As I promised last week, this week I was going to share “home remedies” for the treatment of sunburns. My findings are hardly “scientific”, and they are just those of a mother who had an entire family that got sunburns.
Before I begin listing each regiment we tried, I want to add that water and ibuprofen were used during this time to help alleviate the swelling and pain and any possible dehydration.
Day One of Sunburn
What is my absolute, life-saving remedy for sunburns? My personal super secret treatment is: Vitamin E. I use it every once in a while, like when I get a bit of sun exposure and hadn’t prepared myself (my shoulders in direct sunlight for more than 10 minutes and I’m done for, I can feel my skin baking). Since this was an occasion where my ENTIRE FAMILY suffered due to the radiation from the sun, I decided I would try it on my girls’ burns.
Layer after layer of vitamin E was painstakingly applied to their tender, sun-fired skin. I used it on my skin too, and the burn was gone the next morning; I was sunburned the least of all six of us though, so you can take that little factoid with the grain of salt it deserves. Everyone else still had their burns.
Day Two of Sunburn
After seeing that my girls still had their awful sunburns, I did a quick online search for sunburn treatments that lead me to oatmeal and tea.
I mixed oatmeal and tea (I just opened numerous tea bags and dumped them in) and water, then added them all to a food processor. I put the girls in the bathtub and applied the oatmeal mush to their tender skin. They said it felt okay, but it hurt them when I applied it. I let it sit on them for about 15 minutes, then I rinsed it off.
How much did this remedy help? Probably not much. They said it felt good after I applied it, but in the long run, I don’t think it did anything.
Also, draining a bathtub full of oatmeal sludge was the next fun challenge, so I used a turned-upside-down pasta strainer and place it over the bathtub drain to keep the huge chunks from clogging up our pipes.
Day Three of Sunburn
The girls still had sunburns, but they were definitely not as bad as day one and two. In a last ditch effort for a respite from the pain, I ran to the drugstore and picked up something that my mom always used as a treatment for sunburns: Noxzema. I picked that up and Aloe Vera, which is probably the number one suggested treatment for sunburns.
My two older daughters, Jude and Zoë, were my guinea pigs; on one half of their sunburn I used Noxzema and the other I used Aloe Vera. Hands down the Noxzema won. Both daughters said that the Aloe Vera felt like they were getting frostbite and that it burned, bad enough that Zoë washed it off not long after I took the photos for this week. The Noxzema cooled their skin just the right amount without the burn.
Knowing that Noxzema was the better choice for soothing the pain of a sunburn, Briar and Scout, my youngest children, then got the Noxzema treatment.
Day Four of Sunburn and Beyond
The peeling started on day four, though it wasn’t terrible. They were really good about not picking at the skin that was flaking off. The pain had subsided and they weren’t saying, “ouch”, at the slightest movement. I must admit, their peeling seems like it is nothing compared to what I dealt with when I was sunburned as a child, so possibly the Vitamin E helped.
Which remedy worked? None. All. Who knows?
Unfortunately, it looks as if there is not true “cure” for a radiation burn from the sun, only remedies to aid you in dealing with the pain. Wikipedia states:
The most important aspects of sunburn care are to avoid exposure to the sun while healing and to take precautions to prevent future burns. The best treatment for most sunburns is time. Most sunburns heal completely within a few weeks. Home treatments that help manage the discomfort or facilitate the healing process include using cool and wet cloths on the sunburned areas, taking frequent cold showers or baths, and applying soothing lotions that contain aloe vera to the sunburn areas. Topical steroids (such as 1% hydrocortisone cream) may also help with sunburn pain and swelling. The peeling that comes after some sunburn is inevitable. However, there are lotions that may relieve the itching. Paracetamol (acetaminophen in the US), Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as Ibuprofen or Naproxen), and Aspirin have all shown to reduce the pain of sunburns.
The best and most proactive solution for a sunburn: protect the skin you’re in by not getting burned in the first place.