The People's Perspective on Medicine

Should You Take Vitamin D for Your Sunburn?

A high-dose vitamin D3 pill helped heal a sunburn more rapidly. While you should still avoid excess sun exposure, this may one day soothe suffering.

What do you do for a sunburn? Most people just suffer for several days, although some have favorite home remedies such as Listerine, Greek yogurt or green tea. Some research suggests that a diet rich in tomatoes or vitamin C may offer limited protection from sunburn.

Will Vitamin D Reverse Sunburn?

A new study suggests that some day you may want to pop a vitamin D pill. In the trial, 20 volunteers got an experimental sunburn on their inner arm by exposing it to an ultraviolet lamp. An hour later, the participants took pills-placebo or three different doses of vitamin D3: 50,000, 100,000 or 200,000 IUs. These are extremely high doses of vitamin D.

The researchers checked the sunburns one, two and three days later, as well as a week afterward. People who took the highest dose of vitamin D3 had significantly less skin inflammation after two days. Their sunburn was less red, and their skin cells had more genes activated for repair.

That was apparently due to higher levels of an enzyme called arginase-1 that is important in helping skin heal.

Scott et al, Journal of Investigative Dermatology, July 2017 

Sunburn Is Not Okay:

This research is preliminary, and it is not an endorsement of getting a sunburn. People should use clothing, hats, sunglasses and sunscreen to protect themselves from damaging ultraviolet rays. However, people who occasionally get sunburned might welcome an antidote. Presumably, the investigators are developing one, utilizing the information from this fascinating study.

In the interim, you may want to check out Consumer Reports on the best sunscreens this summer. The organization found that many sunscreens don’t live up to their billing, so don’t get burned.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
Skin Care and Treatment
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Download home remedies and medicines for acne and excessive sweating. Oxybenzone-free sunscreens. Coping with dry skin, eczema, wrinkles and psoriasis. Inexpensive barnyard beauty aids.

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In the Consumer Reports ratings on sunscreen, out of the top 24 ranked lotions, only 6 do not contain oxybenzone (a.k.a. benzophenone-3 or BP-3). (All but three of the remaining lotions ranked 25-39 contain only zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide.) You have warned about the possible hormone-disrupting or endocrine-disrupting effects of this chemical in many articles. What are we to do?

I forget where I first read/heard it but a dilute solution of vinegar cools a burn down quickly. It’s been so long I can’t remember how bad the burn was. I’d pour some white vinegar in a bowl and add an equal amount of cool water. A plain cotton towel (to cover the burned area), put it in the bowl, don’t wring it out completely but leave just enough so it feel moist. When it stops cooling, rinse it out, and apply again.
The vinegar odor dissipates quickly and it’s (for me) preferable to the scented salves or creams…which may slightly lubricate the skin but they don’t really do anything for my burn. I think of it as first aid…once it’s been cooled down, then find other ways to hydrate the skin. But lotion, not something greasy.

I’m happy for all the folks who may benefit from vitamin D. However, did they try to administer vitamin D before sun exposure? Maybe they’re on to something.

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