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Healthy You

Home Remedies for Sunburn

Friday, June 21, 2019 8:00 AM

We try to avoid it but it can happen to the best of us. Even if we take the necessary precautions, sometimes the sun wins and we get sunburned. While it takes a few days for sunburn to run its course, there are some home remedies that can help soothe and manage our pain while we recover.


Luzheng “Lisa” Liu, MD, Dermatology at NorthShore, shares what you can do at home to manage pain and discomfort from minor sunburns:

  • Frequently apply a cool compress to the sun burned area (however, avoid prolonged application and remove the cool compress when skin feels irritated to minimize the risk of hypothermic trauma); or take a cool shower if sunburn involves large skin surface area.
  • Hydrate with lots of water.
  • Apply Vaseline petroleum ointment to the affected area to speed up the healing process. Avoid over the counter antibiotic creams.
  • Avoid any herbal products, essential oils or vitamin E cream. Injured skin has higher risk of developing contact dermatitis with these potential allergens.
  • Avoid soap and perfumes as they can irritate the skin.
  • Relieve swelling or itching with hydrocortisone cream or ointment – available over-the-counter.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever to help with the pain and inflammation.
  • Apply petroleum jelly to sun-burned lips.

Not all sunburns can be treated at home. If you experience any of these symptoms, Dr. Liu recommends that you call your primary care physician, visit an immediate care or emergency department:

  • Nausea
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Faintness
  • Blistering
  • Pus drainage from the blister
  • Purple discoloration
  • Spreading of the burn

To avoid sunburn, apply sunscreen containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide that is SPF 30 or above every 60-120 minutes. Try to avoid the sun between 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. as the rays are most intense then.