How To Soothe Sun-Damaged Skin

September 7, 2017 Blanca Bisuna, MD


Learn about over-the-counter remedies and home remedies to help soothe sun-damaged skin

We’ve all experienced missing a spot when applying sunscreen and then suffering from the uncomfortable or even painful sunburn that follows. But there are longer-term effects once the redness fades. The sun’s dangerous ultraviolet rays are responsible for approximately 90 percent of brown spots, wrinkles and leathery skin. These signs of aging don’t happen overnight; sun damage accumulates over time and has the potential to lead to precancerous lesions on the skin or skin cancer. However, by carefully practicing sun protection all year, you are much more likely to prevent skin cancer and possibly even reverse some existing damage.

“The best thing you can do to keep your skin healthy and youthful-looking is to protect it with broad spectrum sunscreen year-round,” says Blanca Bisuna, MD, a board-certified family medicine physician at Mission Heritage Medical Group. “When you get into the habit of applying sunscreen each day, you can help lower your long-term risk of skin cancer.”

There are so many sunscreens on the shelves—which ones will best protect your family? Learn how to choose and use the best sunscreen for children.

On those occasions when the sun proves unstoppable or you forgot to lotion up, the treatments below can save your skin and diminish the damage.

Over-the-counter remedies

These popular and effective sunburn remedies can be found at your local drugstore. Aloe vera comes from a plant which can also be grown at home.

  • Aloe vera gel

Store-bought aloe vera should be 100% aloe vera gel and not ointment, which blocks pores from breathing and stops heat from escaping.

  • Coriander oil or rosehip oil

Rub these essential oils directly to sunburned skin to reduce inflammation, soothe and heal.

  • Ibuprofen
    Ibuprofen or other nonsteroidal over-the-counter pain relievers, taken as directed, can help reduce the swelling and pain associated with sunburned skin.
  • Cortisone cream
    Reduce irritation and rashes associated with sunburn with this over-the-counter, anti-itch medication.
  • Exfoliation

Use a chemical exfoliant to dissolve browned, dead skin cells instead of scrubbing them off. Exfoliation can smooth your skin and restore a youthful luster. Read and follow the instructions carefully.

See your doctor or dermatologist, or go to urgent care, for moderate to severe cases of sunburn, especially if it begins to blister. You may be prescribed a topical cream that soothes damaged skin and encourages healing. To find an urgent care center in your area, click here.

Home remedies

If you want to wait before getting into the medicine cabinet, try these natural sunburn remedies made from common household items:

  • Aloe vera plant - Apply the gel from the leaves of this household plant directly to the sunburn to ease discomfort, speed healing, and moisturize skin.
  • Milk - Place a washcloth soaked in cool milk on sunburned skin to create a protein film that eases discomfort and reduces heat.
  • Cool water - Soak in a tub of cool water or apply a cool, moist compress to help relieve any heat or pain associated with a sunburn.
  • Honey - Apply directly to the sunburn to speed healing, reduce the risk of infection, and minimize pain.
  • Oatmeal - Soak in a tepid bath filled with finely ground oatmeal to help reduce swelling and inflammation.

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.


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