23 Natural Remedies for Your Sunburn (and Some to Avoid)

Ahhh, summer! Finally, we can ditch the winter woolies and enjoy the sensation of warm sun on skin. Sunshine helps our bodies make vitamin D, which is essential to health. But a little sun exposure goes a long way. According to the National Institutes of Health:

“Ten to 15 minutes of sunshine three times weekly is enough to produce the body’s requirement of vitamin D. The sun needs to shine on the skin of your face, arms, back or legs (without sunscreen). Because exposure to sunlight is a risk for skin cancer, you should use sunscreen after a few minutes in the sun.”

Though we all know better, at some point we still get sunburned — either because we wait until feeling the heat of a burn before taking precautions or because we forget to reapply sunblock every two hours.

When that happens, act quickly, New York City dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe advises in Men’s Journal:

“Although prevention is best, if you quickly treat a sunburn, you might have a shot at minimizing the damage done to the cells,” Bowe says. “You want to help the skin repair itself as quickly as possible.”

First, move into the shade or go indoors. If you are stuck — out on the water, for example — cover up. Good to know: Sunblock takes at least 20 minutes to start working.

If you have blisters over more than 20 percent of your body, go to the hospital, said Dr. Robert Friedman, a dermatologist at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, speaking to Men’s Journal.

Otherwise, treat pain and burning with these 23 remedies found in the kitchen, garden or medicine cabinet:

1. Pain relievers

By vdimage / Shutterstock.com

Friedman suggests popping an ibuprofen — e.g. Advil or Motrin — which acts as an anti-inflammatory to reduce swelling and ease pain. If you also have a headache or mild chills, go with acetaminophen (Tylenol), he says.

2. Cool bath

Yellow rubber duck in clear blue water
Kalashnyk Serhii / Shutterstock.com

Take a gentle bath in cool water to ease the burn. Avoid soap because it dries the skin and can make itching worse. You might want to avoid taking a shower because the spray may hurt tender skin.

“As soon as you get out of the bathtub or shower, gently pat yourself dry, but leave a little water on your skin. Then, apply a moisturizer to help trap the water in your skin. This will help ease the dryness,” advises the American Academy of Dermatology.

3. Cool compresses

Hamster wrapped in white towel
Monkeyoum / Shutterstock.com

If you can’t immerse yourself in cool water, do the next best thing: Soak clean towels in cool water and apply them to your burning skin. As the compresses warm, change them for cool ones. Do this on and off for a day or two until the pain and heat subside.

4. Hydration

Woman drinking water from a bottle
nenetus / Shutterstock.com

Burns draw fluid to the skin’s surface and away from the rest of the body, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation:

It’s important to rehydrate by drinking extra liquids, including water and sports drinks that help to replenish electrolytes, immediately and while your skin heals.

Watch for signs of dehydration, including a dry mouth, thirst, reduced urination, headache, nausea, dizziness and sleepiness — and see the doctor if they become severe.

5. Infection prevention

Man's sunburned head
loginovworkshop / Shutterstock.com

Avoid scratching your skin or popping blisters, as opening skin wounds increases the chance of infection. Prevention Magazine suggests applying an over-the-counter antibacterial ointment if you have an infection or are concerned that an infection could take hold.

6. Aloe vera

Cut aloe vera leaves
Radachynskyi Serhii / Shutterstock.com

“A review of four experimental studies found that aloe vera could reduce the healing time of burns by about nine days, compared with conventional medication,” according to environmental news site EcoWatch.

Stock your medicine cabinet with a lotion rich in aloe vera. Or grow the plant in your garden or as a houseplant: Just break off a leaf and apply the healing juice directly to a burn when needed.

7. Fat-free milk

Glass and bottle of milk
DONOT6_STUDIO / Shutterstock.com

Milk compresses are an odd-sounding remedy, but it is widely recommended. Don’t use just any milk. It must be fat-free milk, according to Prevention Magazine, which shares this recipe:

Mix 1 cup fat-free milk with 4 cups water, then add a few ice cubes. Apply compresses for 15 to 20 minutes; repeat every 2 to 4 hours.

8. Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar next to a stack of apples
TY Lim / Shutterstock.com

Pouring a cup of cider vinegar into your cool bath water will promote healing by balancing the pH of your sunburned skin, according to MedicineNet.

9. Black tea

Teabag on a plate
eriyalim / Shutterstock.com

Tea bags — black tea, especially — are a favorite home remedy for sunburn. There doesn’t appear to be much scientific basis for it, but it can’t hurt. In the same vein, beauty magazines occasionally recommend calming puffy eyelids by resting with a poultice of damp tea bags on your lids. Used tea bags are perfect for this. Apply the damp tea bags to the worst areas of sunburn.

