How to help soothe skin from summer sunburns

Learn what to do in the days following too much sun exposure.

July 5, 2023, 2:22 PM

— -- Summer is the season for having fun in the sun, but too much sun can lead to discomfort, burning and, in the worst case scenario, possibly skin cancer.

Nearly 5 million people in the United States alone are treated each year for skin cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The best sunburn solution is to reapply a sunscreen with an SPF of 40 or higher regularly when enjoying time outdoors in the summer, according to Dr. Whitney Bowe, a New York City-based dermatologist.

Like Bowe, ABC News Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton, said the first way to treat it, "is not to get it in the first place" reminding that "prevention is so important."

How to help soothe your skin and treat a sunburn at home

If you or your child ends up with a sunburn, quick, do-it-yourself fixes using items found in your own kitchen can help ease the pain of the burn and reinvigorate your skin.

Bowe advises taking a multi-day approach to healing from overexposure to the sun.

DIY remedies to help sooth sunburn.
ABC News

Immediately after getting a sunburn, Bowe and Ashton recommend, take ibuprofen -- the liquid form for children and the pill for adults -- to help reduce the pain. Dr. Bowe also advises drinking coconut water for hydration and to restore electrolytes.

Days 1 and 2 post-sunburn

Bowe recommends using an oatmeal and honey concoction to soothe your skin.

Mix honey and instant oatmeal together in a food processor, along with a few drops of water, to create a paste that will help calm and soothe your sunburned skin. Apply the paste on your burned skin and let it rest for 10 minutes before rinsing it off with cool water.

Another way to use oatmeal is to fill a white cotton tube sock with oatmeal, tie the top with a rubber band, and let yourself soak with it in a bathtub. This will allow you to get the soothing benefits of oatmeal without having sticky clumps on your skin, Bowe said.

Bowe also recommends applying whole milk to a sunburn on day one or two after getting a burn by soaking a wash cloth in cold milk with ice, wringing it out, and then putting the cloth over your body. The fats in the milk will create a soothing feeling on your skin, Bowe said.

"It's going to leave a film of healthy fats, healthy proteins [that] really speeds up the healing process," Bowe explained today on "Good Morning America."

In this undated stock photo, a woman uses natural home remedies to treat sunburn.
STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images

Ashton added that taking a "cool bath or shower" can help the symptoms and "using a moisturizer with aloe vera or soy" can help with immediate soothing.

Days 3 and 4 post-sunburn

Bowe recommends using organic coconut oil on a burn a few days after the burn occurs because the oil acts as a soothing moisturizer.

An earlier version of this story was originally published on April 26, 2018.