Natural Sunburn Remedies for Healthy Skin

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Wellness Mama » Blog » Natural Remedies » Natural Sunburn Remedies for Healthy Skin

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. That doesn’t mean I take sun damage, sunburn, or skin cancer lightly. Far from it!

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.

In this post, I’ll go into some of the natural remedies for sunburn that have helped most, and review safe sun practices.

How Does Sunburn Happen?

When the body has had enough sun exposure, it produces melanin (this is what causes tanning) to protect the skin from further exposure. But this can only help so much. When the skin is exposed to the sun for much longer than is safe, it causes sunburn. This occurs when UV light damages the DNA of the skin. The body senses this damage and sends blood to help heal the skin, causing inflammation.

No matter how much sunscreen you have on, or how dark your skin is, if you stay out in the sun for hours and hours you are at risk for sunburn.

Natural Home Remedies for Sunburn

Careful sun exposure can be very beneficial. 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:


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 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:

This remedy is cooling, so it helps with the heat of the sunburn. The herbs and ACV are also healing and soothing to the skin.

CBD Spray

I find CBD oil to be incredibly helpful for stings, bites, or burns and created this cooling DIY sunburn spray. It gives immediate relief, takes only a few minutes to mix up (if you keep CBD on hand like I do), and lasts for up to a year.

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 everyday 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 (and don’t recommend it), but have used it for the few days after that and it seems to help stop peeling and reduce the redness more quickly.

Vitamin E

This nutrient is a strong antioxidant that can help prevent and reverse skin damage from sunburn. Eating vitamin E rich foods like leafy greens, avocados, nuts, and seeds, can help aid in preventing damage, but using vitamin E topically can help soothe already sunburned skin. Add a few drops of vitamin E oil to aloe vera gel before applying to the skin.

Raw Yogurt

While there are no studies to back up this claim, many people have found sunburn relief using raw yogurt or milk. It makes sense that the cold of yogurt or milk could be soothing to the skin. It’s also thought that the probiotics in the yogurt and the live enzymes in the milk can help heal the skin.

Cool Bath or Compress

Cool water can help ease the heat and pain of a sunburn. A cool or lukewarm bath is one way to do this. Add in a few cups of chamomile or calendula tea or a 1/4 cup of ACV to soothe and heal the skin. A few cups of baking soda added to bath water can also be soothing. Black tea also has anti-inflammatory properties and can help relieve sunburn pain. Make a strong cup with a few tea bags. Then add it to the bath water, spray it on the skin, or add it to a cool compress.

What Not to Do After a Sunburn

Now that we know what to do to soothe a sunburn, let’s talk about what not to do.

  • Don’t pop blisters or peel skin. Let your body do the healing it needs to do.
  • Don’t put oil or oil-based lotions on your sunburn in the first 24 hours. It can trap heat in and make the sunburn worse.
  • Don’t go back into the sun (even with sunscreen on). Cover up with clothing and stay out of the sun until the skin heals.
  • Don’t cover your sunburn with makeup until it’s healed.
  • Avoid tight-fitting clothes.

The bottom line is, don’t do anything that could aggravate the sunburn or slow healing.

Safe Sun Practices

As with most health-related topics, prevention is as important (if not more so!) than treating sunburn. Exposure to UV rays is very important for optimal health but many of us don’t know what safe sun exposure looks like. Here are some guidelines:

  • Get a short dose of midday sun – At midday UVB rays (the ones that produce vitamin D) are at their highest concentration so the body can get more vitamin D in less time.
  • Eat a healthy diet – Not surprisingly, diet plays a large role in how healthy the skin is, and therefore, how it responds to sun exposure. Healthy fats, antioxidants (from vegetables and fruit), and healthy proteins are important for healthy skin and avoiding sunburn.
  • Work your way up – If you are very pale like I am, start with just 5-10 minutes of sun exposure at a time and work your way up from there. Because a deficiency of vitamin D in the body can make burning more likely, it’s important to start slow.
  • Avoid the sun after you get enough – After getting enough sun exposure for optimal health, stay in the shade, use cover-up clothing or put on natural sunscreen when needed.

Safe sun practices (not just sunscreen!) are important for avoiding skin damage and are always my first choice over sunscreen.

How Much Sun Is Too Much?

How much sun to get each day depends on a lot of factors including the positioning of the sun (both midday and closer to the equator have higher UVB rays), UV index on any particular day, and your skin tone.

