Sunburn Remedies

Sunshine, Vitamin D, Sunburn, and Sunburn Remedies.


I always marvel that from the sun, approximately 93 million miles away, give or take a few miles, we are able to bask in the warmth of sunshine.

Even in the winter I love finding a warm, sunny spot in the house and just sitting there and warming my bones.

Sunshine does amazing things - besides giving us warmth and light, it:

  • makes things grow
  • provides us with solar energy
  • affects the tides and the currents in the ocean
  • affects our mood
  • effects our sleep
  • it's gravitational pull keeps the earth in orbit
If we didn't have the sun nothing would exist. It would be so cold that nothing could survive. PLUS - Exposure to the sun also helps our bodies produce their own amazing Vitamin D.

Vitamin D.

What makes Vitamin D amazing?

Well, it supports all kind of things in our bodies, from bones and teeth, blood pressure and cardiovascular, to kidneys and muscles.

It also helps us maintain a healthy immune system and even reduce the risk of cancer, including skin cancer - according to recent studies.

Getting Vitamin D from the sun is an important way for us to get Vitamin D.

We need to expose large skin surfaces to the sun - not just our face and hands - and we should stay in the sun until our skin just begins to be the lightest pink. Studies say that after this time our bodies no longer produce Vitamin D, so at that point we should get out of the sun. (If you begin to notice your skin is "pink" or "hot" act fast because it is probably already too late.)

The best ways to do this is to go inside - or into the shade, but if this isn't possible, say we are spending the day at the beach or at a water park, wearing clothes and hats is the next best thing. A light cotton shirt will help prevent too much sun.

Light colors reflect the sun while dark colors collect it. A hat or cap will protect your eyes along with a good pair of UV sunglasses. You can also purchase some clothing that has UV protection built in.


To prevent having to use sunburn remedies you should apply sunscreen 20 minutes before you go out into the sun. There is a lot of controversy over sunscreen. Recent studies show that some sunscreens actually cause skin cancer, so do some research and find a safe sunscreen if you can't cover up.


  • Drinking lots of water and staying hydrated is very important - even when playing in the water.
  • Remember that you can get a bad sunburn on a cloudy day - the UV rays still come through causing sunburn and skin or eye damage.
  • Sunburns happen in the winter too. One of my worst sunburns was off of the snow when I was skiing!
  • Butter, salves and other oily things are not good sunburn remedies. They hold the heat in and make the burn worse.
  • Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer.
  • Eye damage, including cataracts are caused by the UV rays from the sun.

I once heard that eating sweet potatoes will help prevent sunburn because of the beta carotene that they contain. Ronald Watson, PhD at University of Arizona, said: “Beta carotene accumulates in the skin, providing partial protection for 24 hours against sun damage.”,

Sunburn Remedies.

So now, even with all these precautions, it is possible that you will end up with a nasty sunburn and need some good sunburn remedies.

Our daughter who is currently on vacation just spent the day on the beach. She called home asking, "Mom, what can I put on my sunburn - it hurts so bad." She "forgot" to protect herself. Since then she has been wearing a t-shirt over her swimsuit, doesn't look so great - but it works.

Natural Healing.

Luckily, there are a lot of natural sunburn remedies we can use to give relief to that sunburn. All kind of things - so no matter where we are or what availability we have to stores, or herbs, or gardens, there is something we can do.

Here is a list, alphabetically, even though some I love more than others.

  • Aloe Vera Gel.

    One of the first sunburn remedies we think of with any burn is Aloe Vera. Because it is almost all water, it is very soothing. Pull a leaf off the plant, slit it open lengthwise, and rub it on the sunburn.

    You can also strip the gel out of the leaf and add some lavender essential oil to it before putting it on the skin. Add roughly 15 drops of lavender, calendula, or chamomile essential oil to 3 ounces of aloe vera gel.

    Adding Vitamin E (poke a pin in the end of a pill and squeeze it out) adds more healing power. If your sunburn is really bad you should keep the area moistened with aloe vera until it feels better.

    You can also purchase aloe vera gel and probably need to unless you have access to a large amount of the plant. If you do - be sure that you purchase 100% aloe vera gel without added colors or fragrance.

  • Apple cider vinegar.

    Choose organic apple cider vinegar. As one of the sunburn remedies, it will help balance the skins pH factor and will promote healing.

