Sunburn occurs when there is too much exposure to sunlight. It is an extremely common occurrence and most people experience sunburn at some point in their lives. Anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors, whether you’re a travelling salesman or simply like sun bathing, fishing or gardening, is at risk of sunburn. Another cause of sunburn is tanning beds. In some cases sunburn can be severe and may result in significant discomfort. Some individuals who experience severe sunburns in childhood may be at risk for melanoma later on in life. The risk of developing melanoma also increases when an individual suffers from multiple incidents of sunburn.

Symptoms of Sunburn

Common sunburn symptoms include the following:

  • Mild cases of sunburn lead to redness of the skin and pain
  • A few hours after sun exposure, the skin may become irritated. The main effects of sunburn usually occur 12 to 24 hours after sun exposure.
  • Severe cases of sunburn are also described as sun poisoning. They may result in symptoms such as blistering and burning of the skin. There may also be considerable loss of fluids leading to dehydration. Infection may also occur when there is severe sunburn.
  • If there is excessive sun exposure and sunburn is not treated on time, the circulation to the bodily organs may be affected, leading to shock and possibly even death.
  • eeling very thirsty, however, poor urine output.

Other common signs and symptoms of sunburn include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • General feelings of illness
  • Blistering: This may range from mild to severe. Some blisters may be rather large with tender areas beneath. Once the blisters rupture, the skin in the area will start to slough off.
  • Peeling of the Skin: This may occur a few days after sun exposure.
  • Rash: This may occur in some individuals and constitutes a condition known as polymorphous light eruption or PMLE. The rash may develop soon after sun exposure and may appear as small, raised bumps on the body parts exposed to the sun. The condition may also lead to hives on the legs, arms and chest.

Causes of Sunburn

Sunburn occurs when the ultraviolet radiation of the sun burns the skin. The burn triggers inflammation in the skin usually within half an hour after sun exposure. Sunburn causes include the following:

  • The UVA and UVB radiation of the sun is responsible for damage to the skin such as tanning, wrinkles and premature ageing. The UVB rays cause more damage to the skin and also pose the risk of skin cancer. Both rays are also produced in tanning beds.
  • There is a higher risk of sunburn in regions close to the equator and those at higher altitudes.
  • Individuals with light or fair skin are at a greater risk of sunburn.
  • An individual is more susceptible to sunburn if he or she has recently suffered sun exposure or skin injury. Even limited sun exposure increases the risk of sunburn.

Home Remedies for Sunburn

You can make use of certain home remedies for sunburn relief. However if the symptoms are severe, it is advisable to seek medical attention immediately. Before you try using any home remedies it may also be a good idea to consult with your health care provider. Keep in mind that while there are many natural treatment methods that can be very effective when dealing with sunburn, most home remedies are not subjected to rigorous research and the efficacy of some of these treatments can vary greatly. Common natural remedies for sunburn include:

  • The comfrey plant can serve as an effective remedy for sunburn, as its extract contains allantoin, which is a nucleotide that naturally occurs in the body. According to researchers it absorbs UV radiation from the sun, thereby protecting the fragile DNA from otherwise inevitable damage. Some studies suggest that in addition to its healing and soothing properties allantoin may also enhance skin repair.
  • Olive oil may be touted as a remedy for almost everything, but in this case the claims are backed by several studies. Plants like olive trees are endowed by nature with protective mechanisms of their own, shielding them from the oxidative damage of the sun. These properties also offer protection to our bodies. Similarly blueberries and raspberries are protected by the very pigments that lend them their distinctive color.
  • Home remedies for sunburn treatment include the use of tea. There is tannic acid contained in tea which has a soothing effect on sunburned areas of the skin. This is actually a traditional Chinese remedy and its efficacy is attributed to tannic acid and theobromine. According to some researchers the catechins present in tea may also be helpful in the prevention of skin damage, as well as in healing.
  • Aloe vera is one of the most beneficial home remedies for sunburn redness. Take the pulpy gel from aloe vera leaves and apply to the burn. You can also buy aloe vera gel from health stores or use lotions and ointments that contain aloe vera. Studies have even found aloe vera extract can offer protection against skin damage during radiation treatment.
  • Oatmeal is also included in home remedies for sunburn itch. Add two cups of oatmeal to a tub of cool water and immerse the affected area in it for half an hour. You can also make a paste of raw egg white and oatmeal and apply to the burn.
  • Add one or two cups of baking soda to cool water and place the affected area in the solution for 30 minutes. Baking soda may also be added to cool water and sprayed over the skin.
  • Essential oils such as chamomile and lavender oil are helpful in relieving the symptoms of sunburn. Add a few drops of the oil to your bath water or add to cool water and use in a spray bottle.
  • To dry the blistered and burned areas on the skin, apply a mixture of cornstarch and water. You can even mix half a cup of cornstarch and half a cup of baking soda to water and soak the affected part in the solution. Another way to use to cornstarch to treat sunburn is to lightly dust the area with cornstarch after a cool shower.
  • A simple home remedy for sunburn is cucumber. Cut some cucumber slices and place over the burn. You can also mash or grate cucumber, mix with a small amount of cold milk and apply to the affected skin.
  • Potatoes help to ease redness, burning and itching. Apply grated potato to the burn or extract the juice of a potato and rub gently over the affected area.
  • Add a tablespoon of honey and a tablespoon of witch hazel to a couple of egg whites and apply directly to the burn. Even raw egg whites serve to alleviate sunburn symptoms.
  • Apply a thin coating of honey on the burned skin or add some lemon juice to honey and then apply. Honey and milk may also be combined and used to treat sunburned areas.
  • Make sure that you drink plenty of water so that the body remains hydrated and healing takes place properly.
  • The oil from vitamin E capsules may be used to treat burns.
  • Boil some lettuce leaves in water for about ten minutes. Cover and then let it steep. Strain the solution, refrigerate until chilled and then spray over the affected area. Cooked lettuce leaves may also be chilled and placed over the skin.

