Summer’s officially just a week away, and millions of Americans are facing high odds of suffering from sunburn in coming months.
If you catch too many rays and wind up looking like a lobster, head straight to your kitchen. No kidding. Here are some surprising home remedies to soothe the burn that are as good as — or better than — commercially available skin creams and lotions:
Cucumbers: These vegetables are rich in vitamin C and caffeic acid, both of which help to soothe irritated skin and reduce swelling. Cukes also have compounds with analgesic properties to numb pain. You can slice cold cucumbers and apply them to burned areas. Better yet, make a paste by mashing or blending a couple of cucumbers and apply it chilled.
Lettuce: The greens have painkilling compounds that can take the sting out of sunburn. Boil the leaves in water, then strain and chill the liquid. Apply the fluid with cotton balls.
Potatoes: These tubers have been used throughout history to ease burns, bites, scrapes, and other skin problems. Blend one or two until they get pasty — you may have to add a splash of water — then chill the paste and apply via cotton balls.
Honey: This remedy for burns goes back to ancient Egyptian times. Honey reduces inflammation, provides nutrients to the damaged tissue and seals in moisture. It also has antiseptic properties. Just spread some of the sweet stuff where it hurts.
Apple cider vinegar: A common home remedy for a variety of problems from poison ivy to acid reflux to allergies, the cider also works on sunburn. You may want to dilute it a little since one of the active ingredients, acetic acid, may sting when applied. Use cotton balls or soak a washcloth in the solution for more coverage.
Coconut oil: You can use this for both protection — it has a sun protection factor (SPF) somewhere between 5 and 10 — and relief if you just stay out too long without any other sunscreen. Apply it directly to sunburned areas and you can feel its soothing effects as its medium-chain fats are absorbed into your skin and work their healing magic.
Oatmeal: Regular rolled oats will do just fine as the oatmeal’s polysaccharides will help to heal your skin. Put about 2 cups into a clean tube sock and add it to a tub of tepid water. Let it soak a few minutes, then climb in. Squeeze out the sock every few minutes, which will turn the water cloudy. When you’re done, air dry or pat yourself off gently with a soft towel.
Yogurt: Yogurt contains probiotics and proteins that will help to heal your skin. Make sure the yogurt is plain with no flavoring and also that it has live, active cultures. Spread it around the burned areas, let it sit for about five minutes, then rinse it off with tepid water.
Witch hazel: The tannins from the plant’s liquid extract reduce inflammation, kill bacteria and repair damaged skin. Use cotton balls or a clean cloth to dab it on sore areas. Reapply as needed.
Aloe vera: The gel from the fleshy leaves of this plant is rich in glyconutrients that soothe and heal all kinds of skin problems, including burns. Slice open a leaf and the gel will ooze out. Apply it directly to sunburned areas.
When suffering from sunburn, also be sure to drink plenty of water, because you’re probably dehydrated too. And try to avoid harsh soaps that will wash away the natural oils of your skin and further dry it out.
Of course, the best sunburn remedy is prevention. That means staying out of the sun during peak hours, typically between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. And dermatologists strongly recommend wearing a hat, covering exposed areas with clothing and using sunscreen with a SPF of 15 or higher.
Look for sunscreen labeled “full spectrum” to make sure it screens out both UVA and UVB rays. But beware that a lot of sunscreens have toxic chemicals. Your best bet is to check out the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database online to find the safest products.