Sunburn Relief: 8 Natural Remedies to Beat the Heat
From its wind-swept beaches and tropical forests to exciting dining, shopping, and cultural events, Honolulu, Hawaii is one of the most spectacular locations in the United States. There are many wonderful sights to see and things you can get in Honolulu, but the one thing you don’t want is a painful sunburn! As the southern-most U.S. state and located less than 1,500 miles north of the equator, Honolulu gets significantly stronger sun exposure than other American cities. Daytime in the summer months are often periods of extreme risk for harmful sun exposure, which can lead to anything from an uncomfortable sunburn to skin cancer after prolonged exposure.
Photo: Anthony Quintano
Of course, the best way to deal with a sunburn is to not get one in the first place. Because of the particularly intense, direct sun exposure in Honolulu, and the likelihood that you’ll be spending more time outdoors enjoying all the wonderful things the city has to offer, your chance of sunburn is dramatically increased. For these reasons, it’s absolutely essential that you and your entire family take precautions when visiting or living in Hawaii. Good sunburn prevention will not only decrease your chances of developing skin cancer, but it will also help prevent wrinkles over time.
The Hawaii State Department of Health recommends that people stay out of the midday sun as much as possible, from 10 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon; or to find shade if you need to be outdoors. To estimate how much ultraviolet (UV) exposure you are getting, you can use the shadow rule: a shadow that is longer than you are means UV exposure is low; a shadow that is shorter than you are means the UV exposure is high. For people of all ages, it’s important to wear an effective sunscreen, remembering that not all brands are created equal. Generally speaking, the higher the SPF rating, the more protection you will get. A hat with a wide brim and loose, long-sleeved shirt can also make a big difference on sunny days. Lastly, staying hydrated with lots of water or a good electrolyte drink can decrease your risk of dehydration. Dehydration can increase your risk of a burn.
If you suspect that you’ve gotten a sunburn, it’s important to treat the affected area quickly. At the first sign of a burn you need to immediately get out of the sun, take a quick room-temperature bath or apply towels wetted with cold water to the burned area(s.) If the burn is particularly painful or blistering, seek medical attention as soon as possible. If the burn is mild, it can be treated with a variety of over-the-counter remedies and all-natural homemade solutions, many using plants. Some of them you can grow yourself! These include:
Aloe vera is one of the top recommended plants for sunburn relief and is often found in commercial solutions. You can break apart a leaf or stem and apply the juice that seeps out directly onto a burn. The plant is edible, so this is safe even for burns around your mouth and for kids who might try to eat the juice. Avoid ingesting the skin of the leaves, or the yellowish substance found just under the skin, since it can cause indigestion. Aloe Vera gel is also a great treatment for returning the skin around the burn to its original complexion. This tropical plant also grows very well in Honolulu.
This lovely plant, a relative of marigolds, has amazing anti-inflammatory properties. A popular remedy for sunburn is to make an infusion out of the flowers or buy calendula gel or cream from a specialty store. Rubbing the gels and creams directly onto sunburned skin provides immediate pain relief and healing. Infusions should be chilled, then wet a towel with the infusion and applied it to the burn.
This oil, made from the nuts of the tamanu tree, is an anti-inflammatory and healing agent. Rubbing the oil on a sunburn will reduce blistering, heat and redness.
Lavender is thought to work best as an essential oil, diluted heavily and applied either on a cold, wet towel or in a bath. Lavender also has a calming effect that will definitely help to take your mind off of the pain associated with a sunburn.
Finely ground oatmeal can be a great remedy for burns and cracked skin. You can apply a cool poultice of oats and water directly to the burn, or add plain oatmeal to a slightly cool bath.
You can grow this plant yourself, or find dried yarrow in some stores. Dry the yarrow flower, then make highly concentrated tea with it and wait for it to cool (put it in the fridge to speed this up. If you’re at high risk for sunburn, you can keep some yarrow tea in a covered pitcher in the fridge for a short while.) After preparing the tea, you can do one of several things with it: pour the cool tea over the burn, make a cold compress by wetting a towel and draping it over the burn, or mixing it into a slightly cool bath.
It might sound odd, but a poultice made out of grated raw potato is said to reduce the pain from a sunburn. A quicker solution is to cut a raw potato into slices and put the slices directly on the burn. Be careful not to accidentally ingest them though, raw potatoes are poisonous.
Coconut oil can be rubbed directly on the burn, to reduce pain and help cool the burn down. Coconut oil is also great for healing the burn and repairing the skin on the affected area.
Despite the sun exposure, Honolulu is a great city with a tight-knit sense of culture and community. These natural remedies for sunburn will get you back to enjoying the beach in no time!