There are many benefits to soaking up some sunshine (including getting your daily dose of vitamin D), but sunburn isn't such a great thing. Fortunately, there are several easy and effective home remedies for sunburn you can use to soothe your skin.
As a general rule, homemade remedies are good for sunburn that isn't blistering or very severe. If you have broken skin and/or an extreme burn, it's a good idea to get some professional medical attention.
However, if you're dealing with a normal red, itchy, or painful sunburn, read on to find out which natural ingredients can help- including many you may already have at home.
Top Homemade Remedies for Sunburn
Cool Water or Compresses
When you get a sunburn, your skin basically becomes "hot" and inflamed. An easy way to calm this heat right away is by using cool water or a compress on the affected area.
If you are outdoors, natural water from a lake or stream can help, but chlorinated pool water may cause more irritation to skin. At home, you can fill up your bathtub with cool water or get a cloth wet and apply it to your skin.
Even though you want to cool your skin down, avoid applying ice directly to your sunburn. You can, however, wrap a few ice cubes in a damp cloth and apply for 10-15 minutes at a time.
Oatmeal or Baking Soda Bath
An oatmeal or baking soda bath are both great home remedies for a sunburn.
Simply add a few tablespoons of baking soda to cool or very lukewarm water to give your skin some extra relief and minimize sun damage.
Oats help with the inflammation of sunburned skin, but they also especially help with a sunburn that has turned itchy. Grind a cup of oats in a blender or food processor, put them in a nylon stocking or muslin bag, and add to your bath.
Of course, you can always put both baking soda and oats into bathwater for extra relief. Just don't scrub your skin while in the bath, and pat it dry when you get out.
Aloe vera has many skin benefits and is one of the oldest remedies for burns, including sunburn. It's hydrating and soothing, which is exactly what your skin needs when it's hot and inflamed.
If you have an aloe plant at home, snap off a chunk and apply the fresh gel that oozes out for skin relief. Otherwise, use a quality aloe gel that's made entirely of pure aloe vera plus a natural preservative (all aloe has to have a preservative of some kind to stay shelf stable).
Milk or Yogurt
Dairy products can help to reduce the heat and irritation of sunburned skin (it you aren't allergic to them, of course). The most helpful choices are ones with a high fat content- like whole milk and buttermilk- and fermented dairy, like yogurt.
You can apply either milk or yogurt directly to your skin (soak a washcloth in milk so it doesn't go everywhere) and leave them sit for 10-15 minutes before gently rinsing in cool water. Or add a cup of whole milk to a cool bath to soothe skin while you soak.
This might not be the first home treatment for sunburn that you think of, but the tannins in tea can help to relieve the heat of a sunburn. Both green and black teas also contain polyphenols that may help skin to recover more quickly after damage. (1)
Simply steep a few bags of black tea in water to make a super strong and dark tea. Cool or refrigerate it and apply it to your skin with a washcloth. If you have a small patch of sunburn, you can also take out one of the teabags and let it rest on the spot.
Herbal Tea (Especially Chamomile)
As long as you aren't allergic to it, make chamomile into a strong tea and apply it (cooled) to your skin with a washcloth.
You can also use any of these to make an herbal bath tea to soothe all of your skin at once.
It's important to keep your skin moisturized after a sunburn so that it can heal and feel less irritated. You can do this whenever your skin feels dry, but it's especially important to put on a moisturizer after washing your skin or bathing.
To help your skin the most, use a gentle and natural lotion or cream that doesn't have any added fragrance. Skin soothing herbs are great additions to a lotion, but you don't want anything that will further irritate your sunburn.
Try something like this Calm Cream that's suitable for sensitive skin.
Though applying homemade remedies to your skin for sunburn can give instant relief, it's also important to stay hydrated from the inside out. This replenishes water you may have lost from being out in the sun and encourages skin to heal.
Drink lots of water and also load up on fruits and veggies with a high water content: watermelon, cucumbers, grapes, citrus, etc.
Coconut Oil and Vitamin E
Either one can be helpful for a sunburn, but it's important that you use them at the right time.
Applying oil to a sunburn immediately after you get it can actually lock heat into your skin and delay healing. Use them a day or two after getting a sunburn- as long as you don't have any blistering skin.
Unrefined coconut oil can be applied directly to your sore skin. Use vitamin E sparingly- a few drops mixed in with aloe vera gel or coconut oil.
Certain essential oils make great home remedies for sunburn if used correctly.
Be sure to dilute the essential oils before using them so that they don't irritate skin instead of soothing it. You can use aloe vera to apply them right after a sunburn or a carrier oil like coconut to use them later on in the skin healing process.
Another option is to use them in a soothing salve like this gentle Baby Balm.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Sometimes it seems like apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a remedy for just about anything. Many people have reported relief using ACV for a sunburn, but a few say that it irritates their skin, so use a little caution with this remedy.
The best way to get relief with ACV is to add a cup or two of the raw kind to a cool bath. You can also add other soothing ingredients like chamomile tea.
Using Home Remedies for Sunburn
For mild or moderate sunburn, you can usually find effective relief simply by using homemade remedies like those listed above. You may find that some work better than others or that a combination of several gives you the best relief.
Of course, if your sunburn gets worse or is very severe, it's best to get medical attention and not try to treat it yourself.
But now that you know about these home remedies, you'll be able to help your skin the next time you accidently stay out in the sun for too long!
Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice and should not be substituted for medical advice. Please consult your health care provider, herbalist, midwife, or naturopathic physician before taking herbs, supplements, etc. Here's the link to our full disclaimer.