It’s happened to us all at least once: The sunscreen may have failed, or been sweated off without re-application, or a small spot may have been missed. The result is an angry red patch of skin, and in extreme cases, blistering and peeling.
For those who are reluctant to get an over-the-counter solution, there are more eco-friendly solutions that are neither expensive nor complicated. In fact, you may already have some in your home right now.
Aloe: A Green Alternative to Burn Ointment
A handy houseplant to keep in the kitchen is the aloe plant (featured in the photo.) This member of the succulent family of cacti contains juices that are extremely soothing when applied directly to burn. Many commercial burn ointments contain aloe for its moisturizing properties, and cutting one of the green leaves and squeezing the sap directly onto the affected area work just as well, with fewer chemicals or preservatives.
If you don’t have a green thumb, and fear killing off your aloe plant before a need for it arises, you can buy all natural aloe gel in most health food stores. Look for one that does not contain any food colouring or additives; unadulterated aloe is not green in colour, it should be clear or at least, opaque. Keep it in your refrigerator so it will keep fresh longer, and reduce inflammation when applied chilled, directly onto burned skin.
Cooling Treatment for Sunburn
Another cool idea is to pour aloe gel into an ice cube tray. When frozen, each cube can be pressed against the burn, cooling, numbing and providing moisturizing properties to skin, which reduces peeling as it heals. Label your ice cube trays: Though all-natural aloe is not toxic – in fact, some aloe drinks exist – it can be an acquired taste, and an unwelcome addition to the unwary drinker.
Sour Cream or Yogurt: Dip Yourself in a Natural Balm
Apply sour cream or yogurt directly to the reddened areas for about fifteen minutes, wash off, and reapply as needed. Yogurt has some natural moisturizing properties, and the casein proteins are often said to be helpful in repairing some tissue damage, though there are few clinical trials to prove it. The cooling properties of a refrigerated product might part of the cure.
Soothing Sunburnt Skin With a Baking Soda Bath
In order to avoid sun poisoning or sunstroke, get out of the sun as soon as you feel light-headed or notice your skin getting sensitive to the touch. If you only notice these symptoms once indoors, take an ibuprophen or acetaminophen pill or capsule, to reduce inflammation. Taking a cool bath with two cups of baking soda also eases the discomfort; direct, repeated pressure on the skin, such as a shower may not be recommended for sensitive skin at this point.
Once out of the shower, keep moisturized: Cocoa butter or shea butter keep moisture locked in. When skin is burned, it looses moisture and begins blistering or peeling. Drink lots of water to keep hydrated as well; if vomiting occurs, do not hesitate to get medical treatment. Health Canada’s web page on sun safety includes tips on what to look for when extreme sunburn strikes, and when to seek medical help.