Back in 2018, a strange life hack went viral. It purported that you could apply shaving cream to a sunburn instead of the more traditional aloe vera to reduce pain and swelling. And it turns out this is true!
This nugget came from a Facebook post in which the poster suggested to specifically use shaving cream with menthol in it. The menthol, she argued, produces a soothing, cooling feeling when you apply it because its molecules trigger the specific receptors on your skin which transfer the message, “Hey, this is cold!” to your brain.
Some shaving creams also have aloe in them, which has a cooling effect and acts as an anti-inflammatory by blocking the enzymes which cause your skin tissue to swell. Swelling amplifies the pain, which is why putting aloe on a sunburn feels so good.
But while shaving cream can possibly help soothe the burn in an emergency — it contains moisturizers that make it easier to shave, after all, so it’s better than nothing — it really shouldn’t be your first option. “There are so many other ingredients in shaving cream that it wouldn’t be my first go-to for a sunburn,” says dermatologist Anthony M. Rossi. “Things like aloe and menthol have a cooling effect, but many creams also have ingredients like alcohol that are going to sting the skin.”
It’s just common sense, really: Shave Cream is designed to help you shave your face, and it does a really amazing job of that! After-sun lotions are designed to soothe your sunburn, and they do a great job of that. Could you shave your face with after-sun lotion? Well, probably, if you had to, yes — but it wouldn’t do nearly as good a job as something designed for that purpose.
So, keep that bottle of aloe vera on hand. Or better still, a bottle of sunscreen so you don’t get burned in the first place.