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11 Home Remedies for Sunburn Relief (Get Rid of Sunburn)

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These home remedies for sunburn will help bring relief from sunburn itch and speed healing from your head to your toes. We have safe options for sunburn on your face, tips for a soothing bath and some of the best options for sunburn relief.

aloe for sunburn relief on sunburned shoulder

How long does it take for sunburn to heal?

That depends on the severity of the burn. For mild sunburn, you should be better in 3-5 days. A moderate burn will likely take a week or more, and severe burns with blisters will likely take two weeks or more.

Remember, sunburns are burns – so always be gentle to sunburned skin. (See note at bottom of post for when to see a doctor for sunburn.) Most of the time home sunburn remedies will take care of your symptoms, but be careful out there.

#1 – Quick Sunburn Relief by Cooling the Burn

Sunburned skin gets hot, so one of the quickest ways to get short term sunburn relief is to cool down. Use a cool, damp cloth compress or cold pack on small areas, like sunburn on your face.

For larger areas, try a cool shower, a dip in a pool or lake, or a cool bath. Watch that shower spray! Sunburned skin can be tender, so if you have a bad sunburn, opt for the gentler soak over the shower. Pat dry to avoid additional skin irritation. Don't overdo it – 15 to 20 minutes is plenty.

Adding skin soothers such as oatmeal, chamomile, tea bags (5 – 8 per bath) or brewed tea will help even more. To make a chamomile bath bomb, fill a small cloth bag with the dried herb and hang it in the water flow as you are filling the tub.

Skip the soap, which can dry out skin, or use a gentle, moisturizing soap, like goat milk soap. You can also purchase coconut oil soap with aloe vera to combine several good sunburn treatments into one.

#2 – Vinegar for Sunburn

Apple cider vinegar is one home remedy that comes up time and again, and sunburn treatment is no exception. To use apple cider vinegar for sunburn, you can use it straight, or dilute it in lukewarm water. (Straight vinegar may sting a little because of the acetic acid.)

Apply vinegar to sunburn gently with a cotton ball or lay a soft washcloth soaked in vinegar on the area. Apply on the hour, as needed. (You can use homemade apple cider vinegar if you have it on hand.) For larger areas, add a  cup of vinegar to cool bath water and soak for 15 to 20 minutes. A vinegar/water compress is a good option for a sunburned scalp, as it won't leave a residue that's difficult to wash out of your hair (which could require scrubbing).

mason jar of vinegar for sunburn relief

#3 – Sunburn Relief with Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is a trusted skin soother and moisturizer, and also acts as an herbal antibiotic. Long recommended as a treatment for burns from other sources, it also helps provide sunburn relief. If you have an aloe plant, simply clip off a leaf and slice lengthwise to extract the gel and apply gently to the affected area. You could also juice the leaves if you have a juicer available.

If you don't have an aloe vera plant, you can purchase aloe vera gel, but make sure to read the label. Many brands have questionable ingredients such as artificial dyes and additives like urea. Aubrey Organics Aloe Vera has a pretty short ingredient list:  “Aloe barbadensis (aloe) leaf juice*, citrus grandis (grapefruit) extract, cyamopsis tetragonoloba (guar) gum*, tocopherol (vitamin E).*Organic”. You can often find aloe products at health food stores.

The only down side of using aloe is that it forms a stiff, somewhat tacky coating on your skin. I prefer to use it for small areas that don't need to flex (a sunburned face or on the tip of your nose, for instance).

bottle of aloe vera for sunburn relief with aloe vera plant in background

#4 – Oat Based Sunburn Remedies

Oatmeal is another good sunburn remedy. Oatmeal baths are recommended for a variety of skin ailments, but can also be helpful to sooth internal pain and reduce stress. Oats are one of the herbs that Susun Weed discusses in Healing Wise, and she can't sing enough of their praises. You can use oatstraw (dried green oat plant), oatmeal or specialty products like Aveeno Bath Colloidal Oatmeal.

To use oatstraw for sunburn relief, make an oatstraw infusion by placing two ounces/60 grams of dried plant in a 2 quart/liter jar and covering with boiling water. Cover and allow to sit four hours or overnight. Strain out the plant material, and add the liquid to your warm bath water.

To use oatmeal as a sunburn remedy, take about two handfuls of dried oatmeal (raw – any type is fine) and put it in an old sock or tie it up in a washcloth. Wet thoroughly, and squeeze the milky water from the oatmeal into your bath water. (You can leave the sock in the tub with you and squeeze more liquid out as you soak.) Soak as needed for sunburn relief.

#5 – Honey

In the post “Honey as Medicine – Prevent Infection, Kill Bacteria, Promote Healing“, Dr. Hubbard explains the healing actions of honey:

  • Honey seals in the good tissue fluid containing enzymes and proteins that promote healing.
  • It provides nutrition to the tissue.
  • Honey decreases inflammation and swelling.

