Natural Remedies for Sunburn

Natural Remedies for Sunburn Relief

I write a lot about the benefits of the sun and how it is important for Vitamin D production, hormone balance, getting enough blue light and many other functions in the body. A recent study reported that

Women who never sunbathe during the summer are twice as likely to die than those who sunbathe everyday, a major study has shown.

Natural Remedies for Sunburn

While careful sun exposure can be very beneficial, sunburn can be very harmful and should absolutely be avoided. I’ve found that I don’t burn nearly as easily since changing my diet, but (rarely) sunburn still happens. When it does, I try to find ways to reduce the pain and redness quickly but also to help the body heal and hopefully minimize the damage. I’ve noticed that I feel better when I get regular sun exposure and that when I’m eating a diet that supports skin health and sun tolerance, I don’t burn easily at all. When I go somewhere like the beach, I absolutely prefer to get sun exposure carefully, use natural sunscreen when needed, or (better) cover-up or leave the sun when I’ve had enough, but these are the remedies I use if my skin gets a little pink:

Hydration

A sunburn, like any kind of burn, can be drying to the skin and often the time spent in the sun getting the sunburn causes dehydration. Just as diet is important in avoiding sunburn in the first place, hydration is important to help the recovery process. I drink lots of water, herbal teas, kombucha and water kefir to keep hydrated.

Aloe

Also vera is an age-old remedy for sunburn. It can be very cooling, but I’ve found that the plant works better than a gel or lotion. If you use a gel, look for a high quality one without preservatives. I’ve used this one with good results.

ACV & Herbs Spray

This is the most effective remedy I’ve tried for the pain of sunburn. Apple cider vinegar (diluted) is considered an effective remedy for sunburn, but I’ve found that it is more effective when combined with a strong tea of soothing herbs. Here’s how I make it: Boil 1 cup of water and add 2 tablespoons of dried mint leaf, lavender flowers, and dried plantain leaf. Remove from heat and let cool. Once cool, strain out the herbs. Add an equal amount of apple cider vinegar to the cooled tea mixture and pour in to a spray bottle. Spray on burn as often as needed to cool and soothe the pain.

Essential Oils

Essential oils like Lavender and helichrysum can also help soothe the burn and speed recovery. I mix them in a bottle of water bottle and spritz on the skin as needed.

Coconut Oil

I use coconut oil as a mild sunscreen. I’ve seen SPF ratings for coconut oil ranging from 5-10 SPF. It isn’t strong enough to use alone for all-day sun exposure but is a great every day option for mild sun protection and skin health. Many people also swear by it for helping with sunburn. I haven’t tried it the day of a burn, but have used it for the few days after that and it seems to help stop peeling and reduce the redness more quickly.

Ever had a bad sunburn? What remedies worked for you? Share below!

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Reader Comments

  1. Vinegar stops the burning process which otherwise continues even after you’ve left the sun. I keep a small container of white vinegar in my glove compartment to apply as soon as we return to the car. Then we apply Noxema which was invented by a man looking for a burn remedy. It cools and hydrates the burned skin.

    • Vinegar is absolutely the best remedy I’ve used. If it’s really bad, a cold bath with vinegar is the way to go.

  2. Great post!!

    For me: Lavender essential oil! Sometimes in coconut oil with a bit of vitamin e and maybe a bit of frankincense, opening the pores with a warm cloth to let the oils in (almost like a super mild version of oil cleansing).

    Oh, and reapplying as needed that first day (read reapply mercilessly). Possibly overkill, but…

    Results I’ve noticed – extra speedy recovery and great pain relief.

    • Using an oil like coconut oil is a very bad choice on a fresh sunburn.

      • Hi Amanda! I’m curious to know why that’s a bad idea. I am currently coated in coconut oil after a bad burn today :/

        • I got a really bad sunburn on Sunday and proceeded to use Vinegar first and now I have been applying a mixture of coconut oil mixed with Lavender and peppermint essential oils and it actually took the burn away and is now turning into a nice tan. I am very fair skinned and usually blister and peel very badly. I am so impressed with everything I used and this is the first time I tried coconut oil….it works!!!!

          • What are the measurements you use? I’ve got those ingredients and would rather make that now than wait until Tuesday when I can go get some aloe gel.

      • Using oil on regular burns is not recommended; however, a sunburn is not actually a burn. The heat of the sun does not burn your skin, nor does it directly damage the tissue. Rather, the UV rays damage the DNA of the skin cells, and the cells self-destruct. So, using oil on the skin in this case won’t be harmful like it would be for skin that was truly burned.

