Sunburn: All Natural Damage Control


Okay, so we had a little chat the other day about staying safe in the sun, but… well… sometimes accidents happen.  Maybe you forgot to reapply your sunscreen or you missed a spot.  Maybe you were outside longer than you intended and didn’t have a cover up or hat with you.  I’m not going to berate you for getting a burn because, well, sometimes shit happens.   So, let’s talk damage control now.  Here are some all natural home remedies that you can do now to help heal your poor raw, red, inflamed skin.

Cooling Relief

Take a cool bath or a gentle shower.  Hot water will actually intensify the pain, so you definitely want to avoid that.  If you have an adjustable shower head, put it on a gentle setting; high pressure will hurt your burn and if you have blisters, you’ll run the risk of popping them.  Avoid using any harsh detergents,  bubble bath, or any soaps with artificial fragrance.  Stick with a gentle, all natural soap and be sure to rinse completely.

Vinegar is an astringent that will help soothe sunburn pain.  Mix 1 cup of apple cider vinegar (you can also use white vinegar, if that’s all you have) in with your cool bath for relief.  Don’t worry, the smell will subside.  You can also put some ACV in a spray bottle and keep it in the fridge to spray on your burn later.

Use a muslin bag (or a tea towel or cheesecloth to create a bag) and fill with oatmeal (rolled oats, not instant).  Mix in some powdered milk, too, if you have some.  Hang the bag from the faucet and let your tub fill with cool water for your bath.  An oatmeal bath is incredibly soothing for a burn.

If you can’t air dry when you get out, gently pat yourself dry.  Rubbing a towel, no matter how soft, over a fresh burn hurts and will only irritate it more.

For some cooling relief outside of the bath or shower, you can also place cool compresses on your skin.  Dampen a wash cloth or tea towel with cold water and apply to the affected area.  Re-wet and reapply as often as necessary.  If you have some chamomile tea, brew a strong pot and let it cool.  Mix a few drops of lavender essential oil (it will help relieve sunburn pain AND even help prevent peeling) and use a clean cloth compress.

Topical Relief

aloeApply aloe vera to the burn.  Check the label before you buy a bottle, though: you want pure aloe vera; many manufacturers add all kinds of nasty ingredients including artificial preservatives and rubbing alcohol (which will only further dry out your skin).  You can also do what I prefer, and just cut a leaf off an aloe plant (aloe is so healing that the plant will actually heal itself where you cut the leaf off).  Slice down the center of the leaf and apply the gel from the inside to your burn.  You don’t have to rub it all the way in; actually, it’s best if you don’t.  Reapply as often as necessary.  You can put your leftover aloe in some plastic wrap and store in the fridge for later.  The refrigeration with keep the aloe fresh and the cool gel will feel amazing on your burn later.  I actually usually have a stash of aloe in the freezer for emergencies: put some of the gel into ice cube trays and freeze.

Burn around the eyes?  Place some cucumber slices around and on your eyes for cooling relief.

Calendula is a well known herb for treating skin conditions, so you can apply calendula ointment to help heal the inflammation.

Witch hazel is an incredible astringent herb that has been shown to have long lasting anti-inflammatory relief.  Moisten a cloth with witch hazel and apply often. 

There are a few natural remedies that I haven’t tried yet, but only because I so very rarely get a sunburn.  Here are a few of them… Yogurt is supposed to be quite cooling to a burn.  Apply full fat, unsweetened yogurt to your burn and let set to cool your skin; rinse off in a cool shower.  The tannins in black tea help soothe and heal a burn: make a pot of strong tea, let cool, dampen a clean cloth in the liquid and apply the compress to the burn.  A folk remedy that’s been around for ages is to apply potato peels to the burn.  The potato provides moisture and its antibacterial properties will help heal.

As your burn begins to heal and doesn’t appear to be quite as red, raw, and painful anymore, treat your skin to some TLC and slather on a good moisturizing lotion.  I really love Lush’s Dream Cream.  It’s a little pricey but a little goes a long way.  It’s *that* moisturizing.  Vitamin E oil is incredibly moisturizing and is an antioxident so it will help repair the damage.  Look for lotions containing it or apply it directly to the skin.

The Basics

A sunburn can be very dehydrating, so make sure you keep  hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Be extra careful to protect your burn if you’ll be back in the sun before it heals.  Stay in the shade, wear protective clothing, and put on sunscreen of at least SPF 30.  Lightweight, loose fitting clothing will be much more comfortable and less irritating to your burn.

This may sound crazy, but it takes your skin three to six months after a sunburn to heal and return to normal.  Three to six months!  In that time, you’ll burn even faster than you did before so please take necessary precautions to prevent that!!  Check out my article on how to Be Sun Smart.

Blisters and Infection

Blisters and infection are a post all onto themselves and, hopefully, your burn wasn’t so extreme as that.  If you do have severe blistering with red streaks extending away from the blister, feel faint or dizzy, extreme thirst but no urine output, fever, or nausea, seek medical attention.


Leave a Reply