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Natural ways to soothe sunburns

Trying to get in a healthy dose of vitamin D? If you overdo it, the good news is that there are plenty of easy, natural solutions to sun overexposure. Aloe vera is just the beginning! There are a whole host of natural remedies that are as close as your kitchen pantry.

Woman applying aloe vera gel to skkin

It’s summer, and I hope you’re getting the most out of these fabulous long and sunny days. I mean the sun is our source of life, without which we simply wouldn’t have photosynthesis! And, just the thought of darkness around 4 to 5 p.m. makes me grumpy.

Hot climates

I recently got back from Wanderlust, an amazing yoga and music festival. Much of it is outdoors in the truly inspiring mountain setting of Squaw Valley — the lush, green, fertile seemingly magical place residing smack dab in the middle of the desert in Lake Tahoe, Nevada (well, Reno is arid as all get out). The sun was ever present there, hot, hot, hot and well, dry. It created the beauty that surrounded all of us, as well as the challenged skin I was faced with every day at my booth as people came to consult with me for products that would help treat… excessively dry skin!

Getting your vitamin D

As with almost everything in life, sun is great — but only in moderation. In fact, getting 20 minutes of sun a day is the only way to ensure you’re naturally producing enough vitamin D, critical to your good health. And folks, a vitamin D deficiency is no joke (I should know since I’ve had it myself). Vitamin D supports your immune system and helps fight off sickness, and a deficiency of this vitamin is one crucial reason more of us get sick in the winter than in the summer (as well as an all-time high number of us are complaining of things like “chronic fatigue” and strange pains in our bodies). But overexposure to sun can of course be harmful and no one here is recommending tanning or burning! Besides the “ouch” factor, repeated sunburns lead to premature aging and more importantly, even skin cancer. We need sun, just not too much sun, but like Goldilocks, it’s important to get your sun exposure “just right.”

The case against sunscreen

If you know you’re going to be out in the sun, it makes sense to protect yourself, but the problem is that most sunscreens are full of toxic chemicals that ironically both cause long-term cancers and actually block out UVB radiation, which is the type of ultraviolet radiation that stimulates vitamin D production. In contrast, UVA doesn’t promote vitamin D production and penetrates the skin more deeply. It’s strong stuff, too, and can travel through clouds and windows. For sun exposure that’s longer than 15 to 20 minutes, wear cool clothing that blocks the sun. I always wear a hat and do my best to find some shade if I’m out in the sun for an extended time.

Naturally soothing sunburn relief

If you’ve been exposed to a little too much sun, of course aloe vera is fantastic. There are plenty of commercially available gels and lotions that contain aloe vera, but it’s best to apply fresh aloe vera from the plant. Just snap a leaf to release the gel. The sterols in this healing plant are anti-inflammatory and will reduce the swelling, while the zinc will boost tissue regeneration. But aloe is just the beginning. There are a whole host of natural remedies that are as close as your kitchen pantry.

Raid the kitchen

  • Vinegar. Seriously, is there anything vinegar can’t do? This all-around workhorse of a product can be used in a multitude of ways both internally and externally. White vinegar contains acetic acid, one of the chemicals that is in ibuprofen (an anti-inflammatory) and thus reduces the pain of sunburn topically. Try spraying vinegar all over the burn or soak small towels in vinegar and apply to the skin. Don’t use a vinegar compress on peeling or broken skin, as it may sting. You can also take a bath (in lukewarm, not cold water) and add a cup of plain white or apple cider vinegar.
  • Tea. The tannins in the tea do a great job of easing pain and redness. Start by making a pot of strong tea using four to six tea bags. Refrigerate the tea until it’s cooled down and then soak small towels in the tea. Pro tip: The tea will definitely stain the towels, so make sure these are old towels. Save the used tea bags. You can apply those straight to your sunburn — just be sure they are at room temperature.
  • Dairy. Yogurt and milk are both great for bathing or soaking and applying as cold compresses.
  • Veggies. From cucumbers to potatoes, there are vegetables that have terrific soothing properties. Cucumbers, for example, are rich in antioxidants and help ward off free-radical damage, so it makes sense that they bring relief. Use them raw, sliced or grated, and you can even mix with a little milk or buttermilk for a restorative home remedy.
  • Essential oils and pure fruit oils. There are a bevy of essential oils with healing properties. Chamomile, lavender, eucalyptus, lavender, rose and buckhorn (oil) are all wonderful to bring relief to inflamed skin. Apply them directly or add to your bath water.

The best offense is a good defense

OK, your sunburn is healed, but there’s still plenty of summer left to celebrate. Besides covering up, what else can you do to prevent doing damage instead of uplifting with your exposure to the sun the next time you’re out? Well, for one thing, healthy skin is much more resistant to sun damage. Start by keeping yourself well hydrated. Without a healthy supply of water, skin cells lose their function and become much more susceptible to the harmful UVA rays.

Also add some high quality fat to your diet in the form of omega-6 (vegetable oils) and omega-3 fatty acids (flax seed, olive oil, fish and fish oil) plus saturated fat (coconut oil is a great source!). Keep your skin healthy and happy both inside and out, enjoy sun in moderation and have a fabulous rest of the summer!

Expert Suki Kramer founded suki® clinically-proven natural solutions® skincare with a commitment to education, empowerment and 100 percent natural beauty products that work like they should. She has found loyal followers in some of Hollywood’s hottest green enthusiasts like Alicia Silverstone, Courteney Cox and Julianne Moore and top celebrity makeup artists Jenna Hipp (renowned green nail stylist) and Pati Dubroff.

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