Home Sunburn Treatments For Bad Sunburn: 4 Effective Options [Dos & Don’ts]

Treatments For Bad Sunburn: 4 Effective Options [Dos & Don’ts]

Ways to treat bad sunburns
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It is important to note that not all sunburns are equal. While some may be mild and heal swiftly, others can be severe, resulting in serious complications.

To effectively address the consequences of sun exposure, it is advisable to seek shade promptly and cool the skin using a refreshing shower, bath, or a soothing damp towel (bearing in mind the need for caution to prevent chilling in babies or young children).

To promote relief and recovery, apply aftersun cream or spray, stay hydrated with ample water to prevent dehydration, and use appropriate pain relief measures like paracetamol or ibuprofen to alleviate discomfort.

This article will delve into the methods of identifying, treating, and preventing severe sunburns, along with strategies for successful recovery.

Treatment of Bad Sunburns: Understanding the Severity

Understand the severity of sunburns

Sunburn occurs when the skin is excessively exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or other sources, like tanning beds. This radiation harms the outer layers of the skin, resulting in inflammation, redness, pain, and occasionally blistering. The seriousness of sunburn differs based on various factors, including:

  • The type and intensity of UV radiation.
  • The duration and frequency of exposure.
  • The individual's skin type and color.
  • The utilization of sunscreen or any other protective measures.

According to the Mayo Clinic, sunburn can be classified into three degrees:

  • First-degree sunburn: only affects the outer layer of the skin, known as the epidermis. It typically results in mild redness and tenderness that usually fade within a few days. Most sunburns fall into this category.
  • Second-degree sunburn: on the other hand, affects both the epidermis and the underlying dermis. It causes more intense redness, swelling, pain, and the formation of blisters. Healing from second-degree sunburns may take weeks and require extra care and attention. These sunburns are considered to be more severe.
  • Third-degree sunburn: The highest degree of sunburn affects all layers of the skin as well as the underlying tissues. This type of sunburn is characterized by severe pain, swelling, blistering, charring of the skin, and permanent scarring. Third-degree sunburns are extremely rare and should be treated with immediate medical attention, often requiring skin grafting.
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Effective Treatment Options For Bad Sunburns

If you've got a severe sunburn, seeking medical guidance without delay is crucial. While at home, you can take steps to alleviate the discomfort and expedite the healing process. Consider these effective treatment alternatives for severe sunburns:

Burned Skin Cooling

To alleviate the discomfort of severe sunburn, it's crucial to cool down the affected area promptly. This technique effectively minimizes inflammation, mitigates pain, and alleviates itching. You can accomplish this by employing the following methods to cool your skin:

  • Take refreshing cool showers or baths, or gently apply cold, wet washcloths to the affected area for 10 to 15 minutes. Repeat this process multiple times throughout the day.
  • Soothe and hydrate the skin by applying aloe vera gel or cream. Aloe vera possesses anti-inflammatory and healing properties, offering relief from sunburn.
  • Reduce inflammation and protect against infection by applying witch hazel to the affected area. Witch hazel, a natural astringent, aids in soothing skin irritation.

The Use of Over-the-counter Medications

Sunburn Treatment Options: Over-the-Counter Medications

To alleviate the discomfort caused by severe sunburn, you can turn to over-the-counter (OTC) remedies. Consider the following options:

  • Painkillers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help reduce pain and discomfort. It's important to avoid aspirin as it may increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Hydrocortisone cream or ointment can be applied to reduce inflammation and itching. It should not be used on broken or infected skin.
  • Antihistamines such as diphenhydramine or loratadine can help decrease allergic reactions and itching. Just be mindful of potential side effects like drowsiness or dry mouth.

The Use of Natural Remedies and Home Remedies

Several natural and home remedies can provide relief for intense sunburns. These remedies include:

  • Utilizing honey on the affected area can aid in wound healing and minimize the risk of infection. Honey possesses both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that can effectively alleviate sunburn.
  • Applying yogurt to the burn can help in cooling and moisturizing the skin. Yogurt contains probiotics and lactic acid, contributing to skin health and rejuvenation.
  • Applying oatmeal to the burn can provide a soothing and protective effect on the skin. Oatmeal is known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, making it an ideal remedy for sunburn discomfort.

