How to Treat Sunburn – Fast, Blisters & Treating Severe Sunburn

How to Treat Sunburn – Fast, Blisters & Treating Severe Sunburn


Sunburned skin is often unsightly and uncomfortable and can give you undue attention. This article will explain how to treat sunburn and related symptoms such as blistering and itching at home using simple intervention measures.

How to Treat Sunburn – How to Treat a Sunburn

According to the WebMD website, as much as one-third of the adult population admits to have gotten sunburned at some point in their lives. It is thus not surprising that how to treat sunburn is such a common concern in online forums.

Here is how to treat a sunburn:

Step 1: Dissipate the heat

Heat retention and buildup can make sunburn worse. In that context your first line of action should be to get out of the sun immediately to avoid further damage (and applying an SPF30 sunscreen whenever you have to go outdoors) and then dissipate heat from the skin.

Dissipating the heat is as easy as getting a cold compress, or a cold soak if you like. Here is how to do it:

  1. Place a small wash cloth in cool water
  2. Wring out excess water and place the washcloth on the sunburn-affected areas of skin for 15 minutes. Re-soak the washcloth if it gets warm
  3. Repeat this process 2-3 times a day to keep your skin cool
  4. An alternative approach is to get a cold shower or bath. This is an especially option if large area of skin has been burned. After shower, pat the skin gently with a towel to dry it as opposed to rubbing the towel across the surface of the skin.

Step 2: Hydrate the skin

Hydrating the skin is as well critical to ensuring faster healing of sunburn. Skin dryness is one of the common symptoms of sunburn and restoring the skin moisture is a key to aiding its healing.

The best way to moisturize sunburned skin is to apply a water based lotion such as Cetaphil or Aquaphor. Regardless of what anyone told you, Vaseline or any other petroleum based product is bad news for sunburns. These products clog the skin pores and prevent the loss of heat from the skin, ultimately leading to worsening of condition.

Step 3: Take care of pain, swelling, itching,

The measures listed in this section work to combat one or more of the following symptoms of sunburn: pain, inflammation, and itching.

Aloe vera: The juice of this African drylands plant has strong anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial properties that make it a superstar in treatment of burns, including sunburns. Aloe vera soothes the skin while keeping it moisturized and speeding up the healing process.

1% hydrocortisone cream is also a great treatment option for sunburn. Applied topically, hydrocortisone creams help to relieve itching and inflammation. You should however take care to ensure that such creams don’t enter your eyes. It is also not advisable to use them in vaginal and rectal areas.

OTC Pain relievers: Pain due to sunburn can be relieved by taking an over-the-counter pain relieving medication such as ibuprofen (Advil), aspirin (Bayern), and acetaminophen (Tylenol). If you are pregnant however, you should only take acetaminophen unless instructed otherwise by your doctor.

Milk: Milk is a splendid natural treatment for sunburn that according to the website works by providing a soothing film of protein on the sunburned area of skin.

Tea: Rinsing the skin with freshly prepared tea (after cooling) is also a great way to treat sunburn. The tannin found naturally in tea helps to draw out heat and fasten the healing process.

How to Treat Sunburn Fast

Sunburn symptoms typically clear by themselves after the body heals itself using immune system responses. It normally takes 3 to 7 days for first degree sunburns to heal but second degree sunburns – notable for blistering – often take longer to heal.

The pain, itching and the plainly unsightly look of the affected area of the skin can leave you wondering how ho heal sunburn faster.

Well, you can always aid the skin healing process and speed up the healing time by protecting the skin from further damage (staying out of the sun), keeping the skin cool to dissipate the heat retained it, moisturizing the skin, and taking care of other symptoms such as pain, itching, and inflammation.

Most importantly, you should refrain from scratching the sunburned areas of the skin and popping out any blisters.

How to Treat a Sunburn at Home

If home remedies are your cup of coffee and like to spare hospital visits to those times when they are inevitable and came to this page looking for home interventions for sunburn, then your home remedy options range from cool soaks to aloe vera, oatmeal, cucumber, tea, and milk to name but a few. See other sections of this article for more details.

Treating Sunburn Itch

What about treating sunburn itch, you ask. Well, sunburn related itching improves with adequate hydration of the skin, but getting a baking soda bath should offer faster relief.

The idea here is to take a normal bath but adding a couple cups of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate).

Adding colloidal oatmeal to your bathing water is as well often helpful. It not only helps to relieve itching but also keeps the skin moisturized. You can buy fine colloidal oatmeal in your local drugstores (pharmacies).

Applying a 1% hydrocortisone cream to the affected area can also help to relieve itching.

Treating Severe Sunburn

Before we delve into treating severe sunburn, it is absolutely important to clarify what we mean by the term “severe sunburn”.

Well, in the context of this article, we will consider severe sunburn to be that which is characterized by swelling and blistering of the skin in addition to the other symptoms commonly associated with first degree sunburns, that is, dryness, skin redness and pain, and a warm feel when the skin is touched.

Swelling normally respond well to treatment with anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin among others), aloe vera gel, and 1% topical hydrocortisone creams. Blistering on the other hands requires no input on your part as explained in the next section of this article.

Although severe sunburn should not worry you, you should be on the look out for symptoms of bad sunburn such as fever, chills, nausea and general malaise (feeling generally weak). In the event of such symptoms, you should call your doctor immediately.

Treating Sunburn Blisters – How to Treat A Sunburn with Blisters

More serious sunburns, usually classified as second degree sunburns, are usually characterized with the formation of blisters. This usually signals a deeper UV damage that goes beyond the top layer of the skin.

Treating sunburn blisters is all about leaving them alone. While it is very tempting to pop those unsightly fluid-filled sacs and get them off your skin, you should not give in to the temptation as that can be the starting point for a serious infection.

What if the blisters burst accidentally, you ask. If that happens, apply an over-the-counter antibiotic cream e.g. Bacitracin, Polysporin etc. in addition, keep the blisters dressed with a non-stick bandage and change it as soon as it gets soiled.