Joan Wilen and Lydia Wilen are folk-remedy experts and home tipsters based in New York City. They have spent decades collecting “cures from the cupboard” and are authors of several books, including Secret Food Cures.
Nearly everyone has woken up in the middle of the night looking for home remedies for sunburn. It could come after a beach trip, or a long day of working in the yard but everyone is familiar with the dawning realization that you forgot the sunscreen and are now in for a miserable couple of days. Home remedies for sunburn can provide some relief while you heal. Even a single sunburn raises your risk for skin cancer, so your best bet is preventing a sunburn in the first place. If you do get burned be sure to consult your dermatologist about any suspicious marks you find on your skin in the following years.
In the following excerpt from Secret Food Cures sisters Joan and Lydia Wilen discuss proper use of sunscreen, simple ways of knowing if you’re at risk of sunburn, some home remedies for sunburn pain, and some therapies for that leathern look.
It’s important to protect your skin from the ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun. Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15—more is better. Use it all year long, not just in the summer. In fact, during the day, don’t leave home without it!
For optimal effectiveness, apply sunscreen a half-hour before going outside, to give it time to soak in. While you’re enjoying the sunny outdoors, reapply sunscreen often, especially if you perspire and/or go swimming. Don’t hesitate to slather it on. One ounce of sunscreen should cover the exposed skin of an average-sized adult wearing a swimsuit. It’s worth it, especially when you consider the cost of skin problems down the road.
WARNING: If you’re on any kind of medication, ask your doctor or pharmacist about interactions with sunscreen.
• Do not use sunscreen on infants six months or younger. The chemicals in it may be too harsh for their delicate skin. Babies that young should never be exposed to the sun for any length of time. The melanin in their skin will not offer them proper protection. When you take a baby out, dress him/her in a tightly woven long-sleeved shirt, long pants, and a wide-brimmed hat.
CAUTION: Severe sunburns can be second-degree burns. If the skin is broken or blistering, treatment should include cold water followed by a dry and sterile dressing. See a doctor as soon as possible.
The Shadow Knows
If you have any question about whether or not you are at risk for being sunburned, look at your shadow. If your shadow is shorter than your height, you can get sunburned.
Don’t be surprised to see that your shadow can be shorter than your height as late in the day as 4:00 p.m. The sun is strongest at about 1:00 p.m. (daylight savings time). If you’re going outdoors, be sure to use sunscreen starting at least three hours before and until three hours after 1:00 p.m.
• Steep six regular (non-herbal) tea bags in one quart of hot water. When the tea is strong and cool, drench a washcloth in the liquid and apply it to the sunburned area. Repeat the procedure until you get relief.
• Spread sour cream over the sunburned area, particularly the face. Leave it on for 20 minutes, then rinse off with lukewarm water. The sour cream is said to take the heat out of the sunburn and tighten pores, too.
CAUTION: Do not put sour cream on broken skin. It can cause an infection
• Apply cool raw slices of cucumber, apple or potato skin.
• Use aloe vera, either in commercial gel form or squeezed fresh from a plant.
One way to prevent a sunburn from hurting is by taking a hot—yes, hot—shower right after sunbathing. According to homeopathic principle, the hot water desensitizes the skin. Sunburned Eyes and Eyelids
• Make a poultice of grated apples and rest it over your closed eyelids for a relaxing hour.
• Take vitamin C—500 mg—twice a day to help take out the burn.
• Soothe burned eyelids with tea bags soaked in cool water.
• To make a compress for inflamed skin, soak a clean washcloth in apple cider vinegar, witch hazel or a mixture of one part skim milk to four parts water and wring halfway. Apply the cloth for five to 10 minutes.
CAUTION: If blisters develop, do not treat the sunburn yourself—see a doctor.
• Soften that leathery look with this centuries old beauty mask formula. Mix two tablespoons of raw honey with two tablespoons of flour. Add enough milk (two to three tablespoons) to make it the consistency of toothpaste.
Be sure your face and neck are clean and your hair is out of the way. Smooth the paste on the face and neck. Stay clear of the delicate skin around the eyes. Leave the paste on for a half an hour, rinse it off with tepid water and pat dry.
• Now you need a toner. May we make a suggestion? In a juice extractor, juice two cucumbers, then heat the juice until it’s boiling, skim off the froth (if any), bottle the juice and refrigerate it. Dose: Twice daily, use one teaspoon of juice combined with two teaspoons of water. Gently dab it on your face and neck and let it dry.
• Now you need a moisturizer. Consider using a light film of extra-virgin, cold-pressed olive oil or castor oil.