11 Best Tips on How to Treat Swollen, Sunburned Feet

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By Wildr Editor

Feet in a silver basin filled with water and flowers

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One of the worst reminders that beauty = pain, is when you go to the beach to get some color, forget to apply sunscreen on the tops of your feet, and you go home with red, swollen feet with ugly flip-flop tans.

We often neglect our feet because it’s not really the first thing we see or notice when we have so many other body parts to care and pamper for. But don’t make this mistake - sunburn on the feet happens pretty often because when you’re venturing outdoors in sandals, they have the most exposure to the sun’s UV rays, which cause damage to the skin cells.

The Sneaky Symptoms of Sunburn

Identifying sunburn on your feet isn't rocket science, but sometimes it can be a bit tricky. Symptoms of sunburn range from mild discomfort to severe pain, redness, swelling (can feel like the skin is actually on fire), and in severe cases, blisters. It can take up to 24 hours for the sunburn to fully take effect.

Ever wonder why your feet puff up like a pair of hot air balloons after a sunburn? Since it’s a UV radiation burn, your body starts to swell as a reaction to repair the skin damage. Your blood vessels dilate to race and repair the cells, causing your skin to redden, heat up, and swell.

But don't worry, it shouldn’t last too long. Swelling from sunburn usually subsides within a few days once the healing process kicks in. If your swelling doesn't go down after a week, or if it comes with severe pain, blisters, or other alarming symptoms, don't be a hero – call your doctor.

11 Tips to Treat Your Swollen, Sunburned Feet

If your feet are just mildly toasted, here are 11 home remedies to try on your swollen, sunburned feet:

  1. Give ‘Em a Cool Bath: Dunk your feet in cold water. This is the first step and the best way to begin the healing process for any kind of sunburn, including feet.
  2. Cold Compresses: Cool compresses can help reduce swelling. Remember, cool, not icy!
  3. Topical Treatments: Apply soothing ingredients like aloe vera or antibiotic ointment to help with healing and pain relief.
  4. Put Your Feet Up: Literally! Elevate your feet on a pillow to reduce swelling.
  5. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate: Drink plenty of water to help your skin bounce back.
  6. Dress to Impress: Wear open-toed shoes to avoid further irritation.
  7. Hands Off: Avoid peeling skin and definitely don’t pop blisters – they’re all part of the body’s natural healing process.
  8. Pain Relief: Over-the-counter oral medication like Ibuprofen or applying topical hydrocortisone cream can help reduce pain and swelling.
  9. Moisturize: Apply a gentle, natural, fragrance-free lotion to soothe the skin.
  10. Sunburned Sleep: Sleep with your feet outside the covers to avoid heat and friction.
  11. Back to the Future: Once healed, prevent future burns with protective clothing, sunscreen (zinc oxide is great!), and limited sun exposure.

Nature’s medicine cabinet can be a godsend when you’re suffering from burns, but keep in mind that these ingredients don’t “cure”, but rather help soothe mild sunburn.

Here are a few of our favorite natural ingredients and products from sustainable brands we love to add to your sunburn kit (and it wouldn’t hurt to add a few of these in your beauty skincare regimen).

1. Aloe Vera

Healing Properties: The American Academy of Dermatology recommends aloe vera for its soothing and anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce swelling.

Editor’s Pick: Beauty By Earth offers a 98% organic Aloe Vera Gel that’s boosted with vitamin C to support collagen production and radish root to hydrate the skin.

Beauty by Earth's Aloe Vera Gel

2. Oatmeal

Healing Properties: Colloidal (finely ground) oatmeal provides relief from itchiness and discomfort. When used as a bath soak or a paste, oatmeal forms a protective barrier on the skin, helping it retain moisture.

Editor’s Pick: mambino organics’s Soothing Colloidal Oatmeal Bath was made for babies, which only means it has the finest, organic ingredients free of detergents and preservatives, perfect for adult sensitive (and in this case, sunburned) skin.

mambino organics Oatmeal Bath

3. Calendula

Healing Properties: Calendula can support sunburn recovery by easing skin discomfort, promoting faster healing, and reducing the chance of infection.

Editor’s Pick: Attitude’s After Sun Gel with Calendula is made with shea butter and relieves tightness by incorporating mint and cucumber for a calming effect on skin.

Attitude brand's After Sun Gel with Calendula

4. Lavender

Healing Properties: Aside from its anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving properties, lavender has a calming effect on the body and mind from its subtle, flowery scent. Great for stress relief when recovering from a burn!

Editor’s Pick: Primally Pure’s Eucalyptus + Lavender Body Butter claims to use only organic ingredients that are safe enough to eat! Some of these include mango butter, shea butter, and sweet almond oil.

Primally Pure's Body Butter (Eucalyptus + Lavender)

5. Chamomile

Healing Properties: Chamomile acts like a soothing balm that speeds up skin cell regeneration and diminishes redness, providing relief and faster recovery.

Editor’s Pick: Aromatics International’s German Chamomile Hydrosol is USDA certified organic oil that’s purely distilled from flowers with skin regenerative properties.

Aromatics International's German Chamomile Hydrosol

Note: Everyone's skin is different, so always test a small amount of product to the affected area to make sure you don't have an allergic reaction. And never apply directly on broken skin or blisters.

When to Call in the Pros

Sometimes, you can do everything on the checklist and you still need help. So when should you seek medical attention?

  • In Pain Town: If you're experiencing severe pain that isn't relieved by over-the-counter pain relief, it's time to ring the doc.
  • Fever or Chills: Feeling hot and cold at the same time? High temperatures, chills, or feelings of faintness can be signs of sun poisoning.
  • Blister Bonanza: Got large blisters or ones that cover a large area? Best to get a medical professional to check them out.
  • Can't Quench that Thirst: If you're feeling extremely thirsty, fatigued or disoriented, you might be dehydrated. Get help ASAP.
  • Red Streaks: If you see red streaks spreading out from your sunburn or blisters, it's a sign of infection.
  • No Improvement: If your sunburn doesn't start to improve within a couple of days, it's a good idea to book an appointment with your doctor.

It’s important to seek medical help depending on the severity of the burns since too much sun damage is associated to increased risk of skin cancer.

Prevention is better than a cure, so try to apply some good sun care habits: Avoid direct sunlight between 10am - 4pm when UV rays are strongest, reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, and know when to head indoors at the first sign of sunburn.

A Little Bit of Sunshine Goes A Long Way

Enjoy the sun while you can! Sunburn doesn’t need to sour your week and can give you the perfect excuse to put your feet up and watch Netflix and chill.

If you’re in the Northeast like me, be thankful for those warm sunny days, because soon they’ll be overtaken by freezing (the other kind of blistering) winters.


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