornstarch is a better alternative to petroleum jelly since oil-based products can block the pores and make the sunburned skin worse. However, you should not apply cornstarch if the sunburned area is blistering.
A classic pain relief remedy for sunburned skin is to use potatoes! Here is how:
- Wash 2 potatoes and cut them into small chunks.
- Place the potato chunks into a food processor or blender and process/blend them until you get a liquid paste that looks like watery mashed potatoes. You can add some water if the mixture looks too dry.
- Apply the potato paste onto a gauze and place the gauze directly onto the sunburned area.
- Leave the gauze on the area for an hour.
- Repeat this 3 times per day for up to 5 days or until pain is relieved.