6 Maine foods you can use as home sunburn remedies, and why they work

Plain yogurt (Washington Post file photo by Linda Davidson)

Plain yogurt (Washington Post file photo by Linda Davidson)

The Skin Cancer Foundation reported that at least 42 percent of people get a sunburn at least once a year. Obviously, the easiest way to solve the problem of sunburns is to use sunscreen and avoid them altogether.

But after another brutal winter — and an uncharacteristically cool and wet start to June — Mainers could be forgiven if they forget what to do when the sun comes back out again with any consistency.

Mainers could be forgiven, as well, for not having their shelves stocked with sunscreens and other summertime lotions just yet.

Luckily, there are a number of sunburn remedies you could find in a typical Maine refrigerator or kitchen cupboard. Here are five foods you can reportedly use to soothe a sunburn, as well as a little bit of the science behind why they’re effective:

6. Milk

According to the natural remedy website Everyday Roots, you can soak a soft, clean washcloth in milk and press it gently against the burn to help ease the pain.

“The initial coolness of the milk will ease the heat, while it also creates a layer of protein to protect your skin, help it heal, and further soothe discomfort,” the website reads, in part.

To keep your home remedy close to home, use milk from your local dairy farmer or a jug from Oakhurst Dairy, which is based in Portland and sources its milk from Maine and northern New England farms.

5. Apple cider vinegar

There are multiple ways to apply apple cider vinegar to heal a sunburn — you can mix it with water and spray it on the burn, add a cup of it to your bathwater or, like the milk above, soak a washcloth with it.

In any case, after your skin is dry, moisturize it.

Explains the website Rapid Home Remedies:

(Flickr photo by Kelly Sue DeConnick - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/ )

(Flickr photo by Kelly Sue DeConnick – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/ )

“When apple cider vinegar is applied topically for sunburn, it acts as an astringent. The work of an astringent is to shrink or constrict body tissues. Thus, it will reduce inflammation caused due to sunburn. Apple cider vinegar also helps in balancing the pH levels of your burned skin which means it will balance the acidity v/s alkalinity of your skin and thus promote healing.”

Importantly, don’t use this remedy if you’ve got open cuts or sores along with your sunburn — ouch!

In Maine, try the organic apple cider vinegar made by Sewall’s Orchard in Lincolnville.

4. Cucumbers

Ever hear the phrase “cool as a cucumber?” There’s a reason these fruits have that reputation. (And yes, cucumbers are fruits, not vegetables.)

(Flickr photo by Karen and Brad Emerson/ https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ )

(Flickr photo by Karen and Brad Emerson/ https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ )

There are a couple different ways to apply cucumbers to a sunburn — the easiest being to slice them up and spread them around the burned area, flipping them after they’ve warmed to get the most out of each slice.

MedicineNet.com has a slightly more involved approach. In a post for the website, Dr. John Cunha explains his preferred application and why it works:

“Cucumbers have natural antioxidant and analgesic properties. Chill cucumbers, then mash in a blender to create a paste, and apply to affected areas including the face.”

It’s easy to find locally grown cucumbers in Maine, too. Click here to peruse at least one list of Maine farms that grow them.

3. Plain yogurt

Is the milk wrap a little too, I don’t know, sloppy? Plain yogurt is another dairy product that can be used to help ease the pain. Paste the yogurt gently over the burnt area — nothing complicated about how to use this home remedy.

Everyday Roots explains that “live-cultured plain yogurt contains an abundance of probiotics and enzymes that help heal our skin — when you find yourself red and sunburned, it can help you recover faster.”

For this remedy, try the organic, probiotic yogurt made by the Milkhouse — an eastern Kennebec County creamery that sells its products throughout Maine.

2. Potatoes

One of Maine’s signature crops, potatoes are more than just a staple food. They can be applied in much the same way as cucumbers to help heal sunburns. Either place cool potato slices on the sunburnt areas or grate the potatoes into a near pulp and apply them that way.

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the potatoes’ “starch will cool and soothe the burn.”

Support your Maine potato farmers when stocking up on this food supply and useful home remedy. Learn more by clicking here.

1. Oatmeal

This remedy is perhaps the best one to use when battling a particularly itchy sunburn. The easiest way to use oatmeal on a sunburn, as described by cosmetologist Jodie Michalak, is to simply prepare it like you would if you planned to serve it for breakfast, wait until it cools down, then apply it gently — but directly — to the sunburn.

Others propose putting a cup or so of the oatmeal into your bath water. Prevention magazine recommends wrapping dry oatmeal in a gauze, running cool water through it and using the strained water to soak a washcloth.

Why does oatmeal work? According to the website Rapid Home Remedies, “oats are a very rich source of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory components — [that] makes oatmeal a perfect remedy for itchy sunburned skin.”

Check with Maine Grains in Skowhegan for organic quick-cooking oats for these treatments, or maybe look into the nutrient-rich oat bran produced by Fiddler’s Green Farm in North Vassalboro.