Home / World’s Best Sunburn Treatment – And You Don’t Even Need a Doctor

World’s Best Sunburn Treatment – And You Don’t Even Need a Doctor

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Two regular aspirin, taken every four hours around the clock until the pain stops.

That’s it.

This treatment is simple, cheap, and more effective than the most expensive creams, ointments, and lotions you can buy and apply.

Don’t wet or wash your affected skin: dryness afterward will only increase the pain.

I learned of this remedy in a two-paragraph letter to the New England Journal of Medicine, back when I was in med school.

I tried it: it worked!

Keep a little container of aspirin in your car’s glove compartment, so you always have it handy at the pool or beach.

The sooner you begin treatment, the better the results.

But, even if you can’t get your hands on any aspirin until bedtime, take two then, and again first thing in the morning when you wake up: you’ll still get relief.

Mechanism of action? The prostaglandins in aspirin are powerful anti-inflammatory agents; sunburn is a result of inflammation in the skin and subdermal tissues.

Thus, an agent that blocks inflammation can prevent and treat damage.

A second site of action is the brain, where the pain of sunburn is ultimately perceived; aspirin targets these receptors as well, lessening the discomfort and agony.

I find it a continual source of amazement that other doctors have never even heard of this remedy, instead dispensing gibberish advice like “apply cool compresses,” and prescribing steroids and all manner of ridiculous, expensive, less-than-efficacious meds.

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About bookofjoe

  • RJ

    Great advice. Thanks. 🙂

  • “I find it a continual source of amazement that other doctors have never even heard of this remedy”

    Are you a medical doctor, Bookofjoe?

  • By that, I mean licensed and currently practicing. I did see you mentioned having been a med student. What do you specialize in?


  • Eric Olsen

    he’s a functional anesthesiologist

  • Wow. I’m impressed. I’ll have to read more of his posts. A second intellectual other than Sam Vaknin on the site.

  • Eric Olsen

    dude, we have intellectuals out the butt around here – we’re giving them away

  • lacy

    All I know is that my a-double S is on fire and my whole body as well. From tanning bed. And I took asprin and its a no go for me. No help from that. Aloe Vera, very little. Im going to my doc. Wish me luck.

  • Eric Olsen

    good luck! I gave up on indoor tanning about five years ago: it seems to provide all of the miseries of outdoor tanning with none of the benefits of actually being outside (other than the color – dig that orange glow)

  • worst sunburn i ever had was a few years ago. i had just had my hair cut in the most drastic way. it went from waist-long in a ponytail to military short on the sides and about an inch long on the top.

    me & the wife went out to visit the inlaws in san diego (encinitas, actually). this was the first time in california for me.

    so the first day i spike my hair up with some hair goo before heading out to an outdoor festival in encinitas.

    oops. that california sun is strong.

    it hurt for a week.

  • Eric Olsen

    zowie, my worst was skiing up at Mammoth about 25 years ago: it never occurred to me that blazing sunshine reflecting off of white snow and high elevation might yield some UV issues. Mine was at least a week.

  • i’m not sure what was worse, the pain or the godawful flaking that occured after that. it was embarassing.

    yea, i’ve got a friend who’s big into ice climbing and such…he came back from a trip out west one year lookin’ like the thanksgiving turkey.

  • Eric Olsen

    sunscreen kicks ass

  • stormradar

    Has anybody heard about the benefits of coffee on sunburn? Actually being applied to the skin, amd reversing the damaging effects even after the fact. I found a place in Japan in Hakone that has a coffee hot-tub, I’m sure there’s more around.

  • Cream and sugar with your hot tub?

  • it worked great for me thanks

  • A coffee hot tub? I hope they serve it cooler than McDonalds does…

  • Un Happy

    The webpage holds you against your will and it is a pain. I have no desire to use it further.

  • Mike

    I had a severe sunburn in 2004. The pain actually made me cry for a few days until I took some old naproxen pills I had in the medicine cabinet– pills that should have been thrown out but some medications increase their potency after sitting and I just used common sense: a sunburn is inflamation of epidermal blood vessels and tissue (as stated above) and naproxen is an antinflamatory. It worked GREAT! I felt 85% better. I have a sunburn right now — I did the thong thing and I’m very white to begin with. I put on sunblock but waited too long to do so and am now paying the price. I just took 2 aspirin (I threw the remaining naproxen out).