  3. I love using the diluted ACV spray followed by Emu oil. It instantly soothes, helps prevent peeling, and if you do end up peeling it’s great for anti-itch relief.

  4. I use instant tea. I mix a little with some water & smooth it on with a cotton ball. It is soothing & takes the sting out.

  5. You have some great ideas. I love your website! I have been struggling with starting a Paleo life style but your website has given me the motivation I need. I am a new mommy and I want to live a healthier life style for my little one.

  6. My son burnt a bit at the beach last week. The vinegar helped a bit after a bath (with baking soda). I put on cocoanut oil and his relief was immediate! I had to put it on after a few hours, but it helped so much!!

    • yes coconut oil is the miracle cure for relief i used it after acute sunburn on face after days of trying everything this is the answer

  7. “Women who never sunbathe during the summer are twice as likely to die than those who sunbathe everyday, a major study has shown.”

    So does that mean that if I sunbathe everyday I won’t die? 🙂

    • HEHE, I was sort of thinking the same thing.
      Guess I’ll be living forever then eh?

  8. That study on sunbathing was exposed as cherry picked data combined for effect.

    “The article references a study that tracked nearly 30,000 Swedish women for 20 years and monitored sunbathing habits. The data showed that women who avoided sun were twice as likely to die as women who got more sunlight, but there were only two causes of death tracked: melanoma or “all-cause mortality” which is a catch-all.”

    • thank you! We always need these confirmations in life!

  9. My guess is that the sunbathing is more related to activity level than sun burn. And what does “sunbathe” mean? Laying out in your swimsuit? I am very fairskinned (a redhead) with past history of skin cancer. I try to use cover ups (hats and clothes with SPF 50). I do use sunscreen, mostly one that is zinc oxide based. I found the burn lotion from an EMT called “Burn Free” it is not crunchy per se, but works well. It has tea tree oil in it. Love using aloe once burnt…but if I was making something myself I would try something with aloe and tea tree oil. Oh the Bun Free has an aloe texture, sort of like a gel. And skin cancer and sun damage don’t show up until you are older. So even if you want to experiment for yourself, please keep the little ones covered. And I check my vitamin D yearly and I am always in a good range (my doctor thinks I am too high most of the time).

  10. Lavender and peppermint essential oils mixed with organic, natural aloe Vera gel is awesome! I burn super easy, so this is a tried and tested solution!

    • What are your measurements for this? I’d like to buy some aloe Vera gel at Whole Foods on Tuesday and try this.

      • I was waiting for measurements also, how much of each oil to how much water. If u find out could u pls let me know?

  11. I have found that sesame oil is great for put on your skin when your out in the sun. It protects
    your skin a well as hydrates it. You do not sunburn either.

  12. My husband and I chanced not wearing sunscreen (just coconut oil) at the beach yesterday and I got spectacularly burned…

    But several things are helping.

    Sunburn is a huge inflammation, so I’ve been taking vitamin C, Curcumin (an anti-inflammatory made from turmeric), and willow bark internally (as I remember to).

    Topically, I applied a mixture of equal parts: glycerin, rosewater, and lemon juice, mixed together in a small glass and applied with some cotton. It is very soothing, despite the acidity of the lemon juice, and I think the glycerin helps it stay moist longer. The smell is much better than that of vinegar!

    After that mostly dried, I have covered the area with honey–I know this sounds weird, but I am sitting here, sticky as all get out, but am the most comfortable I have been all day!

    And of course, ice works wonders. But one cannot always be icing one’s self…so I’m thinking, since I bought some aloe vera juice today, of putting that in ice cube trays and freezing it for putting on burns–would chill and soothe at the same time, and keep much longer than it would in the fridge (because I rarely use a whole quart before it goes bad).

  13. Many of us in Australia grew up with the simplest remedy ever. Rub a cut ripe tomato on the burn. It’ll take the sting away like magic. Repeat as needed. A day or so later, then the burn has definitely subsided, a light cream with vitamin E should help healing.

  14. slather the sunburn with your hair conditioner instead of lotion. let it dry on your skin.
    this works really well.

  15. I made plantain infused acv just for sunburns and poison ivy this year. Pick a bunch of plantain and cut it up, add to a jar and top it off with acv. Then let it sit for two weeks at least. Strain and add to a spray bottle. Apply liberal amounts as needed for sunburns.

    • What is acv? I have also heard that boiling lettuce or plantains into a paste can be good for sunburn, but have not tried it yet.

