Is Shaving Cream an Effective Treatment for Sunburns?

Many shaving creams brands have ingredients that may soothe sunburnt skin.

If you've ever gotten a sunburn, you may already be familiar with a few home remedies. Oatmeal baths, the juicy pulp from the center of a fresh aloe leaf, or store-bought aloe with lidocaine help kill the sting.

But what about shaving cream for sunburn? Here's whether the viral method of treating a sunburn actually works, according to a dermatologist.

How To Use Shaving Cream for Sunburns

Some people swear by shaving cream as a treatment for sunburns. Take note of the following steps:

  1. First, apply shaving cream to the sunburned area. Don't rub it in. Just let the shaving cream sit on your skin. The shaving cream should "bring out the heat" and cool the skin.
  2. After 30 minutes, rinse the shaving cream in a lukewarm or cool shower or bath.
  3. Repeat the next day if needed. The sunburn is supposed to disappear after a second application.

Does the Shaving Cream Method Work?

So, does the shaving cream method actually work? 

"First of all, there's not a lot of evidence behind using this as a treatment for sunburn," William Huang, MD, associate professor of dermatology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, told Health. "But I imagine it went viral on Facebook because nearly everyone has experienced a sunburn. And many people probably have some shaving cream in their cabinets. So, obviously, it's an appealing idea."

It's possible that shaving cream could help ease the pain and discomfort of sunburn, said Huang. Some of the ingredients in many shaving cream brands soothe the skin, like:

  • Hydrating water
  • Palm or coconut oil, which soothes and replenishes skin
  • Glycerin, an effective moisturizer
  • Aloe

At the end of the day, if shaving cream isn't hurting the person using it and seems to help, there's little harm in trying it, pointed out Huang. However, don't put too much faith in the method. 

Shaving cream can't prevent peeling. Whether you peel or not has to do with your skin type and how deep the burn is rather than how you treat it.

"Once you put that shaving cream or that aloe on, the damage is already done," explained Huang. "And if the damage has also reached those deeper layers of skin, you may very well have a blistering or peeling phenomenon."

If the sunburn is shallow, only damaging the top layer of skin, you may not peel. Still, either way, moisturizing keeps the skin hydrated and hastens the healing process.

"It's like a wrecking ball has come through the brick wall of your skin's surface, and you're trying to assist the skin in repairing that damage," added Huang.

How To Prevent Sunburns

You should avoid sunburns at all costs. So, if you're relying on the shaving cream method too often, you may want to reevaluate your sun-protection habits. Lessening the amount of time you're spending in the sun can help.

Sunburns raise the risk of melanoma, a severe type of skin cancer. In 2019, about 88,000 people were diagnosed with melanoma. More than 8,000 people died of melanoma during the same year.

Harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays are the leading cause of all skin cancers. You can protect yourself from sunburns, skin damage, and cancer by doing the following:

  • Choosing a broad spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30
  • Applying your sunscreen thoroughly at least 15 minutes before you go in the sun  
  • Reapplying your sunscreen at least every two hours
  • Limiting sun exposure, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the UV index is highest
  • Covering up as much as possible and wearing sunglasses that block 99% of UV rays
  • Avoiding sun lamps and tanning beds

Other Ways To Treat Sunburns

If shaving cream doesn't work, there are other methods you can try to treat sunburn. Those methods include:

  • Take over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, such as aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen, to help with pain, headache, and fever.
  • Take cool baths, or place a cool, wet cloth on the affected areas.
  • Avoid further sun exposure until the burn heals.
  • Apply a topical moisturizing cream, like aloe or 1% hydrocortisone cream.
  • Lightly bandage the affected area if it blisters.

Also, sunburns can dehydrate. So, drink plenty of water after you've gotten too much sun. If you have painful blisters, chills, or a fever over 101 degrees Fahrenheit, you may have a severe burn. In that case, see a healthcare provider as soon as possible.

A Quick Review

Shaving cream may help with sunburn. Many brands have ingredients that soothe the skin. However, sunscreen is not clinically proven to be an effective sunburn treatment. Still, the method likely won't hurt as long as you're not allergic. If sunscreen doesn't work, other home remedies can treat sunburns.

Preventing sunburns is essential. Exposure to the sun's harmful UV rays is the leading cause of skin cancer.

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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. United States cancer statistics: Data visualizations.

  2. Food and Drug Administration. Sunscreen: How to protect your skin from the sun.

  3. American Cancer Society. Spend time outdoors and stay sun-safe.

  4. National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. Sun exposure - sunburn.

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