Rue How-To: 4 DIY Sunburn Remedies

We’ve all been there. You swear you had SPF 30 on the whole time (yeah, yeah). Now, you’re red as a lobster. Put down the aloe bottle (for a moment) and try one of these crimson-ridding remedies.


1. Black Tea Soak: Black tea is full of antioxidants and contains tannic acid that draws heat from the burn to restore the skin’s acid balance (thanks, Martha).

The key here is the tea-to-water ratio. The blacker the tea, the better. Twenty bags of tea for every 2 or 3 quarts of water should do it. Once you’ve brewed the tea until it cools, soak a washcloth in it and place on the burnt skin. Let it sit and soak in. This will have an instant cooling effect and reduce redness in 8 to 12 hours.

2. Food Compresses: Three to try. First, lettuce water. Boil lettuce leaves in water, strain (saving the water), refrigerate the liquid, and dab over burned skin. Next, potato poultice. Grate a cold, raw potato into a mush, spread it into a clean dish towel, apply to affected skin, and wrap the area in plastic wrap. And thirdly, milk. Soak a cloth in iced milk and hold it over the burned skin for 5 to 8 minutes. The cold will reduce swelling while the anti-inflammatory properties reduce pain. Try one of these, and report back.

3. Oatmeal Bath: If you were born before 1995, you (and your mom) are familiar with this one. Scoop a cup or two of breakfast oats into a running bath – or use a colloidal oatmeal from the drugstore – to soothe a red, itchy burn.

4. The Moisturizing Method: This may sound obvious, but then, so is putting on sunblock at the beach. After a harsh burn, apply a healing moisturizer at least twice a day. This will soothe the skin and postpone – if not prevent – peeling. Note: shelve those fancy anti-aging creams for now. They often contain chemicals like retinol or hydroxy acids that dry out the skin and increase redness.

And, of course, drink plenty of water, try not to scratch, and for the sake of your future (i.e. much older) self, wear sunscreen.

By Julia Ivins, Staff Writer

Document your go-to remedy, then use #ruehowto on Instagram or tweet us at @ruelala. And check out our Rue How-To column every Wednesday.

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