Severe Cases: Seeking Medical Treatment

If your sunburn is severe or shows signs of infection or complications, it is crucial to seek medical treatment promptly. Look out for the following indicators that may necessitate medical attention:

  • Presence of fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, or headache.
  • Intense Pain, Swelling, Blistering, or Peeling are signs of a severe burn. While numbing creams can provide temporary relief, it's important to consult a healthcare professional if these symptoms are severe.
  • Observing signs of infection, including pus, red streaks, or swollen lymph nodes.
  • Noticing signs of dehydration, such as dry mouth, thirst, or reduced urine output.
  • Experiencing symptoms of heat exhaustion or heatstroke, such as dizziness, confusion, or fainting.

In cases where medical intervention is required, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics, antivirals, or steroids to address the sunburn. Depending on the severity, intravenous fluids, wound care, or skin grafting may also be necessary.

Dos and Don’ts For Sunburn Recovery

Sunburn Recovery Dos and Don'ts

Healing from a severe sunburn requires time and patience. It is crucial to adhere to certain guidelines to expedite the recovery process and avoid additional harm. Here are some valuable tips to aid in sunburn recovery:

Skin and Body Hydration

Sunburn can lead to dehydration and loss of fluids, impacting your skin and overall health. It's crucial to hydrate by drinking ample water and regularly applying moisturizer to prevent dryness and peeling.

Look for products with nourishing ingredients like aloe vera, shea butter, coconut oil, or vitamin E to effectively nourish and repair your skin. Stay hydrated, protect your skin, and nurture its restoration with these essential steps.

Sunburned Skin Protection

When your skin is sunburned, it becomes more sensitive and prone to further damage. To shield and care for your sunburned skin, follow these steps:

  • Dress in loose-fitting, breathable garments in light colors covering sunburned areas.
  • Wear a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen when venturing outdoors.
  • Steer clear of harsh chemicals, fragrances, or exfoliants on sunburned skin.
  • Resist the temptation to scratch, pick, or pop any blisters that may have formed.
Feel the relief and let your skin rejuvenatess
Don't suffer in silence. Numbing cream is your sunburn's ultimate ally, providing gentle relief and soothing care.

Avoiding Sun Exposure

To effectively prevent sunburn, it is advisable to minimize sun exposure, particularly during the peak hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. UV rays are at the most intense. It is important to steer clear of tanning beds and other artificial sources of UV radiation.

When venturing outdoors, seek refuge in shaded areas, apply sunscreen, and don appropriate protective clothing. Following these measures can safeguard your skin from harmful sun damage.

Sunburn Healing: How to Care For Your Skin

After your sunburn has healed, it's important to continue nurturing your skin and preventing future sunburns. Here are some key steps you can take:

  • Regularly monitor your skin for any changes in color, shape, size, or texture of moles, freckles, or spots. These could be indicators of skin cancer.
  • Schedule a yearly skin examination with a dermatologist—a medical expert specializing in skin health and disorders.
  • Opt for gentle and natural skin care products that suit your skin type while avoiding those containing alcohol, sulfates, parabens, or artificial colors or fragrances.
  • Maintain a well-balanced diet that includes foods rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins A, C, and E. These nutrients can promote skin health and protect against sun damage.

By following these guidelines, you can keep your skin healthy and safeguard it from potential harm caused by the sun.

Prevention Techniques for Future Sunburns

Tips for preventing future sunburns

When it comes to sunburns, it's always better to prevent them than to cure them. Sunburns have long-term effects on your skin health and increase the risk of skin cancer. To avoid future sunburns, it's crucial to follow some preventive techniques. Here are a few tips to shield yourself from sunburns in the future:

The Proper Use of Sunscreen

Sunscreen is an extremely effective method of safeguarding your skin against the sun's damaging rays. To maximize its benefits, it is crucial to apply it correctly. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Opt for a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30, ensuring it provides broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays.
  • Before venturing outdoors, generously and evenly apply sunscreen to all exposed areas of your skin, ideally 15 minutes in advance.
  • Reapply sunscreen frequently every two hours or more if you sweat or engage in water activities.
  • Use sunscreen even on cloudy or overcast days, as UV rays can penetrate the cloud cover.