      • Plantain leaves are very different from plantain *tubers*, in reference to your wanting to make a paste from plantain. Plantain leaves aren’t even from the same plant. Google images can show you the specific difference.

        In addition, there’s more than one type of plantain leaf. Each looks quite different. Again, best to check & know the differences between them.

        It’s important to do a bit of research before jumping into making home remedies. They’re spectacular….when made & used properly.

  16. I use aloe vera juice, 1/8 tsp. vit. E oil, 1 1/2 tsp. fractionated coconut oil, 2 drop roman chammomile, 2 drops lavender and 2 drops melaleuca in a 2 oz bottle with a mist top. It works well:)

  17. Thanks for the acv & herb recipe , i hadn’t heard of this remedy. I will make this today as we are going on holiday tomorrow 🙂

  18. This article came just in time! I got burned pretty badly 2 days ago. Thankfully, a fellow hippie gave me a little container of her homemade solution: a cream made of comfrey, olive oil and beeswax. I have to say, my burn is healing amazingly fast and it feels great to put on, it’s not greasy at all.

  19. I used the homemade lotion i made a few months ago. It helped a bit but i burned really badly so it took several days to feel better. I like all of these recs!

  20. I have to 2nd the BURN FREE. (I’m not a seller of the product) just happened upon it when I got a horrible bacon grease burn an asked a Pharmacist.

    I don’t even have a scar! It is amazing!

    I tried the ACV after I burned at the beach and it was not effective for me.

  21. RE: the herbal ACV spray… is it 2T of EACH herb, or 2T total of the 3 combined?

    Thanks! Can’t wait to make and try it! (when the children and I inevitably get burned again)

  22. I got a severe sunburn as a teen and the doctor told my grandmother to use Witch Hazel on the burns – you can apply with cotton balls or, if a large area like I had, soak a hand towel/tea towel in it and lay that on the burned area. It does smell pretty bad but not as bad as the ACV 🙂 It helped so much with the red, pain, and swelling and I ended up hardly blistering up. As an adult, I use Witch Hazel on all burns, followed by the aloe alternating for the first day and then when the redness goes away, we use vitamin E cream. I’m a fair skinned redhead and my youngest is even paler than I am so we are seriously careful with his skin. We use sunscreen, cover up, and avoid more than short times in the sun.

  23. Mom used to put noxema or witch hazel lotion on my sunburns. I use my homemade coconut oil lotion bars with shea butter and cover up for prevention.

  24. My daughter was burnt after color guard practice and asked for aloe with lidocaine. I couldn’t afford that, but I made my own with 3 Oz aloe gel, 1 teaspoon of oragel maximum strength, ten drops of tea tree oil and stored it in the fridge. She said it worked really well.

  25. I worked in the garden 3 days ago, and got red (I pur aloe gel on), day of rest, then 1 day ago, Worked all day in garden,sore muscles and sore sun burn, (aloe vera gel) and yesterday went fishing, and I got into more sun (but not intentionally, I had a thicker strapped tank top, but it made the sun burn worse,,, ( blended 3 potatoes and big aloe leaf and applied to back and went to sleep, (woke up when my sun woke up with a sun burn pain. (He had sunscreen on, but I didn’t know it expired last yr, I just bought it from dollar store on way to fishing, he’s only four, I feel like a horrible mother (he was only our fishing day)I put aloe on him, he went back to sleep and I rinsed my potato aloe mixture off, with cool water and then went to sleep,,,,t hurts worse now…I never burn but um taking a medicine that could cause my skin to be different to sun,, what should I do…

  26. All these are great suggestions. My old roommate told me that thoroughly exfoliating the burned areas with a washcloth in the shower helped speed up the healing process enormously. Something about the dead skin cells coming off. Has anyone heard of this?

    • I’m horrified when I hear of some of the advice people get from friends. This is just an all-around bad idea. Think about this: if you scalded yourself, would you immediately start scrubbing your burned skin? Of course not. Nobody would do this.

      Don’t EVER exfoliate skin that is still red, inflamed OR sensitive to the touch. It will further damage your already damaged skin & could lead to scarring, incredible pain, or worse. Wait until the burn has completely subsided – meaning several days later, at least – THEN exfoliate. But gently. Moisturize well with a plant-based body oil first & let it do its job for a couple of hours. Later, with lukewarm water & a soft, wet washcloth, gently remove any dead or peeling skin. Rinse off, pat dry gently. Follow with another application of plant-based body oil. Calendula infused almond oil is an excellent choice for nearly any kind of skin trauma.