When it comes to treating sunburn keep in mind that the most important and effective strategy would be to take serious measures to prevent further damage to the skin from sun exposure.

Diet for Sunburn

While your diet alone will not protect you from sunburn, your diet has a direct influence on the health of your skin and it would be a good idea to follow a balanced diet, with a high intake of foods rich in essential nutrients. Here are some suggestions about what to eat when you have sunburn:

  • Drink plenty of water and other fluids to keep the skin lubricated. Fresh fruit and vegetables juices also promote quick healing.
  • Consuming alcohol can actually delay the process of healing. Therefore it is best to refrain from drinking alcohol or any beverages or foods containing alcohol until the burns have healed completely.
  • Recent studies have shown that the nutrients lycopene and beta-carotene aid in healing of burns. Therefore include foods rich in beta-carotene such as yellow vegetables and fruits. Beta-carotene is also found in dark green vegetables such as spinach and broccoli. You can obtain lycopene from tomatoes.

Suggestion for Sunburn

Tips to prevent sunburn include:

  • Avoid exposing your skin to the sun between 10am and 4pm as this is the time when sunlight is the strongest.
  • Protect your skin from sun exposure when going outdoors by wearing clothes that cover your arms and legs. It is a good idea to wear sunglasses or a hat to block out the harmful rays.
  • Apply sunscreen before going outdoors.


  1. Browden J. Unleash the Amazingly Potent Anti-Aging, Antioxidant Pro-Immune System Health Benefits of the Olive Leaf. Topanga: Freedom Press; 2009.
  2. Duke JA. The green pharmacy: New discoveries in herbal remedies for common diseases and conditions from the world's foremost authority on healing herbs. New York: St. Martin Press; 1997.
  3. Barcroft A, Myskja A. Aloe Vera: Nature's Silent Healer. London: BAAM Publishing Ltd; 2003.

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17 Sunburn remedies suggested by our users
Use Vicks vapor rub
suggested by meghan on Friday, June 13, 2008

When my son got his first sunburn, and it was really bad we used Vicks vapor rub on him by in the morning he felt a lot better

Sunburn relief
suggested by Rhonda on Tuesday, June 3, 2008

When I get sunburns, I rub Noxzema skin care on the burned area to help relieve the burning sensation. After taking a (slightly cool) shower rub a good mask of the noxzema on the burned area and let it sit. Once it has dried apply another coat. It will not eliminate the sunburn but it will relieve a majority of the pain. This is a trick that I learned several years ago on the farm after sun burning by lower back so bad that I could not stand.

Turmeric & sandal paste
suggested by Raksha on Friday, April 25, 2008

Remedy for sunburn is to apply regularly a thick paste of turmeric and sandal paste evenly on the affected area. Raw milk can also be added.

sunburn cure
suggested by mary on Sunday, July 29, 2007

I lived in F. all my life and beenin the sun for years and on the gulf. Milk of Magnesia is a great cure for pain and you won't blister! Shake and apply to burn and let dry.30 min -hr. take warm shower. Make sure milk of mag. has dried on you . It works wonders!

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