    Make a solution of apple cider vinegar by adding 1/4 c. vinegar to 2 1/2 cups water or 1/3 c. vinegar if you want it a little stronger. Apply this with a cotton ball, or soak a washrag - or even a towel - depending on how big the area is - and apply it to the area to relieve the pain. If it starts to dry out, soak it again.

    Kiva Rose suggests making rose-vinegar by filling a jar with rose pedals, then covering it with apple cider vinegar (both roses and vinegar should be organic for best results), and letting it set for two to six weeks. The longer the better. Use a plastic lid.

    If you are doing this and planning ahead, when the solution is ready just store it in the frig. The cold will help as a sunburn remedy as well.

  • Aspirin or willow bark. Sunburn remedies made of willow bark are strictly for the pain. Use a willow bark tincture here preferably. I always carry this with me in my herbal first aid kit.

    If you don't have the willow bark tincture, you can opt for aspirin (although you know that aspirin hasn't been made from willow bark for years and years). You need to take either of these pain killers as soon as possible after getting sunburned.

  • Baths.

    Another of many peoples favorite sunburn remedies is a cool bath that draws the heat out of the sunburn by increasing circulation to that area. Don't make the water to warm or it will simply hurt.

    You can add about 40 drops of essential oils such as lavender or chamomile, or a combination, or add infusions of peppermint tea or chamomile tea.

    Make these by using a quart jar. Place 1 oz. of loose herbs or 4 - 6 teabags in the jar and cover with boiling water from your tea pot. Allow to sit until cool. The longer it sits the stronger it will be. Even overnight works well. Strain the loose herbs or remove the teabags. Add the water to your bath.

  • Calendula.

    Calendula is the queen of skin care so is an obvious choice when considering sunburn remedies. You can steep calendula flowers by filling a jar full of fresh flowers (1/2 full for dried flowers) and then filling it with boiling water.

    I then like to allow it to cool by itself and leaving the flowers in it, put it in the frig.

    Soak a cloth in this solution and lay it on the sunburn. Again keeping the area moist and rewet the cloth when it starts to dry out.

    You can also put 20 drops of calendula tincture in four ounces of water and do the same thing faster. This is another thing I always carry in my herbal first aid kit.

    Because Calendula is the queen of skin care it will reduce inflammation and stimulate the growth of new skin cells. It is anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial, which will help prevent infection in severe sunburns.

    You can purchase skin creams containing calendula at most health food stores.

  • Cucumbers.

    Cucumbers also contain a large amount of water making them great as sunburn remedies. Just rub sliced cucumber right on the sunburn and it will give you instant relief.

  • Dandelions.

    Dandelions can be used for sunburn remedies exactly the same way as calendula with the same results. And it is always easy to find dandelions.

    Once, at the end of winter, we took our extremely fair skinned foreign exchange student from Germany, up to the mountains to the bright white snow to go sledding. We never thought about protection from the sun.

    And it was spring and fun to go sledding in our t-shirts. The boys even went bare chested for a while. At the end of the day he was bright red with an intense sunburn and in great pain.

    On our way home we stopped and picked dandelions from an empty field, and then proceeded to make a sunburn solution as described under Calendula above. This gave him great relief. He said Dandelions are his new best friends.

  • Lavender.

    We all know about the French scientist, Rene Gattefosse in the 1920s who, after a lab explosion, plunged his burned hand into a vat of lavender essential oil, thinking it was water, and it stopped the pain, sped up the healing, and left no scars.

    It works the same way as sunburn remedies but since most of us don't have a vat of lavender sitting around, instead of using it straight out of the bottle, I prefer to add it to something else such as aloe vera gel or yogurt so it is more easily applied.

    Adding lavender to a hydrosol and using it as a spray is an easy way to continually hydrate the sunburned area and is one of my favorites.

    Or you can use it straight. I never go anywhere without my bottle of lavender essential oil. You can't even begin to name all the things it is good for.

  • Lemon.

    Besides being good for lemonade, lemon is actually one of the best sunburn remedies. It actually cools your sunburn quickly and the acid in the lemon disinfects and helps heal your skin.

    Add the juice of three lemons to two cups cold water, stir well, and soak a folded cloth or sponge in the solution. Gently pat your sunburn. Repeat as needed.

  • Oatmeal.

    One of my favorite sunburn remedies is oatmeal! Yes, the kind you cook for breakfast and regular is better than instant, but either will work.

    I suggest putting some oatmeal in a sock, tying a knot at the top, and placing that in your bath water along with the other healing herbal infusions.

