We Tried 4 Sunburn Remedies and This is the Best


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tan shoulder with Help! written in lotion
Photo credit: Courtesy of mabe123/iStock

It's all fun in the sun...until someone gets burned. You can lather on sunscreen and reapply, but sometimes you just forget. This summer season, if you misplaced your sunscreen or forgot to reapply that sunblock, it's time for a sun soother. There are a few great products out there and we tried the most effective top four.

sunburned back and shoulders
Photo credit: Courtesy of dimid_86/iStockphoto

When you're exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation for too long, your skin cells become damaged. Your body responds by causing your blood vessels to dilate, increasing blood flow to the skin while it attempts to repair itself. It’s that increased blood flow that leads to the red color and hot sensation associated with sunburn. So, what should you look for when trying to get relief? A good sunburn remedy should soothe your skin, provide relief from pain, and allow your body to heal. We'll look at a couple natural home remedies, followed by a comparison of four popular over-the-counter products to determine the most effective option.

aloe vera plant slices and gel on wooden surface
Photo credit: Courtesy of Madeleine_Steinbach/iStockphoto

Glycoproteins in the aloe vera plant work to minimize inflammation and pain, and polysaccharides encourage skin growth and repair. What you don't want is aloe mixed with alcohol, which can further irritate your skin. Read the ingredient labels and purchase a pure aloe vera gel. Keep it in the refrigerator so it stays chilled, providing an enhanced cooling effect.

hands wringing out blue towel
Photo credit: Sasiistock/iStockphoto

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, putting cold, damp towels on your skin can serve two purposes: it takes out some of the heat from the sunburn out of the skin, and it can help relieve the pain. What it cannot do is provide hydration. Natural remedies are a good start, but they may not always suffice on their own.

Sun Bum 'Cool Down' Hydrating After-Sun Lotion
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

Price: $7.99 for 3 ounces
Active Ingredients: Aloe Lotion, Vitamin E, Cocoa Butter
Scent: Delicious Coconut
Ease of Application: Goes on smooth with a very slight residue
Where to Purchase: At drugstores or online.
Effectiveness: Great

woman applying lotion on the beach
Photo credit: Courtesy of bernardbodo/iStockphoto

Sun Bum has been making quality sun care products since 2000. Cool Down keeps your skin hydrated, smooth, and soft, and works to heal damaged cells. If the beachy fragrance isn't enough to lure you into using it, perhaps the fact that it is does not contain oxybenzone. Oxybenzone has been shown to be a contributing factor to the bleaching and killing of our ocean reefs. Thumbs up to the company for being concerned with our planet.

Solarcaine Cool Aloe Burn Relief Formula Pain Relieving Spray with Lidocaine
Photo credit: Courtesy of walmart.com

Price: $5.78 for 4.5 ounces
Active Ingredients: Lidocaine 0.5%
Scent: Fragrance Free
Where to Purchase: Walmart
Ease of Application: Goes on quickly, leaves virtually no residue
Effectiveness: Fantastic

finger pressed spraying aerosol can
Photo credit: Courtesy of carlosalvarez/iStockphoto

This low-priced cooling spray offers instant relief from sunburns. The nice thing about this product is that the lidocaine kicks in instantly, so it's bye-bye burning sensation. Even better, the cool relief lasts a long time. Solarcaine is also moderately priced, so if you have children and they get sunburned, you can grab a few cans and take care of everyone's irritated skin in one fell swoop.

Sunburnt Plus Relief Gel
Photo credit: Courtesy of walgreens.com

Price: $10.49 for 2.10 ounces
Active Ingredients: 1% lidocaine
Scent: Menthol
Where to Purchase: Walgreens
Ease of Application: Goes on a little goopy
Effectiveness: Good

fingers applying white gel from white tube
Photo credit: Courtesy of simarik/istockphoto

This product contains aloe, calendula, echinacea, cantharis, cucumber, and red algae to instantly cool, soothe, and re-hydrate overheated skin. We like that it smells good, however, it's not the most cooling of the four products tested. Also, the mild cooling sensation doesn't last long. That's a problem if you're really red and really hurting.

Ocean Potion Ice+ Instant Burn Relief Ice
Photo credit: Courtesy of walmart.com

Price: $17 for 2-pack 20.5 ounces each
Active Ingredients: Lidocaine 0.5%
Scent: Menthol
Where to Purchase: Drugstores or Walmart

two hands with light blue gel between them
Photo credit: Courtesy of Staras/istockphoto

With arnica, tea tree, and comfrey (regarded as great medicinal herbs) and lidocaine for soothing pain relief, Ocean Potion ICE+ is more than a cooling gel that provides instant relief – it also helps stop the incessant itching that sunburn brings. There's absolutely no alcohol in it, so the combination of ingredients provides immense hydration of the skin. Overall, this product brought more and longer lasting relief than the others.

Ocean Potion Ice+ Instant Burn Relief Ice
Photo credit: Courtesy of walmart.com

Best Bang for Your Buck: Ocean Potion ICE+
Most Effective: Solarcaine Spray
Best Scent: Sun Bum
Best Overall Product: Ocean Potion ICE+ for its ability to cool and hydrate, while remaining easy on the pocketbook.

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