Very light skinned people should start with just 5 minutes of sun exposure and work up from there. People with slightly darker skin (those who are light skinned but can tan easily) may be able to handle up to 20 minutes of sun. The darker the skin, the more likely you can stay in the sun longer.

The darkest skinned people may be able to stay in the sun for an hour or more without getting a sunburn. Of course, all of this depends on other factors like the ones mentioned above and also how well a person’s diet protects their skin.

The key is to start on the lower end and work your way up. Don’t wait for a sunburn before finding shade!

Of course, I’m a mom and not a doctor, and you should always consult with yours and do your own research to make the best plan for you and your family. Your approach may vary based on genetic factors and where you live.

Sunburn Relief: Bottom Line

The best thing to do is to avoid getting a sunburn to begin with. That means improving the diet to support skin health, get enough sun every day (10 minutes or less for fair skinned people and as long as an hour or more for very dark skinned people). Covering up or staying in the shade also helps avoid too much sun. When you can’t avoid the sun, natural mineral sunscreen is the next best choice.

But sunburns do still happen. The remedies listed above are easy ways to soothe and heal the skin after a sunburn that can make the healing process easier on everyone (especially mom!). If you get a severe sunburn, check with your doctor for the best treatment.

This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Scott Soerries, MD, Family Physician and Medical Director of SteadyMD. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

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

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


65 responses to “Natural Sunburn Remedies for Healthy Skin”

  1. Hails Avatar

    Was burnt bad at 8k feet elevation. Paramedic said if I do one thing, buy white vinegar, & keep the burn damp with vinegar until the skin stops feeling warm to the touch. Stung for 30 secs, (stinging gets worse if the severity of the burn is worse but STICK WITH IT, the stinging goes away and so does the BURN!) I stopped halfway through to see which side healed faster or if this was a backwoods wives’ tale….NO. After a few hours the difference was stark. Side without vinegar blistered/ached for days. Vinegar side instantly lost the “heat” that skin maintains after a burn, it didn’t peel and lost the red color by evening!!! Turned into a nice tan!

  2. Karen B Avatar
    Karen B

    I use Emu Oil to treat really bad sunburns and other burns for that matter! Works great.

  3. Uma Avatar

    Thank You for Katie for this site. I am very badly burnt on my face T zone since Tuesday(5/22/2018) and suffering, in spite of applying coconut oil . Googling for natural cure , found your site and just patted my face T zone with Braggs ACV and after initial sting, there is no burning pain!!! Like the other ladies are recommending I will put Coconut oil and fresh aloe vera gel starting tomorrow.

    Also I was using Himalaya soap free Neem face wash for only since yesterday and so far it is good.

    Thanks so much.
    Ps- I am Indo American I am surprised that i am getting sunburned so easy .

  4. Carol Avatar

    I put raw unfiltered honey on,my very red,dry & rough skin on,my face after unintentionally getting it sunburned. Slept with my honey mask on all night. This was after doing a yogurt mask early same day & allowing it to dry before rinsing it off with cool water.
    It’s so much better today. Still doing honey till its all better.
    Am using coconut oil in,between too.Now going to buy some she’s butter,as pure as I can find !

  5. Em Avatar

    Does it matter that the herbs are dried for the acv spray? We have most of these growing in our garden and I was wondering if we could just use them fresh. As for theplantain leaf, does is matter what kind of plantain leaf is used or are they all the same? There’s 200 different types of plantain so it would be good to know. I think we have broadleaf plantain in our garden. I would appreciate a quick response because I just got burned yesterday ?

  6. Jennifer Avatar

    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!

  7. Chelsea Avatar

    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!

  8. Bee Barcus Avatar
    Bee Barcus

    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!!

    1. Chris Avatar

      Can you share the quantities of each ingredient?



  9. Julie Avatar

    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!

  10. Tanya Skinner Avatar
    Tanya Skinner

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

  11. Koketta Avatar

    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)

  12. SIerra Avatar

    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.

  13. Casey Avatar

    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?

    1. Sandra Avatar

      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.

  14. Lenah Avatar

    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…

  15. Elizabeth Cotten Avatar
    Elizabeth Cotten

    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.

  16. Robyn Avatar

    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.

  17. Lynn Avatar

    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.

  18. kat Avatar

    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)

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