10. Potato juice

Potatoes on a wood table
Artem Shadrin / Shutterstock.com

The juice of a raw potato can be used to treat sunburn. Rub slices of potato onto burned skin or grate raw potato, gather it in clean cheesecloth or a soft clean rag and apply the poultice directly to your skin. WebMD says:

A chemical in the potato peel might also prevent bacteria from attaching to cells. Potatoes are a source of vitamin C, iron, riboflavin and carbohydrates.

11. Chamomile

Chamomile flowers
KirillAm / Shutterstock.com

Chamomile is famous for its soothing properties. There’s no scientific evidence that it helps calm burned skin, but it is popular as a folk remedy. Soak a cloth in cool chamomile tea and apply it to your skin.

12. Cornstarch

Cornstarch on a spoon
Michelle Lee Photography / Shutterstock.com

There are a couple of ways to use cornstarch to help with sunburn. You can make a paste: Add a few drops of water to some cornstarch, mix and apply it to the sunburned skin. Also, sprinkle sheets with cornstarch so interaction with the sheets feels smoother and less painful to burned skin.

13. Baking soda

Box of baking soda
BravoKiloVideo / Shutterstock.com

Baking soda neutralizes acids, which is why it is often used to soothe babies’ diaper rash. Pour a half-cup to a cup of baking soda in your cool bath. Or, make a paste by mixing baking soda with a few drops of water. Apply it to itchy skin.

Prevention Magazine says:

Instead of towelling off, let the (baking soda bath solution) dry on your skin. It is completely nontoxic, and it will soothe the pain.

14. Oatmeal

Oatmeal stalks and oatmeal in a bowl
morisfoto / Shutterstock.com

Oatmeal — used in a bath or in compresses — is a time-honored remedy for the itching of sunburn. LiveStrong explains how to make a paste by grinding oatmeal flakes in a blender or food processor and mixing with milk and honey. Apply the paste to burned skin.

Or follow Prevention Magazine’s method: Put dry oatmeal into cheesecloth or gauze and run cool water through it, saving the liquid. Remove the oatmeal and use the liquid to soak the cloth compresses. Apply them every two to four hours.

You can get the help of oatmeal off the pharmacy shelf as well: Colloidal oatmeal is a refined oatmeal extract made by boiling ground oats. Aveeno is one company that uses colloidal oatmeal in bath products to soothe irritated skin.

15. Yarrow

Yarrow flower and essential oil.
kazmulka / Shutterstock.com

Common yarrow, a plant found in many gardens and along roadsides, has healing properties, according to Fox News:

If you have a sunburn, make a big pot of yarrow tea and add it to a warm or cool bath. The infusion will provide relief.

Look for dried yarrow sold in bulk at health food stores and spice shops.

16. Vitamin E

Vitamin E capsules
RomarioIen / Shutterstock.com

It’s possible that skin damage from a sunburn may be reduced by taking vitamin C and applying vitamin E oil directly on your skin or swallowing capsules. Some moisturizers contain both vitamins.

“Combined vitamins C and E reduce the sunburn reaction, which might indicate a consequent reduced risk for later sequelae of UV-induced skin damage,” write the authors of a research study published by the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

17. Moisturizer

Woman putting cream on burned shoulder
Kotin / Shutterstock.com

Sunburn dries skin making it irritated, so use lots of moisturizing cream or lotion. Avoid scented products as fragrance may further irritate damaged skin. Chilling moisturizer in the refrigerator can make it feel more soothing.

18. Cucumbers

Sliced cucumber
HandmadePictures / Shutterstock.com

The cooling juices of the cucumber are commonly used to soothe inflamed skin. Spas, for example, apply cut slices to patrons’ eyelids for a soothing treatment. For sunburn, cut lengthwise slices to give you more surface area to apply directly to sunburned areas. Chilling the cuke just slightly makes it feel even better on burned skin.

19. Plantain

Plantain cut in half
vm2002 / Shutterstock.com

Plantain is a starchy fruit belonging to the banana family. It’s eaten baked or fried in the Caribbean and West Africa, where it is grown. “The late Alabama folk herbalist Tommie Bass used plantain for sunburn, stings, poison ivy and poison oak,” writes botanist James A. Duke in “The Green Pharmacy: New Discoveries in Herbal Remedies for Common Diseases.” Presumably you apply the fruit — or a poultice of mashed fruit — to sunburned skin. Duke doesn’t say how to use it.

20. Eggplant

Eggplant in a bowl on table
Elena Veselova / Shutterstock.com

Yes, eggplant! It has a folk reputation as a sunburn treatment, Duke writes. He suggests mashing it (cooking would make that easier) and applying it to the skin.

21. Witch hazel

Witch hazel flower and cream
Maren-Winter / Shutterstock.com

Witch hazel is another astringent that has been “shown to have long-lasting anti-inflammatory relief,” Prevention Magazine says. You can use it topically for temporary relief of itching and pain.

