Sunburns 101: What to Use in Your Home for Treatment and How to Prevent It [UPDATED]

Sunburns are something that you don’t often notice until it’s too late and your skin has been burnt real bad.

Caused by overexposure to UV rays, sunburns can affect anyone regardless of skin color and location. The more time you spend outdoors, the more likely you’ll be overexposed to UV rays. And as preppers, sunburn can be a grave thing when we’re on the road, heading out to our bug out location (BOL).

Sunburns are not only painful; they’re also responsible for long-term skin damage like wrinkles and even skin cancer. The last thing we want to be worrying about when SHTF is a worsening sunburn problem.

That’s why it’s essential to take the necessary steps to prevent sunburn and know how to treat them with affordable home remedies. 

Here are helpful tips for preventing and treating sunburns:

Sunburn Prevention

Avoid Overexposure As Much As You Can


Sunburns hurt—a lot. Thankfully, preventing them is relatively easy. One of the best ways to avoid sunburns is to lessen overexposure to UV rays.

To avoid overexposure when going out or when headed to a safe location, start early, preferably before the sun is up, and take breaks when UV exposure is at its peak (usually around 10 am-2 pm). During these peak hours, seek cover from trees and shades, if you can.

If you’re passing through a hot and arid environment on foot, make sure to get some rest throughout the day. If you want to continue later in the afternoon, start walking once the sun is low in the sky to avoid sunburns and dehydration.

Wear The Right Clothes


Your clothes are your first line of defense against the harsh environment, so lower your chances of UV overexposure by wearing appropriate clothing.

Look into getting breathable, long-sleeved, and investing in a few pieces of sun-protective clothing. These clothes are made of tightly-woven fabric that prevents UV rays from penetrating your skin.

Sometimes they’re even treated with chemicals or made with material that reflects UV rays instead of absorbing them to protect you from sunburns further. Sun protective clothing also comes with UV protection factor (UPF) ratings that indicate their strength and protection against harmful UV rays.

Other means of protection include wearing a wide-brimmed hat, a scarf, or shemagh that protects your head and shoulders from overexposure.

Slather On Some Sunscreen


Since you can’t possibly cover every inch of your body with clothing or avoid the sun entirely, you have to put on sunscreen for additional protection. It’s key to protecting you on the road, looking for a safer location.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, using sunscreen daily helps with sunburn and premature skin aging. It also reduces the chances of getting melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer. They also suggest using sunscreen that’s SPF 30 or higher. Apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before heading out and reapply it along the way as needed.

Sunburn Treatment

So what if you weren’t able to apply the tips above, and you now have painful redness in different areas of your body? Well, not to worry. There are easy ways you can treat that sunburn.

Sunburn doesn’t need a complicated treatment regimen. Often, you can use everyday items to provide relief and facilitate healing. You can easily find these items at home and can pack them in your BOB or store in your BOL.

Here’s what you can do to treat sunburns:

Cool Down and Hydrate


Sunburns are classified as first degree burns. This means that the topmost, superficial layer of the skin is damaged. A significant amount of nerve endings are found in this layer, so while sunburns are considered a mild form of burns, it can still hurt like nobody’s business.

One of the easiest ways to provide relief is water. Applying cool water to the skin soothes the damaged layers and helps it recover faster. Gentle running water is great but you can also apply cool, damp cloths to the affected area.

Ice works great for sunburns too, but don’t apply it directly onto your skin because that can cause more damage. Wrap the ice in a zip baggie or cloth before gently applying it to the skin.

While you’re at it, drink lots of water and electrolytes to compensate for all the fluids you lost while out under the sun. Keeping hydrated rejuvenates your cells and helps a lot in the healing process.

Use Aloe Vera For Relief


Aloe vera has been used as a herbal medicine for thousands of years. Its fleshy leaves contain a gel-like substance that cools and soothes sunburned skin. The leaves are also known for their moisturizing effect, which prevents further damage.

If you’re tending your own garden, consider planting some aloe vera. You can cut the plant’s leaves, take the gel and apply it directly to your sunburnt skin. If you don’t have access to the plant itself, don’t worry, there are lots of commercially prepared aloe vera gels that can be used to treat sunburns.

Another succulent plant that’s known for its soothing properties is the prickly pear cactus. Like aloe vera, prickly pear has a gel that you can use to treat sunburns while on the trail. Check out the full tutorial on how to harvest and apply the gel here.

Oils For Healing


Essential oils like peppermint and lavender don’t only smell good, they also help soothe sunburn stings. Aside from their cooling and moisturizing properties, these essential oils are also great for zapping germs that can make sunburns worse, so dab some on the affected area to help it heal faster.

Another oil that you can use – virgin coconut oil. Virgin coconut oil isn’t what you’d consider an essential oil, but it is a natural sunscreen and moisturizer. It also has a lot of multipurpose survival uses so make sure you keep some on hand.

Oatmeal Works Great, Too


A nice warm oatmeal bath is great to relieve pain and itchiness. Oatmeal, especially when it’s ground to a fine powder, has been known to reduce redness and irritation. Studies show that oatmeal is an excellent antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory properties that can help heal sunburns.

You can simply ground the oatmeal and mix it in with warm water for relief. You can also mix it with honey and apply the mixture to the affected area. Honey is also known for its healing and moisturizing properties so it can help speed up your skin’s recovery.

Other Sunburn Essentials From Your Pantry

Other home remedies for sunburns include dairy products like yogurt, which has probiotics that can help the skin heal faster. Black tea and apple cider vinegar are also known to help with the pain and aid in healing.

Final Thoughts

Sunburns are not uncommon when you’re out. They sting, they itch, and sometimes, they even blister! They’re definitely not the best souvenirs from your time outdoors.

Thankfully, sunburns can easily be prevented and treated. Make your time outdoors safer by avoiding UV overexposure and taking the necessary steps to prevent sunburns. Cover up, and slather on some sunscreen for good measure. Pack some aloe vera gel or any of the home remedies mentioned so you can treat them while on the go.

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