    Allow it to soak in the water for a few minutes, then knead and squeeze it so that the oatmeal juice colors the water. Then rub your sunburn with the sock, squeeze it and dribble oatmeal juice onto the sunburn, and just enjoy the healing and soothing that you receive when you use oatmeal on your skin.

  • Plantain.

    One of the first herbs I learned - and love because it always works so well - contains allantoin, a proven healer of injured skin cells. It is my #1 remedy for stings - even for poison ivy and poison oak, but that's another subject.

    For a sunburn remedy you can make a tea, dip your cloth into the cooled solution, then place it on the sunburn as a compress. You can also put some in a blender with a little water and make a paste. For me this works best if you fold a piece of cloth around it and make a poultice which can be left on until it dries. Then add more wet plant material and do it again.

    With Plantain you can also just chew it up and put it on the sunburn if the area is small - this is what you do for a sting.

    Fresh Chickweed can also be used the same way with very similar results.

  • Green Tea.

    "Green tea is a powerful anti-oxidant, and may be used topically or internally as a tea before or after sun exposure.

    Green tea has been shown to help reduce skin inflammation and redness, protect skin cells, and to assist with the adverse effects of UV radiation exposure. It naturally contains tannic acid, theobromine, and polyphenols – all of which are soothing and healing to sunburned skin." Mountain Rose Herbs.

    Make a tea and then soak your cloth in it and apply it to the sunburn. As with other compresses, reapply when it begins to dry out.

  • Water.

    Water has always been my favorite remedy for burns of any kind. I have so many amazing stories about water taking the heat out of burns that I could write a whole paper just on that subject. There is no reason it wouldn’t work on sunburn as well.

    The secret is leaving the burn in water long enough for the heat to be taken out, and that is probably true with any remedy.

    So if you don't have lemon, or green tea, or calendula, or plantain, or vinegar, or any of the other things, simply wet a cloth in cool water, place it on the sunburn and leave it there until it begins to warm up, then re-wet it and put it on again.

    You could also wrap an ice pack in a towel and apply, but having the moisture right on the sunburn hydrates it and works much better.

  • Yogurt. This was a new idea of sunburn remedies to me, but my daughter tried it with her bad sunburn and loved it. Use full fat, plain yogurt.

    It can be applied as a poultice by laying out several layers of cheesecloth and wrapping yogurt inside. Put this on the skin and replace when the yogurt warms up.

    You can also apply the yogurt directly to your skin - covering large areas such as your back or legs - when it begins to warm add more - then rinse off in the shower when done.

    Yogurt is cool because you take it directly out of the frig, and the enzymes it contains help rebuild the damaged skin.


Have fun making blends and see what works best.

Yogurt After Sun Relief from Mountain Rose Herbs:

4 oz plain yogurt
1 oz Aloe Vera Gel
15 drops Lavender essential oil

Mix well and apply directly to sunburned area, and leave the yogurt on until it dries. Rise off with cool water, and repeat the process if desired.

Another recipe I saw combined:

1 cucumber
3 T. Aloe Vera gel
1 T. Honey (you can use plain ole honey for your sunburn, too, if you like)
3 T. plain yogurt

Give these a whir in the blender, then apply to the sunburned area. Rinse off in the shower when done.

And yet another:

4 oz. aloe gel
1/2 t. lavender essential oil
1 t. apple cider vinegar
Oil from 2 Vitamin E capsules

Whisk these ingredients together. Apply to sunburn.


One more thing in the way of herbal remedies - not exactly natural but close - is the lubricant WD-40, whose main ingredient is Fish Oil. It is supposedly even safe to ingest.

I had just received one of those e-mails telling all of the many uses of some product - this time it was WD-40 - and had quickly scanned through it and set it aside.

A few days later we were outside, my husband was taking bolts off of some rusty climbing holds, had the WD-40 there to try to help break some of the nuts loose. He was also using the grinder to cut the ends of the bolts off, and picking one of them up too soon, burned his hand really bad.

The WD-40 was sitting right there so he sprayed it on his hand (one of the uses it suggested) and the burn immediately stopped burning. He had no further problem with the burn! None! It was pretty amazing. It is now his favorite burn remedy and he suggests it to everyone. It works equally well on sunburn.

It has been fun putting these sunburn remedies together. I hope that you enjoy them and are able to find something that works great for you. It is fabulous to know these things when you need them.

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