14 Natural Ways to Treat a Sunburn

It’s bound to happen this summer. You’re out enjoying a beautiful sunny day and, despite your best efforts, you notice the disturbing sting of a sunburn on your skin. At the first sign of sunburn, you can take actions to protect your skin against further damage and heal it quickly.

We’ve put together a list of 14 of the best natural remedies to treat your sunburn. Most of the items you’ll need to treat your sunburn can be found in your own kitchen.

First, Rule Out Sun Poisoning

It’s not uncommon for people to assume they have a bad sunburn when they actually have sun poisoning. According to the experts at Healthline, “Sun poisoning refers to a case of severe sunburn. It occurs after you’ve been exposed to ultraviolet [UV] rays from the sun for an extended period of time.”

While anyone can experience sun poisoning, a person is at greater risk for sun poisoning if he or she is extremely fair-skinned, is taking oral contraceptives or antibiotics or has relatives who have had skin cancer.

If you’ve spent a long day in the sun and you have the following symptoms afterward, you may have sun poisoning:

  • Extreme pain, redness, and swelling of the skin
  • Peeling or blistering skin
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Headache or confusion
  • Fever
  • Dizziness or fainting

If you think you may have sun poisoning, see your doctor. You may need intravenous fluids and other medical care.

1. Drink Extra Water

Most importantly, make sure you’re staying hydrated. Your skin is dry and inflamed from the sunburn. Like any other part of your body, your skin will heal better as your fluids are replenished. Drink more water than usual when you have a sunburn.

2. Stay Inside

When your skin is burned and blistered, stay out of the sun if you can. If you need to go out, stay covered up with long sleeves and a wide-brimmed hat. Your burned skin and the new skin you are regenerating will be particularly sensitive to the sun and prone to further damage.

3. Use a Cool Compress

One of the most effective ways to decrease inflammation from sunburn is a cold compress. You can make one of these easily with ice and water in a resealable bag. In a pinch, you can use a bag of frozen peas. A normal ice pack from your first aid kit will also do the trick. Another method for making a cold pack is to soak a dish towel in water. Then, put it in a resealable plastic bag and freeze it for about 20 minutes.

Apply the cold compress to your sunburn. Depending on your comfort level, you may need to put a piece of fabric between your skin and the cold pack.

4. Apply Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar can help balance your skin’s pH levels, which will speed the healing of your sunburn. When you apply apple cider vinegar, it also helps to decrease the inflammation because of its astringent properties.

Pour undiluted apple cider vinegar into a spray bottle and spray it onto the sunburned area. If your skin is too tender, and it stings during the application, dilute the apple cider vinegar with water by half. You can also pour two cups of apple cider vinegar into your bathwater and soak in it. Moisturize your sunburned skin after the application has dried.

5. Replenish Moisture With Coconut Oil

In 2010, the journal Pharmaceutical Biology published a study finding that coconut oil has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. The lauric acid in coconut oil is the component responsible for all of this healing goodness.

It’s important to allow your sunburned skin to cool completely before applying coconut oil. Complete cooling of the skin can sometimes take several hours. Apply an ice pack or take a cool bath before you use coconut oil to treat the burn.

Choose unrefined coconut oil. Apply it directly to the sunburned area a few times a day until the affected skin is healed.

6. Use Pure Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is perhaps the best-known remedy for sunburn. However, we’re not recommending the purple-colored aloe gel products you’ll find at the drugstore. Those may contain some aloe, but they also contain other additives like alcohol, artificial colors, and fragrances. We’re talking about aloe straight from the plant if possible. If you don’t have access to an aloe plant, buy pure, 100 percent aloe vera from your local natural foods store.

Aloe vera has anti-inflammatory properties, and it’s also excellent to hydrate your skin. On top of that, the folks at Aloecure said, “Aloe vera also contains glycoprotein and polysaccharides, two key ingredients that offer skin-soothing benefits. Glycoprotein helps to minimize inflammation and pain while polysaccharides aid in skin growth and repair.”

