Treating Sunburns

June 20, 2012 10:10:07 AM PDT
While applying sunscreen and sitting in the shade are the best ways to protect your skin from the sun, what should you do if your skin has already been overexposed?

If sunburn has already started to set in, Dr. Theri Griego Raby, founder and medical director of the Raby Institute for Integrative Medicine at Northwestern, explains that there are a few simple ways to ease pain naturally and promote healing within the comforts of your own home.

  • Apply Aloe Vera: The plant has a long-standing history of providing sunburn relief due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. "Gel straight from the plant provides the most relief," says Dr. Raby. "Aloe Vera causes blood vessels to constrict which can take the sting and redness out of a sunburn."
  • Refresh with Peppermint Oil: The cooling and aromatic qualities of peppermint oil can help quell the scorch of a bad burn. The essential oil can be directly applied to the affected area or infused with a cup of lukewarm water.
  • Take an Oatmeal Bath: Adding oatmeal to bathwater offers an ideal skin soother that won't irritate already damaged skin. "The key is to soak no more than 15-20 minutes and to use cool (not cold) water to provide relief to skin without sending the body into shock," says Dr. Raby. Another tip? "Air dry or blot skin with a towel rather than rubbing skin dry."
  • Use a Cool Green Tea Compress: After brewing a pot of green tea, let the liquid cool and soak a washcloth into the mixture. "Placing the compress on affected areas will provide temporary relief by wicking heat away from the skin and reducing swelling," adds Dr. Raby.
  • Stay Hydrated: While staying hydrated is ALWAYS important, drinking fluids can also help combat second-hand sunburn symptoms. Sunburn can contribute to a mild fever or headache so be sure to replenish liquids by drinking plenty of water after a day in the sun.
  • Wear Sunscreen Daily: Sunscreen should be worn on a daily basis on the face and ears with a minimum of SPF 15. Apply sunscreen ½ hour before exposure and reapply every 2-3 hours if outdoors for prolonged periods. The best time to avoid intense sun exposure is between 10:00am- 3:00pm. All skin types should wear a minimum of SPF 15 and higher if h/o skin cancers.

About The Raby Institute for Integrative Medicine at Northwestern (RELEASE) Founded in 2008, the Raby Institute for Integrative Medicine at Northwestern is one of the country's premier centers for integrative healing, disease treatment/prevention and optimal wellness. Combining the best of science-based Western medicine with natural therapeutic approaches from a variety of ancient cultures, the institute offers an unparalleled experience for patients of all ages. Lead by Dr. Theri Griego Raby, the institute offers primary and consultative care by highly trained specialists in Internal Medicine, Integrative Pediatrics and Integrative Gynecology, as well as direct or collaborative care by certified practitioners in the disciplines of Naturopathic Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Medical Acupuncture, Homeopathy, Neuromuscular Massage Therapy, Integrative Psychology, Anti-aging and Functional Medicine. The Raby Institute for Integrative Medicine is located at 500 N. Michigan Ave. in Chicago, IL. For more information, visit or call (312) 276.1212.

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