Again, as with aloe vera, honey is often recommended as a treatment for burns. It works well, as we learned firsthand last spring when my husband burnt his hand on the tiller. There was about an inch long blister. When we applied honey, the pain and swelling decreased. He applied honey the first two days, after which the skin was mostly back to normal. Interestingly, when he changed the bandages to redress the wound, he found the honey dry, not tacky, under the bandage. (He was afraid it was going to stick, but it didn't.)  Apparently, the moisture in the honey had been absorbed into the skin. (The bandage was also dry.)

To use honey to treat sunburn, dab the honey directly on smaller areas, or apply the honey to a bandage and apply the bandage to a larger area. I highly recommend honey for sunburn blisters, as it will reduce the swelling without exposing the raw skin under the blister. (Like it healed my husband's burn blister.)

#6 – Coconut Oil for Sunburn

I use coconut oil as a sunblock and as an after sun treatment. Coconut oil doesn't have a high SPF (it's been rated between 4 and 10, depending on the study), so it allows a healthy amount of UV radiation to reach the skin and helps to prevent free radical damage. (Most of us are vitamin D deficient, and the best source of vitamin D is sunlight.)  (Hybrid Rasta Mama has a great post on using natural oils as sun protection.)

When I've used coconut oil for sunburn relief, it soothes and moisturizes the burning and tightness of the skin. Coconut oil melts at around 76°F (24°C), so it is quickly absorbed by the skin. It didn't seem to trap the heat at all (I've seen that comment made regarding using oils for sunburn treatment).

The medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil can be absorbed topically, and are used by our body for healing. Coconut oil contains high amounts of both lauric acid and capric acid, which are are antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and antimicrobial. My favorite coconut oil is Nutiva.

If you are prone to acne, stick with virgin coconut oil for sunburn, as it is less likely to clog pores than refined coconut oil. You may prefer a lighter oil such as jojoba for sunburn on your face.

coconut oil for sunburn relief

#7 – Milk Based Sunburn Remedies

Moo juice is the sunburn cure of choice for some sun sufferers. Maybe it's a Midwestern thing? I remember my mom bathing my shoulders with milk after a little too much sun at a nearby lake. We lived on a dairy farm, so that may have something to do with the choice of treatment. It did help to soothe the burn, although I did smell a little like sour milk. Simply apply the milk gently to the affected area with a cotton ball or very soft cloth. Yogurt, sour cream and kefir are also good options, and may stay in place a little better than plain milk.

#8 – Baking Soda

Some people use a paste of baking soda and water applied to the sunburned skin and reapplied as needed when it dries out. You can also use a few tablespoons in a tepid bath and soak for 15-20 minutes.

This wouldn't be my first choice, as it might be too drying, but if you have nothing else on hand I'd give it a go. Pat dry or air dry to avoid abrasion.

#9 – Essential Oils for Sunburn

To safely use essential oils for sunburn relief, dilute 10 drops of essential oil in 4 ounces of carrier oil. Store in a glass bottle, and apply as needed to sunburned skin to soothe and moisturize.

I don't recommend applying undiluted essential oils directly to the skin, especially sunburned skin. It may be best to use one of the other sunburn treatments first, as some people experience irritation when using essential oils on a fresh burn.

Recommended essential oils for sunburn include:

Good carrier oils include:

#10 – Plantain Infused Oil

I almost forgot this one, until I was infusing a fresh batch from the garden. Common (broadleaf) plantain (Plantago major) and narrowleaf plantain can be chopped up and infused in olive oil to make a salve that's great for skin irritations such as bug bites, bees stings and sunburn. You can read about how to infuse plantain in olive oil in the post “Grandma Called it Medicine Leaf“.

#11 – Hydrate

While you're using topical products for sunburn relief, don't forget to get plenty of fluids inside, too. Drink plenty of water and other liquids, and enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables. (Watch out for coffee and alcoholic drinks, which can be dehydrating.)

Some fruits and veggies with high water content include:

  • Asian Pears
  • Cucumbers
  • Celery
  • Grapefruit and other citrus
  • Honeydew melon
  • Lettuce and other leafy greens
  • Muskmelon
  • Peaches and Nectarines
  • Tomatoes
  • Strawberries
  • Watermelon
  • Zucchini
sunburned neck and chest with text overlay "11 sunburn remedies"

Sunburn Relief Products

These links go directly to Amazon for easy purchase.

Treatment of Sunburn Blisters

With more severe sunburn, the skin may blister and eventually peel. Try to leave the blister skin intact if possible, as it will protect the raw skin underneath. If sunburn blisters appear, keep them clean and watch for any signs of infection.

If you need to drain the sunburn blisters, carefully use a sterilized needle. A better option may be to bandage the blister with honey (as noted above), which should bring down the swelling without puncturing the skin.