Apply aloe vera to sunburned skin and allow it to dry. No rinsing is necessary. Use the aloe vera a few times a day until your symptoms no longer persist.

7. Make a Cucumber Paste

If you have cucumbers in your refrigerator, blend them up into a paste and apply it to your skin. Cucumbers are mostly water, which will hydrate your skin. However, like aloe, cucumbers have natural analgesic properties, and they contain antioxidants to help your skin heal.

8. Apply Turmeric Paste

Curcumin, a compound found in turmeric, is amazing for healing sunburned skin. Not only does turmeric boast anti-inflammatory properties, but it is a natural antioxidant, it helps to repair DNA and has anticancer and antimicrobial properties.

Make a turmeric paste by combining pure turmeric with a little water or aloe vera juice. Blend it and apply it to the skin a few times a day. Be careful to apply it without clothing as it will stain.

9. Try Plain, Organic, Full-fat Yogurt

The probiotics and enzymes in yogurt can help heal your sunburned skin. Apply cold yogurt directly to the skin and let it sit until the yogurt is no longer cold. Then, rinse it off gently.

10. Take an Oatmeal Bath

Use a food processor to pulverize two cups of oats into a fine powder. Then, sprinkle it into a lukewarm or cool bath. The water will look milky with the oat powder. Don’t add any soap ― soak in the oatmeal bath for about 20 minutes. Rinse off afterward gently and air dry. Like many of these other remedies, oatmeal has anti-inflammatory properties. It can help to repair the skin and protect it against further damage. An oatmeal bath will also help lock in moisture.

11. Drink and Apply Green Tea

Green tea contains powerful antioxidants called catechins. It is also a natural anti-inflammatory. Research has shown that the tannins in green tea can help protect and heal the skin.

Steep a few bags of green tea in two cups of near-boiling water for about 10 minutes. Put a few ice cubes into the brewed tea until it cools completely. Pour the tea into a spray bottle and apply it to your sunburned skin.

If you have just a small area of sunburn, you can brew the tea and apply the damp, cooled green tea bags to your sunburn instead.

While you’re treating your sunburn topically, sip on hot or iced green tea throughout the day to reap the benefits of the catechin antioxidants. These strong nutrients will help you heal from the inside out.

12. Use Honey

Nutritionist and medical writer Jenny Hills recommends honey for the treatment of mild to severe sunburn. Hills says, “Honey is an amazing natural remedy for many skin complaints and will provide needed relief from an itchy sunburn rash. Honey also contains antibacterial properties that will boost the healing time and prevent secondary skin infections.”

Use raw honey and apply it directly to your sunburned skin. You can apply gauze over it or leave it to air dry. After at least 20 minutes, you can rinse it if you like. Use the honey a few times a day to help soothe and heal your sunburn.

13. Consider the Humble Potato

Hills also recommends using potatoes to soothe and heal a sunburn. She says, “Potatoes contain skin-healing properties like flavonoids, vitamins, tannins, and alkaloids to restore your skin to good health.”

You can blend potatoes into a paste with a little water or aloe. Then, apply it to the affected skin. You can also slice the potato thinly and lay the slices directly on the burned areas. Rinse or remove potatoes after about a half hour.

14. Use Essential Oils

There are certain essential oils that are wonderful for relieving the pain of a sunburn and promoting healing of the skin. Frankincense, lavender, helichrysum, peppermint and sandalwood oils are all excellent choices to treat a sunburn. I don’t recommend applying them directly to the skin. Rather, use a carrier oil like olive or coconut with a few drops of any of the above oils ― alone or in combination. Then, apply the mixture to the burned skin. You can also mix a few drops of the oils into a spray bottle with water or aloe vera juice and spray it onto the skin.

Treat Your Sunburn Naturally

Unfortunately, the chances are good that at some point in your life, you’ll experience a sunburn. If you do, try one of these suggestions for an effective natural treatment.