Can You Actually Soothe A Sunburn With Tea Bags?

Walking in from a day at the beach and realizing you've brought back a nasty sunburn with you is no fun. Skin is bright red, raw to the touch, and maybe even beginning to blister. As diligent as we are about SPF, sometimes the sun can still slip in and leave its dreaded burning mark. According to the Mayo Clinic, overexposure to the sun can cause dark spots, wrinkled skin, and an increased risk for certain cancers. But what's done is done. Now you need to focus on the best way to treat your accidental burn, and surprisingly, the best remedy may already be in your kitchen.

Dr. Katie Beleznay, a dermatologist in Vancouver, tells Women's Health that tea bags may be the healing fix you need after a day in the sun. "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," she says.

The tannins in tea can provide relief

Tannins are similar to polyphenols because they have antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, per Healthline. According to Livestrong, the polyphenols in tannins decrease the damage that UV rays have on the skin. Healthline reports that black tea has high levels of the tannins theaflavins and thearubigins, which could protect against cellular damage. Black tea has the highest concentration of tannins, according to Women's Health. Interestingly, even if you drink tea with tannins, your skin can benefit from the healing properties, according to a 2016 review published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.

So, if you have some Earl Gray tea bags in the pantry, that's a great place to start. Allure reports that the bergamot oil in black tea may explain why this tea works so well. That said, green tea isn't a bad option. Green tea is known for its antioxidant properties, and it has anti-aging qualities that black tea does not. 

How to properly apply tea bags

While more research is needed to know just how beneficial tea bags are for sunburns, the good news is that there is little risk in doing so. Women's Health reports that, while unlikely, some people may experience an adverse reaction. If you're concerned, apply a tea bag to a small patch of skin and monitor it for any adverse reactions.

To treat a sunburn with tea bags, soak a bag in tepid water for a couple of minutes until the water changes color. Remove the tea bag and apply it to the sunburn. Dr. Beleznay notes that you can always apply more tea bags to larger areas of skin. You may not feel any changes right away, but as long as the tea bags aren't causing irritation, you can keep them on your skin for several minutes. An alternative to tea bags is soaking a soft cloth in a batch of tea that has cooled and applying it to your sunburn.