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Vinegar for sunburn: Is Vinegar good for sunburn relief?

It seems that vinegar for sunburn has become some sort of common knowledge, with people really believing in the efficacy of this remedy and its capacity of relieving sunburns. However, if you’re a bit skeptical on the matter, it’s better you turn to science for an answer.

Most of the time, suntans are viewed as a sign of beautiful skin. When summer comes, you want to bask in the sun all day and get a nice tan to show your friends and look good in social media pics. You’re not to blame, tans do look good on most people.  However, you should know that some tans really do represent damage to the cells on a genetic level, and this damage can eventually lead to other complications like skin cancer.

Anyways, the question here remains: What do we do when we get sunburn and does vinegar help? Let’s see!

Vinegar for Sunburn

Vinegar for sunburn – does it work?

Vinegar for sunburns might work in some circumstances, but it could also make things worse, by drying your skin even more.  We’ll get in more detail later on.

First of all, you should know that usually half of the people who spend their time at the beach, each summer, report at least one painful sunburn. Some studies suggest that for this reason, we need more educational strategies to discourage sun exposure during midday and improve the general knowledge about skin cancer and tanning (1).

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Ironically, it is also one of the most preventable cancers, if we consider sun exposure an almost entire modifiable risk factor (2). And it looks like it is since the American Cancer Society has said that 9 out of 10 cases of skin cancers are caused by the ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

We should teach our children early in their life about the risks of being exposed to the sun. It’s true, tan looks good on models and influencers, but skin health looks a hundred times better.

Before we go back to the vinegar, you should know that The American Academy of Dermatology strongly advises using cool tap water either in the form of compresses or bathing, to calm the sunburns and also a hydrocortisone cream or aloe vera to apply to the sunburns afterward.

Now, to get back to the vinegar; when you think of vinegar, you probably think of an acidic substance. So, putting an acidic substance on a sunburn might not feel good, right? However, many people believe vinegar is a good remedy for sunburn, alongside grated potato, buttermilk, or peppermint.

 

For some skin types, you could mix a tiny amount of vinegar with cool water and this mixture could dry out the blisters. However, put too much vinegar and its acidity could further dry your skin and thus make your sunburn worse.

Apple cider vinegar for sunburn

The truth is, there is no science proving apple cider vinegar for sunburns works, but for some people soaking a cloth in a solution of vinegar and water can help relieve the pain. However, we have little information regarding the water-to-vinegar ratio.

Common knowledge tells us that the apple cider vinegar should be very well diluted to prevent making things worse. And now the question is: if you dilute the vinegar so much that it isn’t acidic anymore, then why use vinegar in the first place? Well, when there’s no science in it, there’s no answer as well. However, it seems that a lot of people have testified to the fact that vinegar works for burns or that it has worked in their case.

We’re not going to deny their testimonials; however, we’re going to strengthen the point that, at the moment, there is no scientific backing for this finding, only the fact that many have used it and many right now are making use of this method of relieving sunburns.

White vinegar for sunburn

The answer here is the same. White distilled vinegar is another popular folk remedy for treating sunburns. People say that they have filled a spray bottle with vinegar and water, sprayed it on the sunburned skin and it helped relieve the pain. Others have dipped a cloth in vinegar, then wrung it out and applied it to the affected areas.

Vinegar can make Sunburn worse if not diluted

Apple cider vinegar is a part of a lot of beauty products, like facial toners or acne treatments. It has proven to have certain antimicrobial benefits and that is why it is used. This might have contributed to the popular belief that it could also help in the cases of sunburn.

However, we’ll like to issue a clear warning that vinegar can cause serious complications and burns if applied to sunburn without properly being diluted beforehand (3).

Why does sunburn occur?

When you spend a considerable amount of time in the sun, your immune system – in a bid to combat the UV Light – produces melanin as a means of protection. This melanin is a pigment that gives color to your skin as well as the hair and the eyes. At a certain point in time, the production of melanin is not rapid enough to combat the damage coming from the sun. When the body’s means of fighting the problem is not sufficient, the damage eventually occurs to the genetic material in the skin.

The deed has been done, and in a bid to remedy the effect of the genetic damage, inflammation occurs within the available healthy cells to get rid of the damaged skin cells. This natural response phenomenon in the body is known as UV Stress Response. Your body immediately generates new replacement cells.

Not all people are the same when it comes to getting sunburn. For those who are very fair in complexion, getting a sunburn usually takes about 15 minutes when exposed to heavy sunlight.

After sun exposure, the blood vessels in your skin expand, and this is the reason the skin becomes red. The effect of sunburn can show up within 36 hours of exposure, while it takes about three to four days to heal.

Bottom Line

While there is no science to back up the fact that vinegar is good for sunburn, a lot of people can testify that they have tried it and it worked. So, if you want to try it, you can go ahead, but you should really know that vinegar can cause serious burns on the sensitive sunburn skin and make matters worse. So, always make sure you dilute the vinegar.

If you want to use a science-backed remedy against sunburns, then you should try aloe vera or a hydrocortisone cream and cool water compresses for relieving the pain.

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Evidence Based

This article is based on scientific evidence, and written, fact-checked & medically reviewed by health experts.

Throughout this article, you'll find scientific references (clickable links to highly trusted peer-reviewed scientific papers, links denoted by the numbers in the parentheses (1, 2, 3)).