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Vinegar to Treat Sunburn? Think Again

The internet is a great place to find ‘life hacks’ – that is, simple, cobbled-together household solutions for everyday problems. Youtube compilations and listicles can teach you everything from using Doritos as fire starters to eating cupcakes the right way. A popular internet life hack to quickly treat sunburn is to dab it with vinegar, but like most of the advice offered by the cybersphere, it is to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Most types of vinegar have an extremely low pH ranging from levels 2 to 3. This makes vinegar highly acidic, and extremely dangerous to apply on sunburnt skin. When tanned, the protective outermost layer on your skin is already compromised. Pouring acid on the surface will only damage it further. It can also cause severe pain and inflammation.

Depending on the type of vinegar available at hand, the solution may also contain ingredients like citric acid or lactic acid. Applying these powerful chemicals on damaged skin could result in chemical burns. In addition, if the extent of harm from the sunburn is so severe that is has led to blistering of the skin, applying vinegar will not only aggravate the pain but also potentially cause infections.

There are, however, alternative household remedies much safer to try:

Aloe Vera

pisauikan/Unsplash: Use aloe vera to cure inflammation

It is available in most households in the form of gels and moisturizers. Aloe vera has cooling properties that can quell inflammation. It also moisturizes dry, sunburnt skin, and stimulates the production of collagen that expedites the healing process.

Before you rush to dab an aloe vera product on your skin, quickly run through the listed ingredients. If the product contains pain-relieving additives—elements that end in ‘-caine’, like benzocaine – refrain from using it. These pain relievers could further irritate your damaged skin or provoke an allergic reaction.

Cold Water

samaradoole/Unsplash: cold showers

You can’t go wrong with the oldest, tried-and-tested remedy in the book. Cold water can have a numbing, cooling effect that will greatly ease your pain and prevent your skin from drying out. Opt for cold showers instead of warm ones, and double down on the benefits by using cold compresses and towels drenched in chilled water.


Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) can be purchased over the counter and help ease pain and inflammation. Common NSAIDs include aspirin and ibuprofen. If you do not have these at home already, they are useful pain relievers worth stocking up.


Unsplash: Stay hydrated to heal your skin and body 

A side effect of sunburn is often dehydration of the skin and body, which can lead to further complications. Ensure that you are consuming adequate amounts of water, at least 6–8 glasses per day, to keep your body hydrated.

While all these tips are handy in a pinch, prevention is always better than cure. Avoid having to deal with sunburn all together by taking the proper precautions to protect yourself when you are out in the sun – use sunblock liberally, avoid staying out for extended periods of time, and seek out the shade as much as possible.

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