Sunburn Relief: Tips and Tricks

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of sprawling out on a (relatively) white sandy beach with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. I visited Ocean Shores in Washington, a state with few white sandy anythings, and could not believe my luck when temperatures hit the mid-80s and we had zero rain. Lemme repeat that for you folks who do live in Western Washington and may not have absorbed that previous sentence: mid-80s and no freaking rain. So, like a Vitamin D-deficient fool, I decided to expose myself to the sun.As a result, today I am a lobster. A lobster with swollen lobster feet. I have very fair skin prone to burning, even through my rigorous layers of SPF 50+ sunblock, so I long ago made my peace with sunburns. For those of you who may be in the same boat as me, I’ve included some helpful tips for sunburn relief below. You better believe I’m using all of these, even as I sit here and gingerly write this article.

  • Take two aspirin.

Burns often lead to swelling, which anti-inflammatory medications helpfully reduce. Since a great deal of the pain that accompanies that burn is related to the swelling, most people find that aspirin provides the most relief. Follow the directions on the label, and as always, if you have any medical condition or prescriptions that might react poorly to aspirin, consult your doctor or try another method.

  • Drink water. Lots of it.

Dehydration often accompanies sunburns, and what’s more, your body requires plenty of fluids to go about repairing all the damage.

  • Try a vinegar press.

For temporary relief, make a 50/50 solution of white vinegar and water. Wet and wring-out a wash cloth in the solution and press it against the burned area. Do this until the stinging subsides.

  • Moisturize!

The burn causes dry skin which, when combined with the swelling, greatly increases pain. For almost immediate relief, go slather on a bunch of alcohol-free lotion. However, do not use butter or oil.

  • Cool things down.

Part of the throbbing we feel from sunburns comes from the heat radiating off the burn. Apply cold presses regularly to the burned area to numb the area naturally and soothe the throbbing.

  • Don’t pop blisters.

If water blisters form over the burn, do your best to keep them intact. Broken blisters create additional avenues for infection and irritation.

  • Get natural relief.

Aloe vera gel, chamomile and green tea presses, and plain full-fat yogurt all provide immediate soothing relief to even severe burns. These natural cures provide moisture and coolness for the afflicted area. To make the tea presses, steep tea in a pot for several minutes. Do not add sugar or honey. Once the tea has cooled fully, wet and wring-out a wash cloth in the tea and apply it to the burn.

  • Take a lukewarm shower.

You do NOT want to take a hot shower, but neither do you want to take a cold shower. Both of these cause the skin to swell. The goal is to cool the burned area while limiting swelling. Lukewarm showers or baths are ideal for this purpose. Just be sure to gently pat-dry the burned areas and immediately moisturize after the shower.


The sun setting over the Pacific Ocean
The sun setting over the Pacific Ocean


By Michelle Miller

Michelle Miller is a twenty-something blogger, cook, freelance writer and editor living in Seattle, Washington. She’s a feminist trying ever-so-hard to embrace her spaces, conventional or not. She looks forward to numerous bad hair days, burnt cremes, a soapbox or two, and maybe (just maybe) a yellow polka-dot bikini in the years ahead.

3 replies on “Sunburn Relief: Tips and Tricks”

The other common anti-inflammatory is ibuprofen – and is probably a better choice if you anticipate bleeding in the week after taking it (e.g.: period, blood donation) as aspirin’s anticoagulant effects last for up to 7 days.

Personally, I’ve never found moisturisers helpful – they seem to trap the heat and make me more uncomfortable. Yoghurt, straight from the fridge, is a lifesaver though.

My other two tips:-

– Whine. It hurts! Share the hurt.

– look forward to peeling all the skin off in a few days…. like a boss.

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