      Your skin has already been traumatized by the sun. You shouldn’t be traumatizing it further.

  27. I was outside all day at the zoo and got sunburnt. I rushed home and applied a glob of coconut oil with 3 drops lavender and a bit of myrrh and the relief is wonderful. No more pain or burning. I’ve used this remedy on myself and my kids when we get an accidental burn and it also seemingly takes care of the sunburn overnight.

  28. I love reading your blog about natural care. I have never gotten sunburn, or severe sunburn, but it is good info to have about protecting my skin against to much sun. ( I love to sit and soak up the sun’s rays – in moderation)

  29. Just wondering, do you use Helichylrysum italicum essential oil for anything? I’ve read a lot about it recently.

  30. This past summer I mowed in shorts (not something that I normally do) and the tops of my thighs were like lobsters. I had recently placed an order from one of the places I get essential oils and they had sent a free sample of their sunburn relief cream. I tried it immediately after my shower, again that night, and by the next morning it was still dry, cracked, hot, sore, and outright painful. I didn’t feel the stuff was working and, honestly, it stunk to high hell. I always have a blend of jojoba and frankincense on hand and, just to get some kind of relief for the hydrating part of it, I rubbed some of that in before bed and by the next morning the burn was almost 50% gone. I did that once a day for 2 or 3 days total and the burn was not only gone but there wasn’t a single area of peeling!

  31. How about using your Vinegar of the Four Thieves diluted with water?

  32. so I just returned home from San Diego…yesterday we spent about a good 4+ hours out walking on the beach…overcast that turned into a beautiful sunny day. I’ve been miserable since last night… the 6 hour car ride home today…I contemplated just crying like a 5 year old and throwing a fit…then realized that’s not cute for a 30 year old women. upon arrival home, I immediately showered and fell asleep….woke up a few hours later ready to scrape off every last inch of my burned skin with a knife… so I started googling…came across this and just decided to try a mixture of things (pretty much out of desperation). APPLE CIDER VINEGAR SAVED MY LIFE!!! thank you!!!!!!!! I wet a sponge cloth and laid it on my skin, let it set for a few minutes then rotated it around and could feel the sting just practically disappear. my skin went groom being on fire, to a much more tolerable temperature. omg I couldn’t kissed someone! then I tried the coconut oil, with lavender oil…meh… it worked, but it wasn’t the relief I was desperately seeking. so I kept going…witch hazel didn’t do much. then I went to my Vitacost box, that was still sitting on my porch, cause it hurt to bad just thinking about bringing it inside earlier. I remembered I’d bought a crap load of oils (I make my own for beauty products) and thought I’d give something in there a try, again, out of desperation…

    low and behold, after about a 5 minute unboxing of my massive order, I found myself just starting to mix anything that I could rip out of the plastic bags quickly…grabbed a container to mix them all in and holy crap, I’d swear I’d thought I was a miracle healer!

    I washed my skin again with the ACV and applied my desperation concoction… it was amazing!

    I used…
    lavender oil
    peppermint oil
    sweet almond oil
    vitamin e oil
    rose hip oil
    evening primrose oil
    camellia oil
    apricot oil

    I know not everyone just has these oils laying around the house… but my desperation to keep my skin hydrated was my main concern cause I could even move my arms without feeling like it was going to crack. I FEEL LIKE A WHOLE NEW WOMAN!!! …a little over dramatic…but that’s the story of my life! I mostly thing it was the combo of the ACV rinse and the peppermint oil…so anyone looking for something immediately soothing….there’s your answer. cold compress with ACV followed by peppermint oil diluted with some form of carrier oil (in my case, an entire arsenal)… I just wanna say thank you to everyone who had an idea, or something to share….you guys probably saved sometimes life tonight, because I’m positive that the amount of pain I was in would’ve escalated tomorrow and someone would’ve had to have paid the ultimate price! jk!!

    • Bee,
      Can you share the quantities of each ingredient?

      Thanks!

      Chris

  33. Using pure aloe Vera gel (that you cut from your own aloe plants) by pulverizing it in a blender & adding just a little marula oil works like magic on my sunburns. However, I ALWAYS make sure to bathe & then apply the aloe generously several times a day or several times before going to bed. By the next morning, it is pretty much completely gone. And yes, I am fair skinned & burn every single time I am out in the sun for longer than 30 minutes!

  34. I just used the cider vinegar diluted with water and lavender essential oil and it has helped my unexpected, but very red sunburn! So grateful for this site, the articles and the feedback from all of you!