Balshi Blog

Sunburn Remedies: Are You Feeling the (Sun)Burn?

Looking for home sunburn remedies? We’ve all done it: forgot to put sunscreen on and fallen asleep at the beach, mistook a cloudy day for low exposure to the sun, maybe even attempted but applied the wrong sunscreen for protection? Too many hours exposed to the sun and too little protection to avoid a… sunburn. 

The bad news is, it’s going to have some painful side effects over the next coming days, the good news is, it is not forever.  


A sunburn is the result of overexposure to ultraviolet or UV rays from the sun. Sunburn is a term used to describe pain, red, and sometimes swollen skin which can range from mild to severe. Depending on the exposure and skin type. But, can have a risk factor in later-developed skin cancer. The closer you are to the equator, the higher the risk of UV exposure and sunburn. Collectively, sunburns are the most common during the summer months when the sun is the strongest.

The symptoms of a sunburn can vary and appear within a couple of hours after sun exposure. The full extent of skin damage will appear within 24 hours and long-term damage to the skin can take years to appear. In the form of wrinkles, dark spots, or even skin cancer.


Minor: Minor sunburns typically cause nothing more than a light pink or reddish color to the skin, and possible tenderness to the touch. 

Mild: Similar to minor sunburns but a little more redness and some pain. This can last up to five days until your skin peels and regenerates. 

Medium: Medium sunburns are much more painful, with the skin not only red but swollen and hot to the touch. These sunburns may take up to a week to heal with continued peeling for days after. 

Severe: A severe sunburn is sometimes accompanied with a doctor’s visit. Very red skin and painful blistering which can take up to two weeks recovery. 

Sun Poisoning: Despite the word, ‘poisoning’ it’s not quite being poisoned by the sun. Sun poisoning or another word for a sun rash, is the name for a severe type of sunburn. 

These symptoms include:

  • Blisters
  • Rash
  • Fever
  • Dehydration
  • Infection
  • Nausea
  • Rapid pulse 
  • Vomiting


To avoid any kind of burn, wear sun protection. Make sure to buy sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher, and cover your skin with hats, sun protective clothing, and protective eyewear. If you are sunburned, stay out of the sun, stay hydrated and keep yourself cool in the shade. The damage on the surface may be temporary but the damage to your DNA and skin is long-term. This could mean wrinkles, sunspots, aging, and skin cancer. 

You should see a doctor right away if you develop signs of shock, dehydration, or heat exhaustion. Those symptoms can range anywhere from:

  • Chills
  • Extreme thirst
  • Vomiting
  • No urine
  • Rapid pulse
  • Confusion
  • Infection such as pus


How Long Do Minor to Medium Symptoms Last?

Considering not every skin type is built to withstand the UV rays the same, everyone who reacts to sun exposure may have different results. Some factors like skin type and sensitivity make people more susceptible in different ways:

  • High altitudes
  • Living near the equator
  • Ozone holes
  • Medications that make you more sensitive to burns
  • Fair or light skin
  • Freckles red/fair hair
  • Tanning beds

Typically sunburns will show up 3 to 6 hours after exposure and will peak at 24 hours. Depending on the severity of the burn. All being the determining factor for how long it takes to subside. 

Home Sunburn Remedies for Minor to Medium Burns

Cool Water or Cold Showers / Baths: Cooling down the infected area is an easy way to treat inflammation of the skin. If you’re outside, hop in the water. This can help the sunburn from worsening and the inflammation to stay at bay. Be conscious of pools and the chlorinated water. Sometimes these chemicals can irritate and worsen the skin. As well as avoid ice. Ice can cause more damage to the already sensitive skin. It is recommended that cool water showers, or baths are a better option for sunburn remedies.

Moisturizer / Aloe Vera: You can find a 100% aloe gel in any pharmacy. This will instantly create relief from skin irritation and burning. If you have an aloe plant. Break off a piece of the plant and apply the gel that oozes out directly to the skin. Aloe plants are known to be a source of ailments for centuries and are just as effective today.

In addition to aloe, keep your skin moisturized with scent and dye-free moisturizer. Regularly applying moisturizer will keep the irritation to a minimum. 