  • Rach

    I have a very badly burned back right now and the pain is so bad that I cried when I changed my clothes this morning. I have been taking Ibuprofin and putting ice on the burned areas. The ice helps the pain for a while. I think I will try coffee, too, and will keep taking the Ibuprofin.

  • DazeyMai

    Hooray for aspirin – the most miraculous of the miracle drugs. A good temporary relief is a paste of vinegar and baking soda applied to the burn. Really – it feels soooo good for a short while~~~but, remember to take those aspirins.

  • howard

    Found this helpful, face is so burnt that my lips are huge and eye lids arn’t closing lol am an idiot.

  • Andrew Wood

    I was using Aloe Vera for a burn that I acquired this past weekend, but that seems to only soothe for a short period followed by a period of dryness due to the alcohol in the compound sold in regular drug stores.

    I’m taking the aspirin (not as much as you have recommended here) and I’m also applying a pure vitamin E oil (available at the drug store) and it is working wonders.

  • John Wilson


  • Claudia Beaudry

    I am a very pale skin person (also French so please don’t criticize my spelling), in fact i don’t go to the beach unless the sky is overcast. I have got several sunburns, from mild to very severe. Here some solutions that helps me the most:

    -Andrew Wood is right. Aloe Vera gel doesn’t work. Try Aloe Vera lotion.
    -As well Polysporin have created an itch relief lotion that takes the pain away but also the itch of the pealing period.
    -Aspirin or acetaminophen will help in most part for the pain.
    -Pure vitamin E oil does wonders to the skin.Apply a thick layer at night before going to bed.

  • healthyMom

    I wanted to share my sunburn experience. I was kayaking on a sunny 73 degree day in Hawaii – beautiful! I didn’t think I’d be out as long as I was so I got burned. I also underestimated the reflection of the water as I bought my kayak last September and kayaked short trips on partly cloudy days.

    I was recommend to use the Made from Earth Pure Aloe Vera Skin Treatment whenever i have been in the sun. It made the burn feel so much better without the gross, sticky feeling that you get from plain aloe which comes like a gel.

    If i have a painful sunburn, i will put this on multiple times in one day and it seems to make it go away much quicker, and more likely to turn into a tan. I also use it when i haven’t been on the sun. I think it’s a great lotion for normal use and if my skin gets dry, its a great moisturizer.

  • Chris Davis

    Tried aloe Vera, didn’t work! Found a can of dermaplast, Wow! Miracle spray , you just need someone there to spray your back, haha.

  • James

    Prostaglandins mediate in the inflammatory process and are blocked by the COX-1 and COX-2 inhibition of aspirin. Aspirin does not increase prostaglandin levels, rather, it reduces them.

  • redinmiami

    This is the greatest idea ever! I was thinking about how a sunburn is an inflammatory process even tried a topical steriod cream I happened to have with me but it didn’t seem to be helping. When I read this I jumped at the idea. Almost all the red is gone after two doses. I bet if started soon enough it will even prevent peeling.

  • redinmiami

    I was taking voltaren – an anti-inflammatory for arthritis which helped with the pain but when I switched to asprin the red really went away very quickly.

  • Not ASA…

    You might want to mention that aspirin (ASA) does nothing for the skin issues or mosturizing the skin. Oh yeah and too much ASA can burn a whole in your stomach…. Terrible advice!

    If you have stomach problems or want to help save the skin stay away from this advice!

  • Mary

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  • Jeanne

    When my daughter got a sunburn the pediatrician said simply aloe vera and ibuprophen as soon as possible. He said it actually helps reduce the damaging effects of the burn. That was 25 years ago ! We use a lot more sunscreens now but sometimes i still have to take his advice and it works.

  • Mick

    I burnt my fod like a fuckin tomato today whilst drinking Stella. Best remedy I can think of is to continue drinking Stella. Works for me! BURP