While Noxzema is primarily used as a face cleanser and moisturizer, the recipe for this product was developed over 100 years ago -- for the purpose of treating sunburn. Over the years, in order to increase sales, this skincare cream has been marketed for a more expanded use, as the primary ingredients -- camphor, menthol and eucalyptus -- are also touted to help treat dry skin, eczema, insect bites, and general aches and pains. While Unilever, the corporation that owns the Noxzema brand, admits this product hasn’t been tested for treating sunburns, many people continue to use it for this purpose.
Steps to Use Noxzema to Relieve a Sunburn
A first step after noticing or suspecting sun damage is to wash the skin with lukewarm water, to remove sweat, dirt and other particles. Gently pat skin with a soft, clean towel to remove excess water.
If your skin is red but not blistered, you may get some relief by applying Noxzema to your skin. Apply gently and liberally, so that the cream remains white, and allow time for the cream to absorb. If necessary, place a towel down before sitting or resting, to protect your furniture or bedding from the cream. Try to avoid placing clothing on the affected skin until you complete these steps.
Keep your skin moisturized and reapply Noxzema every 2 to 8 hours, as needed for pain relief, until the sunburn pain is gone. If the Noxzema does not seem to be helping, try using an aloe vera moisturizer instead. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest the use of pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil) or aspirin, if needed, to treat headache, fever or pain. Speak with your doctor about the best pain relievers for you.
Wash affected skin as needed after your initial treatment with Noxzema. When you shower, use cool or lukewarm water. A shower with low water pressure or a lukewarm bath may help minimize discomfort.
Although Noxzema has not been specifically studied on sunburns, available research on its ingredients provides insight on why this cream may help. The menthol in Noxzema may provide a cooling effect on the skin, according to a November 2007 report in "Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology," while limited research suggests the camphor and eucalyptus may offer relief of pain and irritation, and perhaps reduce the risk of infections, according to a February 2013 article in "International Journal of Case Reports and Images," and a report in the February 2001 issue of "Journal of Ethnopharmacology."
Noxzema or other skin moisturizers may provide relieve for minor sunburns, but should not be used on more severe burns unless your doctor approves. Seek medical care for burn treatment if you have severe pain, fever, chills, nausea or vomiting, or if you have blisters that are large or severe, or blisters that appear infected. If Noxzema causes any irritation to your skin, discontinue use. Also avoid mixing Noxzema with other skin care products, as this could cause irritation.
Reviewed by Kay Peck, MPH RD
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Sun Exposure
- American Academy of Dermatology: How to Treat Sunburn
- Handbook of Cosmetic Science and Technology, Fourth Edition; Andre O. Barel, et al.
- Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology: Menthol: A Refreshing Look at This Ancient Compound
- International Journal of Case Reports and Images: Camphor (Cinnamomum Camphora), A Traditional Remedy With the History of Treating Several Diseases
- Journal of Ethnopharmacology: Antimicrobial and Phytochemical Studies on 45 Indian Medicinal Plants Against Multi-Drug Resistant Human Pathogens