Ever step into the shower after a blissful day at the beach only to realize—ouch!—you weren’t as diligent with your SPF as you thought, and, yep, you’ve got serious case of sun-scorched skin? Well, you’re human—it happens. If the first thing you do after hopping onto your bath mat is enter a dark internet hole of at-home remedies in hopes of rescuing your hot-to-the-touch, tomato-hued body, you might run across some recent viral advice that presents a super unusual solution: shaving cream. Yeah, yeah, sounds ridiculous, but could it work?
A Texan mom shared a Facebook post outlining how—after sunscreen failed to protect her skin on outdoor outings—her mother-in-law suggested treating her burns with menthol foam shaving cream. “Usually, it takes just a couple days from start to finish, but this takes the heat out of it fast and makes it more comfortable on you,” she wrote in the post. The process works like this: You cover sun-damaged areas with shaving cream, let it sit for 30 minutes or so, then rinse off in lukewarm or cold water to reveal cooled-down, less-irritated burn. But dermatologists aren’t convinced; it seems mom might not know best.
“There is no topical shaving cream to treat or reverse this damaged skin.” —Kim Nichols, MD
“Visible sunburn is a symptom of damaged skin from UV sun damage,” explains Kim Nichols, MD, a dermatologist in Greenwich, Connecticut. “There is no topical shaving cream to treat or reverse this damaged skin. However, it you’re looking to calm or cool the skin post-sunburn, there are better ways to go about it than using shaving cream.” Basically, while you can do damage control to cool down your sizzled skin and make yourself a little more comfortable, the sun damage is already done.
NYC-based dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, adds that though he wouldn’t recommend the sudsy method as his first line of treatment, the idea of using menthol-based shaving creams to soothe a sunburn isn’t completely crazy. “Many shaving cream comes with hydrating ingredients, which is why they are used to prep the skin before using a razor,” he says, adding that menthol feels cool on the skin and has some documented anti-inflammatory properties. Still, Dr. Nichols says to turn to a more commonly recommended course of treatment, like slathering on a layer hydrocortisone cream and taking an NSAID, like Ibuprofen.
The bottom line: Smoothing on a layer of shaving cream that specifically contains menthol may help you find some relief, but there’s not yet evidence that this literally-under-the-bathroom-sink approach to treating a sunburn works better than anti-inflammatory cooling agents like aloe or hydrocortisone cream. And, of course, you can save yourself from the whole painful ordeal by consistently reapplying your sunblock.