22. Calendula

Yellow calendula flowers in a jar.
Gulsina / Shutterstock.com

The calendula flower is a member of the marigold family that is applied to skin “to reduce pain and swelling (inflammation) and to treat poorly healing wounds and leg ulcers,” WebMD says. It is “loaded with anti-cancer lycopene,” according to Mother Earth News.

Calendula creams and gels are found in health food stores and drug stores. Writes Fox News:

The gels are more cooling, providing quick relief. Calendula relieves inflammation and helps to accelerate skin healing. Natural, safe, effective and inexpensive, calendula is another home medicine chest essential.

WebMD cautions, “[D]on’t confuse calendula with ornamental marigolds of the Tagets genus, which are commonly grown in vegetable gardens.” And it can cause miscarriage so avoid it by all means if you are pregnant or even if you are breastfeeding, WebMD says.

23. Lavender

Lavender flowers and essential oil.
tetxu / Shutterstock.com

Lavender essential oil, found in health food stores and some drug stores, is commonly used for sunburn, Fox News writes, adding:

Rich in anti-inflammatory compounds, lavender essential oil reduces redness and swelling. The side effect? It makes you smell really good.

Avoid these ‘cures’

Danger sign
Onnes / Shutterstock.com

Stay away from first-aid sprays that contain lidocane or benzocaine. They’re meant to numb the skin or relieve pain but can cause an allergic reaction or irritate your burned skin, making the pain worse.

Applying ice to sunburned skin would seem to make sense, but don’t do it.

“Putting ice directly on a burn can cause further damage to the tissue,” according to the Mayo Clinic. Also, avoid using petroleum products (like petroleum jelly) on your skin because they trap the skin’s heat.

Instead, follow the AAD’s recommendation and dab over-the-counter low-dose hydrocortisone cream on skin that is particularly raw.

Remember, it’s far better to avoid getting sunburned in the first place. But on those occasions when you’ve overdone try some of these remedies to heal and alleviate the discomfort — and try to avoid overexposure going forward. Skin damage adds up over the years, so taking care of your skin is a lifelong project.

Share your favorite sunburn treatments with us, below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
The Best and Worst States for Raising a Family in 2021
The Best and Worst States for Raising a Family in 2021

These states have big advantages or disadvantages when it comes to choosing a home for your family.

25 Things You Should Never Buy — and What to Buy Instead
25 Things You Should Never Buy — and What to Buy Instead

If you really want to save money, become a more intentional shopper.

6 Reasons Hiding Cash at Home Is a Terrible Idea
6 Reasons Hiding Cash at Home Is a Terrible Idea

Stashing cash around the house is anything but harmless.

14 Uses for WD-40 That Save Money, Time or Headaches
14 Uses for WD-40 That Save Money, Time or Headaches

WD-40 is handy in a lot more situations than you likely realize.

10 Tools You Need for Financial Stability
10 Tools You Need for Financial Stability

Have these tools and accounts in place so you can weather whatever comes your way.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

Whether you resell it for a big profit or add it to your own wardrobe, this type of clothing is a hidden steal.

10 Things Frugal People Never Buy
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy

If you’re a true tightwad, the mere thought of spending money on these items gives you the willies.

This Simple Mistake Might Weaken Your COVID-19 Vaccination
This Simple Mistake Might Weaken Your COVID-19 Vaccination

Avoid doing this before you get vaccinated.

7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking
7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking

There’s more to Social Security than retirement benefits.

10 Cars You Are Most Likely to Keep for 15 Years
10 Cars You Are Most Likely to Keep for 15 Years

The cars that owners hold onto the longest have one thing in common, a new study shows.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021
14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021

These convenient household products come with hidden costs that you might not have considered.

5 Changes to Your Federal Tax Return Form in 2021
5 Changes to Your Federal Tax Return Form in 2021

The new Form 1040 features two new tax breaks, among other changes.

The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners
The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners

If you’re looking to ease into investing in the coronavirus economy with just a little money, check out these easy-to-use tools.

7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are all steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

11 Products Now in Short Supply Due to the Pandemic
11 Products Now in Short Supply Due to the Pandemic

Many goods we take for granted have become tough to find in 2021.

9 Things You Should Never Leave in a Car
9 Things You Should Never Leave in a Car

Thinking of leaving these possessions in a car? Prepare for unexpected consequences.

13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now
13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

9 Mistakes People Make When Cleaning With Vinegar
9 Mistakes People Make When Cleaning With Vinegar

Cleaning with vinegar can save you a lot of money, but using it like this can cost you.

8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today
8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today

Being frugal isn’t smart if you put off replacing these items.

7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook
7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook

Did you realize all these tax credits and deductions exist — or that they apply to retirees?

10 Things Successful Retirees Do Differently
10 Things Successful Retirees Do Differently

These habits and characteristics can help put you on the track to success.

7 Costly Health Problems That Strike After Age 50
7 Costly Health Problems That Strike After Age 50

As we age, our bodies wear down. Here is how to cut costs associated with some common ailments.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.