Sunburn incidences generally increase in summer. Often, inadequate protection or overzealous sunbathing results in sunburn. Before knowing the home remedies and the cures available, it is important to understand how sunburns are caused and why adequate sun protection is a must whenever you are out in the sun.
The sun’s emissions contain harmful ultraviolet rays which cause skin damage, premature aging and even skin cancer. Our skin contains a pigment called melanin, which darkens when in contact with the sun’s rays, giving some protection to the skin. This darkening is observed as the ‘tanning’ reaction of the skin. Fair skinned people have less melanin pigment in their skin, which makes them more vulnerable to the UV rays and sunburn. However, considering the harmful effects of the sun, it is advised that everybody should use sun block creams and lotions for protection.
Sunburn usually starts with painful redness, possibly accompanied by swelling in the exposed areas of the skin. The skin may gradually peel and become itchy. These symptoms can last for about three to seven days, and during this time, one is advised to keep the skin cool and hydrated. Frequent showers, cold towel compresses and bathing in cool water with a bit of baking powder added to it are common home remedies.
The general treatment for sunburns is to keep your body, particularly the burnt area, cool and hydrated. For this, plenty of fluid in-take along with bath, shower and cool compresses can help to soothe the irritated skin and accelerate the healing process. Hot water robs the skin of its natural moisture and hence should be avoided. Cool to lukewarm temperature for the bath water is ideal in case of sun-burnt skin.
As soon as you realize you have got sun burnt, try to cool the particular area of the skin. Apply cool water. You could also use cool milk as lactic acid has soothing qualities. Whole milk is preferable for the fat content, which lubricates and retains the moisture. Soaking clean towels in the milk and applying them for about twenty minutes before rinsing off with cool water is recommended. Do not use chilled water or ice as this may cause the skin to break. It is also dehydrating. Repeat the cool milk compress 3-4 times a day.
Aloe Vera has been traditionally used to soothe all kinds of skin irritation/ afflictions in the oriental countries for a long time. The gel extracted directly from the juicy cactus works best as it soothes and heals. Cut off a spear, split it and apply the clear gel inside directly onto the affected skin. However, it should not be applied on severe burns or wounds. If a plant is not available, over-the-counter creams and gels work well – only ensure that the percentage of the aloe extract is more than the water or fat content in the cream. It is a good idea to keep these creams handy if you plan to sunbathe, or are visiting a tropical country.
Many followers of naturopathy also swear by vinegar and water mixture (in equal proportions) to soothe sunburns. The mixture, either sprayed or applied as a cold compress, soothes the affected skin. However, be careful to avoid this around eyes or near broken skin. Tea liquor, without sugar or milk, is another natural coolant. The tannin in tea soothes and relieves discomfort in sunburns. Boil tea leaves in water, cool and strain the mixture. This can be applied as a compress, or sprayed on to the sunburn, several times a day.
Apart from all this, if the victim of sun burn is showing symptoms such as fatigue, headache, nausea or vomiting, and / or fever, it is extremely important to make him/her drink plenty of fluids such as water, juice and other fluids.