Loose Clothing: Allow your skin to breathe. Loose clothing can help avoid further skin irritation and discomfort. 

Hydration: Your skin already needs moisture and a sunburn draws water away from the rest of the body. As your skin is healing from the damage of a sunburn, you will need to replace all the water you lost out in the sun. 

Chamomile Tea: If you are allergic to pollen this remedy is not for you. If you aren’t, brew Chamomile tea and allow it to cool down. Take a washcloth and soak it. Apply it directly to the infected area.

Baking Soda and Oatmeal: Soaking in baking soda for about 20 minutes can help minimize damage, ease irritation and redness of the skin. Add a cup of oats for moisture. Also to relieve the itch and soothe irritation. Dab yourself dry after, don’t rub. 

Vinegar: It is best to test this remedy on a smaller part of the sunburn. It has been debated whether the acidity can make things worse, or help take the sting out of the burn. It’s recommended to try this on more minor burns than a serious one. The idea of the acid in vinegars, such as apple cider vinegar, is to help promote balance in the pH levels of our skin and help with healing. 

Avoiding Soaps and Perfumes: Certain perfumes found in moisturizers and soaps are already drying. Adding these to a sunburn may make the skin worse. 

Witch Hazel: Witch Hazel is an anti-inflammatory astringent and can be applied up to four times a day which can minimize itching and pain.

Essential oils: Adding essential oils to a bath can help reduce inflammation. Add oils such as Coriander, Lavender, and Chamomile for simple sunburn remedies. 


Foods and Vitamins

Milk:  Cool, not cold, milk can create a film of protein over the skin and ease irritation. 

Yogurt: Similar to milk, apply yogurt over the skin to soothe irritation

Cucumbers: For both discomfort and peeling skin, cucumbers are a natural pain reliever and full of antioxidants for the skin. Blend chilled cucumbers to create a paste and apply to affected areas.

Vitamin E: Whether you take the supplement or the oil, Vitamin E is also a natural antioxidant. Which can be taken in a recommended dose or rubbed directly on the skin.

Potatoes: Potatoes are a starchy vegetable. The starch in a potato is known to help draw heat and speed up the healing. Boil and mash potatoes. Wait till they’ve cooled and apply over affected areas.

Cornstarch: Mixed with water to form a pasta, cornstarch also can help sunburn discomfort


Over the Counter Medicines for Pain Relief

Choosing the right over the counter medications for pain from sunburn relief should be discussed with your doctor if you’re already being prescribed medications. Especially if the medications you are taking are making your skin more sensitive to the sun. These can be medications such as oral contraceptives, drugs for diabetes, diuretics, etc. 

For all other forms of over the counter medications, pain relief from anti-inflammatory drugs like Advil, Motrin, Aleve, and iBuprofen can help relieve inflammation and pain. Topical creams that are considered 1% hydrocortisone cream can also help with pain, and itching when you start to peel, all which makes for easy sunburn remedies. 


How Do You Choose the Right Sunblock?

There are many commercial sunscreens or sunblocks available on the market. But how do you know which products work best for you?

Most sunscreens have a rating of SPF (Sun Protection Factor) listed on the front of the product. SPF is a protection rating that lets you know how much UVB radiation is being blocked from your skin and suppresses the sunburn. The higher the SPF the higher the protection from the sun.

For example: SPF 30+ allows 3.3% of the UVB rays and blocks nearly 97%. SPF 50+ allows only 2% of UVB rays to reach your skin and blocks about 98%.

Newer sunscreens now not only protect you from UVB radiation but also UVA. UVA rays don’t necessarily cause sunburns, however, they do contribute to aging skin and skin cancer. You can find sunscreens that protect against both. 

Studies show that applying sunscreen 15-30 minutes before exposure and a second layer 15-30 minutes after exposure is the best way to protect yourself from sunburn and risks. 


For Your Skin Care and Needs…

For more questions about sunburn remedies or to learn how to better protect your skin from the sun contact a board-certified dermatologist in Delray Beach, contact Balshi Dermatology at (561) 272-6000 or send us a message on our Contact Page to set up your appointment.