Remember, properly using sunscreen is vital for effectively shielding your skin from the sun's harmful effects.

Wearing Protective Clothing and Accessories

Sunscreen alone is insufficient to safeguard your skin from the harmful effects of the sun. To ensure comprehensive protection, it is crucial to complement it with appropriate attire and accessories that effectively block or reflect UV rays. Here are some recommendations:

  • Opt for long-sleeved shirts, pants, skirts, or dresses crafted from densely woven fabrics that prevent light penetration.
  • Embrace the functionality of a wide-brimmed hat that provides ample coverage for your head, face, ears, and neck.
  • Don a pair of stylish sunglasses equipped with lenses designed to shield your eyes from the harmful impact of UV rays.

Seeking Shade and Limiting Sun Exposure

Limiting exposure to the sun by seeking shade

To prevent sunburn, seeking shade and minimizing sun exposure is important, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when UV rays are most intense. Sunscreen and other artificial UV sources should be avoided. When venturing outdoors, find shade, sunscreen, and protective clothing.

Skin Health: Incorporating Superfoods into Your Diet

Your diet influences your skin's health and its ability to withstand sun damage. Consuming antioxidant-rich foods and omega-3 fatty acids is important.

These nutrients protect your skin from free radicals, inflammation, and premature aging. Consider incorporating these skin-boosting superfoods into your diet:

  • Berries like blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are bursting with antioxidants that combat oxidative stress and protect your skin.
  • Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines are abundant in omega-3 fatty acids, reducing inflammation and enhancing skin elasticity.
  • Nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and flaxseeds are packed with vitamin E, which moisturizes and repairs the skin barrier.
  • Citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, grapefruits, and limes are packed with vitamin C, stimulating collagen production and giving your skin a radiant glow.
  • Carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, and kale are excellent sources of vitamin A, promoting cell turnover and sunburn protection.
Feel the relief and let your skin rejuvenatess
Don't suffer in silence. Numbing cream is your sunburn's ultimate ally, providing gentle relief and soothing care.


Bad sunburns are painful and uncomfortable and harmful to your skin health, and increase your risk of skin cancer. You should properly care for your sunburned skin by following the treatment options and recovery tips discussed in this article.

You should also prevent future sunburns by using sunscreen properly, wearing protective clothing and accessories, getting shade when possible, and incorporating superfoods into your diet to boost skin health. Remember, prevention is better than cure when it comes to sunburns. Stay safe and enjoy the sun responsibly.

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Matt Callard
I am a passionate traveler, as if traveling were my full-time job. I like to change my surroundings and environment, like changing desktop wallpaper. Nature increases the concentration in my writing, which helps brainstorming flow in my blood. I have a cat named Kitana. She is the most desperate about traveling, more than any other cat. How do I know? If I miss any tour in any week, she literally destroys my clothing with her wolverine nails.

I and my cat also participate in extreme activities like surfing, biking, hill tracking, paragliding, boating, etc. She was always there in my accidents, injuries, and stitches. She always sits on my lap when it hurts me most. The funniest part is that she has experienced all my tattoos. She sleeps on my blanket when I go through any painful experience.

My hobbies and lifestyle added many pain and injuries to my life. That is why I have a lot of experience in dealing with different levels of pain and burn. It influenced me to become a pain expert and share primary suggestions to handle any unwanted situations that hurt.


  • How often should I apply sunburn relief products?

    The frequency of applying sunburn relief products depends on the type and severity of your sunburn, as well as the specific product you use. It's important to keep your skin moisturized and comfortable, so apply these products as often as necessary. Products like aloe vera gel or cream can be applied multiple times daily to provide soothing relief.

    On the other hand, products like hydrocortisone cream or ointment should be used sparingly and following the instructions on the label. Remember to reapply sunburn relief products after bathing or showering or if they become rubbed off by clothing or bedding. You can effectively manage your sunburn and support the healing process.

