You know the drill for preventing a sunburn: wear good broad-spectrum sunscreen, avoid the sun's strongest hours, stay in the shade, and reapply your sunscreen after sweating or swimming. But unfortunately, sometimes summer sun means a sunburn.
The good news is that there are plenty of things in your kitchen that can help you and your stinging skin feel better, inside and out. "The best topical food treatments for sunburn are ones that reduce inflammation and pain while also hydrating and protecting the skin," says Diane Elizabeth, founder of Skin Care Ox.
Remember, there are some times when a sunburn requires medical attention: if you have multiple blisters or one large one, if you're showing signs of infection, if you have a high fever, or if you actually start to feel worse after 12 hours, see a doctor.
But if your sunburn is merely mild but irritating, check out your fridge and cupboards and see what you have that might help relieve the redness and burning. Here are 11 edibles that can help you start to feel better.
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids — including fish, fish oil, walnuts, egg yolks, and hemp seeds — could reduce the effects of sun exposure, according to past studies, Elizabeth says.
"Use milk and water compresses topically on the skin — both go a long way toward relief," says Elizabeth. "The evaporation of the milk and water causes a cooling sensation, and the protein in the milk buffers the irritated skin and makes it feel much better."
Using an oil topically on sunburned skin can help you repair and moisturize while preventing water loss, says Paula Mendonça, owner of SeaBerry Studios. "I like olive oil because it contains squalene — one of the most common lipids produced by our skin cells — and other components that reduce inflammation."
This is one of the best-known topical remedies for sunburn, but it has remained popular for a reason: it really does help. "Aloe vera is packed with constituents that are anti-reddening, anti-inflamatory, and moisturizing," Mendonça says. "When purchasing look at the ingredient list carefully, even if it's says 100% aloe vera." Her personal favourite brand is Lily of the Desert, which is widely available.
Here's another dairy product that might help the situation. "Yogurt's probiotics will help moisturize your skin and reduce pain," says Simona Mazenyte, a U.K. skin therapist. "Choose a full-fat yogurt and apply it gently on the sunburnt areas. Wash it off after ten minutes."
Sea buckthorn is a small orange berry — about the size of a blueberry — that's packed with vitamin C and omega fatty acids. Mendonça recommends adding sea buckthorn oil to another oil like olive to boost its effect on sunburned skin. "Sea buckthorn has lots of vitamin E and betacarotene that promote healing and skin regeneration," she says.
Rich coconut oil is a great way to add moisture back into sun-scorched skin. "One of my favourite sunburn remedies is to mix coconut oil, pure aloe vera gel, and a few drops of lavender essential oil," Elizabeth says. "Coconut oil moisturizes and protects the skin, aloe cools the burn, and the lavender kills bacteria, reduces swelling, and increases recovery time."
A study from the British Society for Investigative Dermatology found you can prevent sunburn with foods rich in lycopene, says Elizabeth. Tomatoes and tomato paste are both good sources of this nutrient, so maybe you should make pasta for dinner tonight.
The Red Rose in your cupboard can be put to good use on sunburned skin. "Black tea, more specifically the tannic acid in the tea, eases the heat and provides much-needed relief from sunburn," Mazenyte says. "Soak a few bags of black tea in a jug until the water is very black. Then use a washcloth to apply it to the affected areas and don't rinse."
Take a cue from breakfast and use oatmeal, or milk and oatmeal together, to help relieve a sunburn's sting. "Milk and oatmeal can be surprisingly effective at reducing the immediate pain and inflammation of a sunburn if applied topically," says Elizabeth. You can buy colloidal oatmeal baths at most major retailers, or Mazenyte suggests grinding a cup of oats in a food processor, then adding to a comfortable bath (depending on skin irritation levels) and soaking for 15-20 minutes.
Drinking water is not just important for preventing sun stroke during hot weather. "It's very important to stay hydrated before and after sun exposure because the sun can drain a significant amount of our skin's moisture and hinder your skin's ability to heal itself," Elizabeth says.