What is Sunburn?
As the name suggests, sunburn is caused by sun. It is a burning sensation on the skin due to the exposure of sunlight. Sunburn is literally a burn on the skin due to ultraviolet radiation. The result of this burn is inflammation of the skin and the injury starts within thirty minutes of sun exposure. Severely damaged skin due to sunburn can develop blisters and shedding of the outer layer of the skin. Moreover, repeated sunburns can lead to skin cancer. People who have very fair skin, many moles or freckles, or a family history of skin cancer are more at risk. However, anyone can get sun burnt. When the skin is exposed to sunlight, it produces melanin as a protective mechanism against UV rays. This causes darkening of the skin which is seen as suntan.
The amount of sun exposure required to produce a burn varies from person to person depending on the person’s pigmentation and ability to produce melanin. Melanin is a substance that gives skin its natural color. Higher amount of melanin gives darker color to the skin and a lesser amount gives skin a lighter color. Melanin does not prevent other harmful effects of UV rays like premature aging and cancer.
In the western countries, suntan is often considered as a symbol of good health and active life. But the truth is that it is a heath hazard. Exposure to UVA or UVB, whether naturally or artificially causes damage to the skin and increases the risk of skin cancer. So, there is no such thing as “safe tan”. UVA and UVB are different wavelengths in the spectrum of light and both are responsible for photoaging as well as sunburn. The intensity of ultraviolet rays increases with altitude and latitude. Countries close to equator pose more risks of sunburns.
It is said that prevention is better than cure. So, in order to avoid sunburn, the most obvious step is to stay out of strong, direct sunlight. Other measures include covering oneself up with UV protective clothing while exposed to sun, wearing hat, applying sunscreen generously and wearing UV protective sunglasses. Most of the damaging sun rays are filtered by smoke, smog, clothing, ordinary window glass etc.
A common misconception held among the masses is that clouds and fog are good UV light filters. The fact is that UV light can penetrate though clouds and fog and cause damage to the skin. Natural home remedies for sunburn provide a great amount of relief in most of the cases, especially in the case of mild sunburns.
Causes of Sunburn
As stated earlier, sunburn is caused by excessive exposure to the sun or other ultraviolet sources. One should avoid applying lotion on sunburn affected area as it seals the heat within and clogs the stressed-out skin. Also, other skin problems such as lupus, herpes simplex and porphyria may make the skin more sensitive and susceptible to sunburns. Certain medicines like doxycycline, chlorpropamide, doxepin, ibuprofen, trimethoprim, promethazine can cause the skin to become extremely sensitive to sunlight. Sometimes excessive intake of birth control pills and certain antibacterial agents used in soaps also increase the skin’s sensitivity to sunburns.
Symptoms of Sunburn
The symptoms occur in proportion to the duration and intensity of exposure to sunlight. Minor sunburns cause slight redness, mild pain, irritation and tenderness on the affected areas. In case of severe sunburns, the symptoms are blistering, swelling of the akin, fever, chills and weakness. In some rare cases, one may even go into shock which is characterized by low blood pressure, fainting, headache and nausea.
Natural Home Remedies for Sunburn
• Drinking plenty of fluids to cover up the water loss due to sun exposure.
• Dab the affected area with cool whole milk for 20 minutes and rinse it with cool water (not ice cold).
• Cool baths (but not ice cold) without bath salts, oils and perfumes also give relief. Some baking powder can also be added to the bath water for further relief.
• Wash the affected area with cool water and apply one or two drops of lavender oil on it. This is mostly used in case of slight or minor sunburn. Olive oil can also be used in the same way.
• The starch present in potatoes soothes the sun burnt skin. Grated potatoes can be applied on the affected area.
• If there is mild sunburn on facial area then placing cucumber or tomato slices on the face is one of the simplest natural home remedies for sunburn.
• Aloe Vera gel gives a soothing affect to the skin and reduces pain, swelling or itching on the skin.
• Application of apple cider vinegar is also effective in treating sunburns.
• Sugarless cool mint tea boosts the healing process of the damaged skin layers.
• Directly apply cold pressed organic flaxseed oil. It reduces inflammation.
• Mashed cabbage leaves applied on the affected area reduces pain and acts as an effective treatment for sunburns.
• Tea of plantain can be applied directly or can even be consumed internally to give a cooling affect to the warm sun burnt area.
• Applying wheat grass on the affected area or consuming it internally is also beneficial because of its antiseptic properties.
• Applying a paste of powdered slippery elm in water draws out toxins from the sun burnt area.
• Comfrey paste prepared by blending finely chopped comfrey leaves or roots (dried or fresh) along with equal parts of honey and wheat germ oil. Apply half an inch of the paste on the affected area and cover the area with gauze and bandage it. When the wound absorbs the paste, apply the paste again without washing off the previously applied paste. This is one of the most effective and widely used natural home remedies for sunburn (mild as well as severe).
• A cool bath comprising 10 drops of chamomile oil and 10 drops of lavender oil in the bath water is helpful in curing mild sunburns.
Diet for Sunburn
As soon as sun is mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is evaporation of water. So, drink plenty of fluids to replace this loss of water and cool down the body. Avoid alcohol because it dehydrates the body even further. Sunburn can be prevented to a great extent by including raw fruits and vegetables in the diet. Vitamins A, C, and E accelerate the healing process of the skin. That is why most of the natural home remedies for sunburn suggest applying or consuming these vitamins in some form or the other. Foods rich in antioxidants like olive oil and tomato go a long way in protecting the skin against sunburns. Kale, collard green, spinach, peas, corn, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and other such dark green vegetables help prevent sunburns. Fruits have essential vitamins and minerals which go a long way in providing a soothing effect to the sun burnt skin.