  • Should I cover up my sunburn with clothing?

    Certainly, it is advisable to shield your sunburned skin with clothing to safeguard it from additional sun exposure and infections. It is advisable to abstain from wearing snug or coarse fabrics that could potentially irritate your skin or cause friction. Instead, opt for loose-fitting, breathable, and natural textiles like cotton to maintain a cool and comfortable feel on your skin.

  • How soon can I expect sunburn symptoms to improve?

    The duration of sunburn symptoms varies depending on the extent of skin damage and your healing process. Typically, mild sunburns heal within a few days, while more severe burns may require up to two weeks or longer for recovery.

    After a few days, you may notice your skin peeling and flaking, a positive sign of healing. It is important to resist the urge to pick or scratch at the peeling skin, as doing so may hinder the healing process and increase the risk of scarring or infection.

  • Should I apply a cold compress to a sunburn?

    Indeed, applying ice to a sunburn can effectively alleviate inflammation, pain, and itching. You have several options for a cold compress: a clean towel soaked in cool water or a cloth drenched in cold milk or witch hazel. Consider indulging in a refreshing bath or shower infused with baking soda or oatmeal. Refusing ice or ice packs is crucial, as this can harm your skin cells and exacerbate your condition.

  • Are there any risk factors associated with treating a sunburn?

    To effectively treat a sunburn, following proper steps and precautions is crucial. While generally safe and effective, there are potential risks and complications to be aware of. These include:

    • Allergic reactions: Some individuals may have allergies or sensitivities to certain ingredients found in sunburn relief products, such as lidocaine, benzocaine, hydrocortisone, or fragrances. Allergic reactions may manifest as itching, rash, swelling, or difficulty breathing. If you experience any signs of an allergic reaction, discontinue use and seek immediate medical attention.
    • Infection: Sunburned skin is more susceptible to bacterial or fungal infections, especially if blisters or breaks in the skin are present. Signs of infection include pus, red streaks, swollen lymph nodes, fever, or increased pain. If you suspect an infection, consult your doctor as soon as possible.
    • Skin cancer: Repeated or severe sunburns can elevate the risk of developing skin cancer in the future, particularly melanoma. Therefore, it is crucial to protect your skin from the sun and regularly examine it for any changes or abnormalities.

    It is important to understand the differences between treating a mild and a severe sunburn: Mild sunburns primarily affect the skin's outer layer (epidermis) and typically result in redness, pain, and swelling. These can be managed at home using simple measures such as cooling the skin, applying moisturizers or soothing agents, taking painkillers, and staying well-hydrated.

    On the other hand, severe sunburns affect the outer and inner layers of the skin (dermis) and often cause blistering, peeling, wetness, white discoloration, and fever. Medical attention may be necessary for severe cases, and treatment may involve options such as antibiotics, antivirals, steroids, fluid therapy, wound care, and skin grafting.

  • Can the treatments used for Bad Sunburn also be applied to treat Baby Sunburn?

    While the treatments for Bad Sunburn, such as cool compresses, aloe vera, and staying hydrated, are generally effective, caring for Baby Sunburn requires extra caution. For babies, it's crucial to consult a pediatrician before using any treatments or over-the-counter products due to their sensitive skin.

    Using lukewarm baths and mild moisturizers might help, but always seek professional advice for baby sunburn care. Handling baby sunburn gently and avoiding exposure to direct sunlight is essential. If there's uncertainty or worsening symptoms, consulting a healthcare professional is advisable for proper guidance in treating baby sunburn.

  • Are the treatments for Sunburn Rash similar to those for Bad Sunburn?

    Sunburn Rash Treatment differs from Bad Sunburn Treatment due to different symptoms caused by excessive sun exposure. Calamine or hydrocortisone cream is often used for Sunburn Rash Treatment, which causes itchy, red bumps.

    However, for those with Bad Sunburns, measures such as cool compresses, aloe vera, and staying hydrated are essential to relieve pain, redness, blistering, and peeling. While emphasizing skin recovery and preventing further sun exposure, it is crucial to tailor treatments specifically to each condition.

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