Feeling like a lobster after a day at the beach is the worst. But there’s not a ton you can do about a sunburn other than ride it out and use some home remedies to get some relief in the meantime. Aloe cream and gel can make you feel cooler and less itchy, but if you don’t have any on hand, you might have another remedy just chillin’ in your shower: shaving cream. Yup.
A recent viral Facebook post describes menthol foam shaving cream as the ultimate sunburn relief hack. The woman who shared the post applies it to her sunburns, allowing it to dissolve into her skin for 30 minutes before washing it off, and says it soothes and cools the red, tight, dry skin. In her post, you can see a before and after photo of one sunburn, and it looks much less red and irritated in the after photo.
The post got over 232,000 shares, but does the trick actually work? Let’s ask a few derms for their takes.
Does shaving cream really help sunburns?
Depends on the type. “Shaving cream itself isn’t really what helps with sunburns, but there may be some added ingredients in the shaving cream that can help soothe the pain and decrease the redness of a sunburn, such as menthol and aloe,” saysSusan Massick, MD, a dermatologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Shaving cream specifically, as opposed to gels or lotions that you would rub into your skin, acts as almost a protective barrier, says Loretta Ciraldo, MD, FAAD, a Miami-based board-certified dermatologist and founder of Dr. Loretta skincare. It coats the skin and may help you feel temporarily cooler, if it contains the right ingredients (more on that comin’ up).
Okay, I’m down to try this. How long should I keep shaving cream on sunburns?
The viral post suggested applying the shaving cream once a day and leaving it on the skin, allowing it to dry for about 30 minutes before rinsing off with a warm shower or bath; you can apply it again the next day if your sunburn is still red and itchy.
Dr. Massick recommends applying the shaving cream to the affected area even twice a day, and then rinsing after 20 to 30 minutes so that the shaving cream doesn’t get too dried out. She points out that it’s best to use lukewarm water to rinse, so that you don’t make the burning feeling on your skin worse.
You can do the post-sun ritual even more frequently if your sunburn is really itchy or uncomfortable and you don’t have anything else in the house to quell the burning—Dr. Ciraldo says you can reapply it every two to three hours for extra relief.
Also, another trick is putting the can of shaving cream in the fridge to keep it extra cool before it hits your skin, she says.
What kind of shaving cream should you use on a sunburn?
You can’t just pick any shaving cream and expect it to work wonders on your skin, especially with a severe burn. The Facebook post specifically advised people to buy foam shaving cream with menthol in it, as opposed to gel, because the foamy texture sits on the surface of your skin and then dries to provide cooling relief.
Dermatologists agree with the menthol trick: “Menthol has that cooling effect that also helps soothe the skin when it feels hot and sore,” Dr. Massick says. “It substitutes the burning sensation of sunburn for the cooling sensation of menthol, but you’re not lessening the sunburn,” explains Dr. Ciraldo.
Dermatologists ultimately recommend a product containing aloe because the ingredient is anti-inflammatory. It not only helps the skin feel cooler, but it cuts back on inflammation, which may shorten the duration of the sunburn, decrease redness, and help the skin stay hydrated and blister-free, Dr. Massick adds.
Is there a better home remedy you should use for sunburn?
Shaving cream is a solid hack if you’re out of aloe gel, but there are other at-home remedies that can also help. Dr. Ciraldo suggests a cooling, anti-inflammatory oatmeal bath to reduce sunburn—you can even find shave gels and lotions containing oatmeal that may be additionally beneficial.
Applying cool compresses to the skin can also be helpful. For true pain relief, it might be best to take acetaminophen or ibuprofen. “Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories block the release of the prostaglandins, the mediators of much of the redness and discomfort of sunburn,” Dr. Ciraldo says.
For more severe sunburns, an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream wouldn’t necessarily cut it, and you may need a prescription-strength topical cortisone cream from a dermatologist, Dr. Massick says (the warning signs to contact your derm are severe blistering or fever).
Really, the best course of action is to avoid getting sunburnt in the first place—that means applying SPF 30 to 50 sunscreen with broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection, and reapplying it at least every three hours. Try to avoid direct sun from the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. if you can, Dr. Massick and Dr. Ciraldo advise. And if you feel your skin starting to burn or look red, that’s your cue to cool off inside for a bit.
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