Do Teabags Really Work For Sunburn Relief? A Dermatologist Weighs In
So, you decided to take advantage of a sunny day by heading out to catch some rays and some extra vitamin D. But, oops, you ended up catching more than that: You got a sunburn. Next, you head down the rabbit hole of at-home remedies, like using a teabag for sunburn relief. But does it really work?
Using a teabag on a sunburn to relieve the redness, pain, and discomfort might sound a little weird—but it might help for some people, at least a little bit. However, Katie Beleznay, MD, a dermatologist in Vancouver, notes that the research on whether teabags are effective for sunburn relief is limited.
If you’re curious enough to try it, here’s everything you need to know about using teabags to treat sunburn symptoms safely.
Can teabags really relieve sunburn?
The tannins and antioxidants in tea do have anti-inflammatory properties that can relieve the skin of painful symptoms, so you may end up feeling less discomfort, says Dr. Beleznay—but it’s something that requires more research, she adds. “There still isn’t significant body of research specifically on this usage nor the benefits of tea for the skin more broadly.”
That being said, Dr. Beleznay says applying a teabag to a sunburn (as long as it’s not hot!) is a fairly safe treatment to try. Just know that, like anything that’s put on skin, there’s always a risk that some people may experience some sort of adverse reaction, like an allergic response.
I want to try it! How do you use teabags safely on a sunburn?
If you want to try this treatment yourself, Dr. Beleznay says that black tea usually has the highest concentration of tannins, though green tea may also feel soothing to the skin. “Green tea has been shown to possess a number of beneficial properties including anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.” Though you could use either to treat sunburn. Dr. Beleznay also points out that green tea also has other skin benefits, like anti-aging properties.
If you’re applying tea to a small area, you can just soak a tea bag in room temperature water for one to two minutes and applying it to the area in need. But if you’re dealing with a larger portion of skin, Dr. Beleznay recommends brewing tea, then using a clean cloth to apply it to your skin, though she also says that the teabags may offer greater concentration of the tannins versus the brewed tea. You can use additional tea bags to cover a larger area, but it might take you a little longer to prep them, since you’ll need enough teabags to cover the amount of skin you’re trying to treat.
No matter how you prepare the tea, you always want to make sure you cool it down to room temperature before you apply. Once it has cooled down, apply it directly to the skin for a few minutes.
Keep in mind: It may not be immediately obvious if the teabags are really helping, notes Dr. Beleznay. But as long as the tea is not causing further discomfort, you can keep using the method to see if the stinging improves as the tea begins to dry off of your skin. But if you feel irritation instead, it’s important you discontinue the tea method immediately, says Dr. Beleznay. There are really no side effects to using tea, but your reaction to it will really depend on your own skin.
Is there any time you *shouldn’t* use teabags for sunburn?
When it comes to sunburns, remember to first focus on prevention. “The priority should always be to avoid sun exposure that could lead to burning by wearing sun-protective clothing and hats and using sunscreen,” says Dr. Beleznay.
But it you do end up with a sunburn, make sure to stay out of the sun. You can also try taking frequent cool baths or showers to help relieve the pain, and follow that up with a gentle moisturizer and possibly hydrocortisone if the area is particularly itchy, says Dr. Beleznay.
Another at-home remedy you can try to treat your sunburn? Aloe vera, says Dr. Beleznay. The aloin in aloe vera is shown to have anti-inflammatory properties that can help heal sunburns. Lastly, make sure you also drink lots of water in order to protect yourself from dehydration and re-add moisture to your skin.
If your sunburn is accompanied by other symptoms like blisters and fever or chills, then it’s best to skip the teabags and other at-home remedies, and head straight to the doctor instead. Symptoms like these might be a sign you need medical attention.
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