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Does aloe vera really help with sunburn?

By The Health News Team | May 5, 2021
Does aloe vera really help with sunburn?

Many of us have been left lobster-red and squealing in pain from a sunburn after forgetting to reapply sunscreen often or not using enough to protect our delicate skin. We often turn to aloe vera for instant relief.

Sharp Rees-Stealy dermatologist Dr. Young Tsai explains that once sunburn has occurred, the affected skin cells have been damaged and sometimes “killed” by the sun’s rays. Therefore, aloe vera does not “cure” sunburn.

“The skin has to regrow and renew itself,” says Dr. Tsai. “Aloe vera can help cool and soothe the skin to make it feel better symptomatically, but it does not cure the burn itself.”

If you want to use an aloe vera product for symptomatic relief, it is best to use a moisturizing lotion that contains aloe vera, Dr. Tsai adds. Moisturizing the skin overall can help with healing. If using aloe vera gel, avoid those with alcohol, which can dry out tender skin.

Dr. Tsai suggests that if you have a severe sunburn, applying a cold, damp towel to the skin will help relieve the heat. Ibuprofen can help relieve some of the inflammation and discomfort from the sunburn. Topical prescription anti-inflammatory creams can also help recover from the sunburn faster. A study also showed that high-dose vitamin D can reduce inflammation for a sunburn as well. If you have systemic symptoms — meaning you feel sick overall (dizziness, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, fever) — then you should see a doctor because these can be signs of a severe sunburn, which is commonly referred to as sun poisoning.

“The best thing to do is avoid getting sunburned in the first place,” says Dr. Tsai. “Use sun-protective clothing; apply a thick layer of broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 every two hours; and stay in the shade.”

“Sunburns significantly increase your risk of skin cancer, but they also increase your chances of dyspigmentation (abnormal skin color) and wrinkles,” adds Dr. Tsai. “Prevention is key.”

Which sunscreen is right for you? Take our Sharp Health News quiz and evaluate your options.

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