What is the treatment for sunburn?
Siamak T. Nabili, MD, MPH
Certain medical treatments have been tried and studied to treat sunburn. However, in general, most remedies have not shown any clinically proven benefit as far as speeding the recovery or reversing the damage. Therefore most of the treatments available are only used to treat symptoms.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in oral form (Advil, Aleve, Motrin, or Naprosyn) or topical diclofenac 0.1% gel (Solaraze) form have shown to reduce redness if applied before or immediately after UVB exposure. This benefit may be diminished after 24 hours. It should be noted that these medications may also help relieve the symptoms of sunburn such as pain and discomfort.
Topical steroid creams were also studied, but these did not show any significant improvement. There is no data showing that oral steroids such as prednisone are effective in shortening the course of sunburn. Such steroids have also been associated with some significant side effects.
Applying aloe vera gel to the skin has also not been beneficial in treating the actual sunburn. However, this may be beneficial in treating the symptoms.
Other advertised remedies such as topical anesthetics (benzocaine) may help with symptoms of sunburn. However, very little clinical data is available to substantiate their effectiveness.