When to See a Doctor for Sunburn

From mayoclinic.org, please see a doctor for sunburn if the following symptoms apply:

  • The sunburn is severe — with blisters — and covers a large portion of your body
  • The sunburn is accompanied by a high fever, headache, severe pain, dehydration, confusion, nausea or chills
  • You've developed a skin infection, indicated by swelling, pus or red streaks leading from the blister
  • Your sunburn doesn't respond to at-home care

I hope this post helps keep you comfortable and on the mend if you get too much sun this summer. If burns are severe, please see a trained health professional.

woman applying aloe vera for sunburn relief on sunburned shoulder

If you've found this post helpful, please Pin or share it with your friends.

Don't miss the other posts in our Home Remedies Series, such as:

Summertime posts you may also find useful:

Originally posted in 2013, updated in 2017, 2018.

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24 Comments

  1. Aspirin. From a report by Dr Edell read from a medical journal. Sunburn is an inflammation. Aspirin treats inflammation. Take aspirin as directed that day and the next. Will prevent pain and peeling.

  2. I prefer Aloe, but I have had “canned milk” (not sweetened condensed) used for burns on me by my mother before and it did work as well or maybe slightly better than aloe if you discount the stench of sour milk. As it is a little thicker from the canning process it would work better than regular “fresh” milk from the store.

  3. I am always looking for natural remedies and had not heard of most of these. Thank you! I will be sharing with my readers too.

    1. Believe it or not but antiseptic mouthwash is GREAT for taking the sting out of sunburn and if you use a mint flavored it doesn’t smell bad either. Just use a spray bottle and spray where you need it or put some in the sink and dampening a towel to throw over your back or legs or whatever.

    1. Did you just use lavender and water in a spray bottle?? My son has a very bad sunburn and I’m desperate

      1. To safely use essential oils for sunburn relief, dilute 10 drops of essential oil in 4 ounces of carrier oil. Store in a glass bottle, and apply as needed to sunburned skin to soothe and moisturize. Dab onto affected area with a cotton ball.

  4. I have found that for me St. John’s Wort Oil works the best. It is the only one that I have found that I can apply to stop the burn and not have to keep reapplying. Usually one application and I am good to go. Being fair skinned, this was a huge blessing for me to find! I don’t travel without it!

  5. Thanks for the list! I got good and crispy at a farm day this weekend in North Carolina. Luckily, I have a double infused plantain salve from last fall made with olive oil, and so far, it’s been three days, no peeling. It’s still sore so I took some aspirin. The skin is staying hydrated and it’s worth it, even if I’m shiny 🙂 This year, I may add some other herbs to the recipe.

  6. At the moment I am situated on the Equator in the Andes, at about 4500 ft. whenever I get caught up with my roof garden (there’s triple whammy) I seem to become dumb dumb dumb. And it’s worse ’cause i am genetically a redhead (quadruple whammy) who should know better. When i come inside I use cotton balls soaked in a 1:1 mixture of ACV and water everywhere that i know has been exposed and then follow with lots of coconut oil. No pain, no heat and tightness only on my cheekbones last time. I usually wear a large brim hat…Still it is better to avoid a burn, right?

  7. I am fair skinned as well, but I forgot to use sunblock on my legs this time. Vinegar has been my go to for years and works like a dream, but this time the burn was worse and the skin dried out. The cracking is painful. So, out of frustration, I tried honey because I know it’s an antibiotic. After not getting much rest last night because of the pain, I’m happy to say that the honey has soothed my burn by cooling it and moisturizing it 🙂 I found this site after getting relief enough to realize that I might need to check on if it was good for me or not. Thanks for putting this out. Some of the treatments you have listed are ones that I’ve never heard of and will keep in mind in the future.

    1. Although coconut oil is a solid at cool room temperatures, it’s composed primarily of medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs). These medium chain fatty acids are small, and permeate cell membranes easily, making it easy for them to be absorbed by the skin.

  8. Ive tried everything but i still itch like crazy, it wont stop and it makes me jump and screech because of how irritating and painful it is. Help…

    1. You’ve tried all eleven options in the post and every suggestion in the comments? If so, I’m tapped out of ideas. If not, try some you haven’t tried, and remember that itching is a sign of healing.

    2. Cider vinegar is miraculous! I put 1/2 c in a 1 qt spray bottle, used a few times probably within 12 hours after sun. Mom told me but I was a doubter, until I got burned fishing all day in the high country. Well the leg I sprayed was only pink the next day but the untreated leg had blisters All over! 2nd morning the treated leg was normal but took over a week for the other leg! Use promptly, best when skin is just starting to turn pink.
      If you have kids keep a bottle in your car in the summer. Mix fresh when you get home. Too easy!

  9. Tallow balm (tallow and olive oil and essential oils) seem to work well for us. The tallow is very nourishing the skin. It’s a bit greasy but it soaks in after a while.

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