Witch Doctor Wednesday: Sunburn

DISCLAIMER: These ‘remedies’ are old, untested and possibly (probably) unsafe.

So, the annual five-minute window of sunshine is here, and as always everyone’s involved in a race against time to get a deep and even suntan which will, for the rest of the year, belie the actual climate we live in…

As ever, some of us (not me, for once) greet the task too enthusiastically and end up looking like embarrassed flamingos. Well, back in 1929 this was just as undesirable: so much so that there are actually two treatments for sunburn in my encyclopaedia.




“SUNBURN an old remedy for
Soak 2 drams quince seeds to 4oz cold water for 44 hours. Dissolve half a teaspoonful borax in 1 oz water and stir in 1 oz glycerine after straining. Add 1 teaspoonful eau-de-Cologne and make up to 8 oz with water. Bathe the face with the lotion three times a day if there is any trace of sunburn.”


I don’t really know what to make of this. I don’t know what properties quince seeds have (if any), especially when soaked in water for 44 hours (no more, no less!). Frankly anything dubbed ‘old’ in a publication that was printed 85 years ago smacks of wives’ tales, but at least you’d smell nice with this one.

And so on to the more alarming of the two…


“SUNBURNT SKIN to restore natural colour to.
To restore the natural colour to sunburnt skin, hydrogen peroxide is the quickest remedy. It is an excellent substance for bleaching the skin. It also stimulates the functional activity of the skin glands, thus helping materially in rejuvenating it.
For delicate skin the wash should be diluted with an equal volume of water. To obtain an even better result, it is best to add four or five drops of ammonia to every ounce of the solution. This should be done at the time of use and not before.”


Hydrogen peroxide, that most delicate and soothing of chemicals to put on burnt skin…

I looked up medical uses of this, and it can be used in a very dilute solution as an antiseptic on small wounds, but not on large patches of skin, where it can cause BLISTERS. No pain no gain, right?! Thank God for aftersun!


Perhaps we should just not get burnt in the first place – or at least follow this instruction from 1934:


By G W Romer at Flickr: Creative Commons

By G W Romer at Flickr: Creative Commons


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