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Easy sunburn-healing hack goes viral, but does it really work?

Be warned: It's a little messy.
by Rheana Murray / / Source: TODAY

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An easy way to get rid of a painful sunburn? Yes, please.

One woman's Facebook post about her simple — but slightly messy — trick to getting rid of sunburn has gone viral, with many people eager to find a solution for one of summer's biggest hazards. The trick? Applying menthol shaving cream on the burn, which the poster said "takes the heat out" and soothes skin.

While most people know that the only true remedy for a sunburn is preventing it in the first place using an effective sunscreen, it's clear that, just a week into summer, people are eager for a quick fix. More than 225,000 people shared the post.

But before you reach for the can of shaving cream, know this: Dermatologists say it's no magic solution for sunburns, although it might provide some relief.

"I've heard of people putting menthol on the skin, to soothe, like after shaving — that's why it's included in shave gels, because menthol has a cooling effect," said Dr. Anthony Rossi, a board-certified dermatologist with the American Academy Dermatology.

"Burned skin is like a wound."

His concern is that shaving foams have additional ingredients that might irritate the skin, especially when it's already inflamed. A better choice would be to use aloe vera to soothe the skin, or a gentle moisturizer. The AAD lists other tips for soothing sunburn on its website, such as drinking water and applying cool, damp towels to the skin.

"With a sunburn, you have active inflammation," Rossi said. "The skin is red and it can hurt and be tender. So when the skin is inflamed and open like that, we want to use very bland materials to trap moisture on top of the skin and avoid chemical irritants. So my one concern is that these foams have all these extra ingredients that might make them better shave creams, but not good moisturizers."

Dr. Susan Chon, a board-certified dermatologist at MD Anderson Cancer Center, agreed: "Burned skin is like a wound," she told TODAY. "You don't want to put all kinds of stuff on there. You could probably put a lot of things on your skin that are soothing. But if you have a more severe sunburn, you'd probably be better off taking ibuprofen."

Cindie Allen-Stewart, the woman who wrote the viral Facebook post, said that she's not trying to push her remedy on anyone — she just wanted to share what works for her. In her post, she shared a photo of her sunburned back, and another photo of her back after the shaving cream treatment, noticeably less red.

"If you don't want to try it, you don't have to try it, but it worked for me," she told TODAY, adding that the two photos were taken three days apart.

Allen-Stewart also emphasized the importance of SPF to avoid sunburns in the first place. "By no means am I endorsing going without sunscreen," she wrote.

At the end of the day, if it works for you, it can't hurt. "I don't see anything wrong with it if it gives them relief," Chon said.

Looking for something to soothe a burn, but not ready to go the shaving cream route? Our dermatologists recommended the following:

Sarna Anti-Itch Cream, $10, Amazon

TODAY has affiliate relationships, so we may get a small share of the revenue from your purchases. Items are sold by the retailer, not by TODAY. All prices are subject to change and items could sell out based on the merchant’s inventory.

Chon suggests Sarna as an option for soothing itchy, irritated skin.

Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion, $11, Target

Rossi recommends a gentle lotion like Cetaphil to lock in moisture after a sunburn.

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