These easy to use home remedies for sunburn will help bring relief from sunburn pain and speed healing from your face to your toes. Remember, sunburns are burns – so always be gentle to sunburned skin. If blisters appear, keep them clean and watch for any signs of infection. (See note at bottom of post for when to see a doctor for sunburn.) Most of the time home sunburn treatment will take care of your symptoms, but be careful out there.
Home Remedy for Sunburn #1 – Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is one home remedy that comes up time and again, and sunburn treatment is no exception. It's the top sunburn remedy recommendation at Earth Clinic, and the top recommendation in Home Remedies: What Works. Some people use it straight, some dilute it in lukewarm water. (Straight vinegar may sting a little because of the acetic acid.) Apply gently with a cotton ball or lay a soft washcloth soaked in the solution on the area. Apply on the hour, as needed. (Yes, you can use homemade apple cider vinegar.)
Home Remedy for Sunburn #2 – 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 sunburn. 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).
Home Remedy for Sunburn #3 – Oatstraw and oatmeal
Oatmeal is another good sunburn treatment. 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, take about two handfuls of dried oatmeal (not cooked – any type is fine) and put it in an old sock. 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.
Home Remedy for Sunburn #4 – 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 in a yet unknown way.
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 apply honey on sunburn, you can dab the honey directly on smaller areas, or apply the honey to a bandage and apply the bandage to a larger area.
Home Remedy for Sunburn #5 – Coconut Oil
I use coconut oil as a sunblock and as an after sun treatment. While it doesn't have a high SPF (it's been rated between 4 and 10, depending on the study), 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.)
Back to sunburn – when I've used coconut oil for sunburn, it has very quickly soothed the burning and tightness of the skin. Coconut oil is very light, 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 the oil can be absorbed topically, and are used by our body for healing. Another Earth Clinic user reported using cocoa butter in a similar fashion. My favorite coconut oil is Nutiva.
Home Remedy for Sunburn #6 – Milk
Moo juice is the sunburn cure of choice for some of the sun baked. 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.
Home Remedy for Sunburn #7 – Baking Soda
One Earth Clinic user recommends a paste of baking soda and water applied to the sunburned area 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.
Home Remedy for Sunburn #8 – Lukewarm Bath
A good soak all on its own can help to rehydrate and cool the skin. Don't overdo it – 15 to 20 minutes is plenty. Adding skin soothers such as the 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. You can also purchase coconut oil soap with aloe vera and chamomile to combine several good sunburn treatments into one.
Home Remedy for Sunburn #9 – Essential Oils
Lavender or chamomile essential oil (EO) diluted in a carrier oil such as jojoba or fractionated coconut oil (20 drops EO to 4 ounces carrier oil) may help speed healing. There is some discussion as to whether or not it's okay to apply oil on a fresh burn, so it may be best to use one of the other treatments first.
Home Remedy for Sunburn #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“.
Sunburn Relief Products
These links go directly to Amazon for easy purchase.
- Apple cider vinegar
- Aubrey Organics Aloe Vera
- Nutiva coconut oil
- Manuka honey
- Baking soda (big bag)
- Coconut oil soap with aloe vera and chamomile
- Aveeno Bath Colloidal Oatmeal
- Lavender or chamomile essential oil
- Jojoba oil
- Fractionated coconut oil
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.
Don't miss the other posts in our Home Remedies Series, such as:
- 15 Home Remedies for Seasonal Allergies and Hay Fever Symptoms
- 15 Home Remedies for Bug Bites and Stings
- 12 Home Remedies for Sore Muscles
Originally posted in 2013, updated in 2017.
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