At some point in our lives, all of us have had to endure the blistering pain that comes with being sunburnt.
Somewhat ironically, we normally end up getting burnt in an effort to make ourselves look and feel better - by trying to get a tan.
Most of us tend to underestimate how fine the line between a tan and a burn really is though. In fact, to speak plainly, there isn’t one.
Whilst many of us think we are being healthy and getting a good dose of vitamin D when we spend extended periods out in the sun, we are in fact ‘harming’ our skin - a tan itself is a burn caused by the melanin in our skin trying to keep up with the level of UV rays we’re being exposed to.
What is sunburn?
Despite being such a common malady, that more or less everybody has had at least once in their life, many people aren’t fully aware of the process by which sunburn occurs - or they might be in denial.
Both tans and sunburns occur as a result of your skin reacting to being exposed to UV rays. After a while of being out in the sun, the genetic makeup of your skin cells begins to get damaged, the visible symptoms represent your body's attempt to rectify this.
The redness that is perhaps the most common sign of a sunburn is caused by your body flooding your capillaries with additional blood.
The soreness is a result of your skin cells trying to recruit molecules to replace the dead cells and then the itching occurs because the nerves in your outer layers of skin are active as a consequence of the skin being damaged.
It is a common misconception that you can only be burned during extended exposure to bright sunlight, but you can in fact do serious damage to your skin after a limited amount of time on cloudy days or when you’re in the sea.
How do you treat sunburn?
Sunburn can be treated in a variety of different ways, depending on a number of different factors.
These include but are not limited to: the severity of the burns, your skin type, the extent of the burns and whether any side effects have occurred as a result.
As one of the oldest and most natural afflictions that still causes millions of people severe problems every year, we have managed to conceive a whole variety of treatments and cures for sunburn, both natural and pharmaceutical.
With so many different ways of treating sunburn, it can be hard to decide upon one and stick to it.
The itchiness and pain might become so unbearable that it is tempting to buy all the available treatments you’ve read about and throw the kitchen sink at the burns, but this can be counterproductive and could potentially do more harm than good.
As a result, we’ve put together a list of some of the most effective ways to treat sunburn and a brief description of how to go about applying them to yourself, to get you looking and feeling your best again in no time.
Here at Heathcote and Ivory, we make no secret about our love for essential oils. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that they are one of the most effective ways of combatting the painful repercussions of being sunburnt.
Owing to its world renowned soothing and cooling properties, peppermint oil is a very popular choice for treating sunburn.
It is a relatively unknown fact that peppermint is a naturally occurring painkiller, meaning that it is not only effective at reducing the superficial soreness of the burn itself, but also many of the painful symptoms associated with heatstroke.
Another great essential oil that’s been proven to help the effects of sunburn is lavender oil.
Amongst its many other benefits, this natural elixir works at calming the skin and easing the soreness. The fact that lavender is an antimicrobial means it kills microorganisms and aids in speeding up the recovery process.
It might sound surprising, but there are a number of different food products and ingredients that are particularly beneficial when used to treat sunburn.
Many of these items are found in the average household and don’t cost a fortune to buy. Milk,
for example, is generally available to most people and works well to soothe the skin when applied topically or in a compress.
Potatoes are another item of produce that have proven abilities against sunburn, either grated, blended or sliced. Applying raw potato to the skin has helped many people relieve the persistent itchiness associated with severe sunburn.
Another cheap and easy treatment for overexposure to UV rays comes in the form of oatmeal. Strangely enough, this breakfast favourite can work wonders on burns when blended with warm water to gently bathe in.
Packed full of skin-healthy probiotics, topically-applied yoghurt is a fantastic option for returning moisture to the skin and soothing it as it heals. Make sure you use natural, unflavoured yoghurt that is packed full of fats to help your skin recover.
It’s often said that the best things in life come for free. A basic remedy but a daily essential, drinking plenty of water is one of the most simple ways in which we can help to alleviate the effect sunburn has on our skin.
Not only will water help your body to function more efficiently, fuelling the enzymes working to repair your damaged skin tissue, but it will also reduce soreness and inflammation by keeping you hydrated.
As one of the most fundamental ingredients to your well-being, water will also help to counter a number of the side effects that you may be experiencing as a result of your burns.
The most serious of these are heat exhaustion and sunstroke, which can both become very serious if left untreated.
Hydration is paramount to our survival and you should be consuming even more than the daily recommended intake during long periods of sun exposure.
Another cheap but incredibly effective way of naturally treating your sunburn, herbal remedies represent one of the easiest ways to mitigate the damage caused by UV rays.
One of the great things about herbal remedies is their versatility and wide range of ways in which they can be used to optimal effect.
This means that they can cater for a large number of people suffering from a host of different ailments.
One of the most potent herbs used to ease the pain of sunburn is mint. Whether used as an essential oil, in compresses, or topically, mint is one of the most soothing ingredients known to man.
As we previously mentioned, peppermint oil is very effective at fighting multiple effects of sunburn, but we also recommend using plenty of mint leaves in compresses and adding it to cold green tea and then applying this topically as required.
Use a Gel:
One of the best ways to reduce itching and soothe redness is with cooling gels that are quickly absorbed by the outer layers of the skin.
A substance that is available in abundance and that most people tend to have at home, aloe vera is most effective when it is not combined with unnatural chemicals or unnatural ingredients, so try and seek it out in its purest and most natural form - if you can get hold of a plant then even better.
Apply the gel gently to the area affected at least once a day, your body will be grateful for the additional boost of moisture.
Depending on the severity of the burn, it might be necessary to apply several times a day, as needed.
If the skin is broken and has started to blister, we recommend seeking medical advice or waiting for it to heal before applying a gel, this is because it is likely to sting and could adversely affect the healing process of your dermal tissue.
How to Prevent Sunburn:
This will come as no surprise to many, but the best way to ensure that your skin isn’t damaged by the sun is to wear a broad-spectrum sun block. Not only is it of paramount importance to wear sunscreen, but it is also vital to keep reapplying periodically and when you have been in water.
It is also recommended to avoid subjecting yourself to extended periods of overexposure to bright midday sun. If you are going to be spending time in the sun between 11am-3pm each day, then it is essential that you wear sunscreen, a protective hat and sunglasses.
Unfortunately, many people are so concerned with getting a tan whilst on holiday, that they underestimate the risks of excessive UV exposure, which can be severe - skin cancer is now the most common form of cancer in the United States.
Even on days where it doesn’t seem like the sun is bright or hot enough to damage your skin, it is important to wear sunscreen, as it’s often on these sorts of days where a lot of people are burned.
Sunburn often begins to take effect long before any symptoms are visible or felt, so it is important to take all necessary precautions to prevent this eventuality.