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Remedies for Sunburn

Can They Help Relieve the Discomfort?


Updated June 05, 2014

Woman taking shower, rear view
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Mild sunburn can cause redness, pain, and slight swelling for about three to seven days. Skin may peel and be itchy. Here are some home remedies that may provide relief from a mild sunburn.

1) Hydrotherapy

Brief baths, showers, and towel compresses can help to keep the sunburn cool and hydrated. The temperature of the water should be cool to lukewarm. Water that is too hot can strip the natural oils of the skin.

For a mild sunburn, try taking a cool bath or shower. Or place wet, cool towels on the affected areas for 10 to 15 minutes, several times a day. More about hydrotherapy.

2) Aloe Vera Gel

Aloe is a plant native to Africa. The long green leaves contain aloe gel. Aloe gel is believed to have anti-inflammatory effects and is used topically to soothe burned skin and to help heal wounds.

Pure aloe vera gel can be found in many drug stores and health food stores. The fresher the gel, the more effective it is believed to be. You can even use a real aloe plant--cut off a spear, split it open, and rub the clear gel from the inside of the leaf on the sunburn. Avoid the sticky yellow latex. Aloe gel should not be used for severe burns or wounds.

Studies have not always confirmed the effects of aloe vera gel. A small Thai study examined the effectiveness of aloe vera cream for preventing and treating sunburn and suntan. Aloe vera cream was applied to skin 20 minutes before, immediately after or before and after UV exposure. The aloe vera was applied to test sites twice daily for three weeks. The results showed that aloe vera had no sunburn or suntan protection and no efficacy in sunburn treatment compared with placebo.

3) Topical Vinegar

Plain white vinegar is a popular sunburn remedy. Although there is no evidence behind this folk remedy, many people who try it say it helps to relieve pain when applied to the skin.

Vinegar can be applied as a compress. Soak clean towels in a half water, half vinegar solution. Wring the towels and apply on the affected areas, avoiding contact with broken skin and the eye area.

Another option is to fill a clean spray bottle with the half vinegar, half water solution and spritz it onto skin.

4) Stay Hydrated

It is important to drink plenty of fluids, because we lose more water when we're out in the heat and the sun. Dehydration can cause headaches and fatigue. Read 5 Water Tips.


See a doctor immediately if there are signs of shock or heat exhaustion, such as:

  • dizziness
  • rapid pulse
  • rapid breathing
  • nausea, fever, or chills
  • severe skin blisters
  • extreme thirst, diminished/no urine output


Puvabanditsin P, Vongtongsri R. Efficacy of aloe vera cream in prevention and treatment of sunburn and suntan. J Med Assoc Thai. 2005 Sep;88 Suppl 4:S173-6.

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