Seeing Red: Natural Remedies for Sunburn

   By divinecaroline  Aug 02, 2010

Yes, we all know that lying out in the sun is just as bad for us as puffing cigarettes. That said, even the most sun-smart among us slip up every once in a while and come home from a day outside with red, inflamed skin. The unique pain of a sunburn leaves most of us willing to try just about anything to stop the hurt. All it takes is a walk down the drugstore aisle to see that people are willing to shell out some serious funds to soothe the burn. Even I, a pale-skinned SPF-85 wearer, keep a bottle of aloe on hand just in case?because dealing with that pain sans soothing treatment of any kind? No, thank you.



Lately, I’ve been trying to go more natural (and cheap) in many areas of my life, from skincare to housecleaning. Turns out, there’s an entire selection of time-tested, widely accepted au naturel actions we can take to treat sunburned skin?without looking beyond our own kitchen cupboards.



Baking Soda
This kitchen staple can provide quick burn relief and cooling. Try sprinkling a generous dose of soda into cool bathwater. Not feeling the tub? Make a paste by mixing some baking soda with water, then spread it directly on the burn and allow it to dry. As it does, keep patting water on it to keep the paste stuck there until the burn is sufficiently soothed.



This is another technique that works well in the bath or applied directly. Sprinkle one cup of pulverized
oatmeal into your bathwater and soak in it. Otherwise, create a compress by wrapping dry oatmeal in cheesecloth or gauze. Run cool water through it to moisten, then apply for ten to fifteen minutes every two to four hours



Milk’s proteins also have soothing qualities when gently applied to a sunburn. Combine one cup of milk with four cups of water, with a few ice cubes thrown in. Soak a compress in it, and then apply the compress to the burn for fifteen to twenty minutes every few hours.



Witch Hazel
Moisten a cloth with witch hazel, and apply it often for temporary relief from pain and swelling. For smaller sunburned areas, dip cotton balls into the liquid and gently press them on the burn.



Cornstarch Compress
As with baking soda, making a paste out of cornstarch can calm red skin. Add enough water to the cornstarch to create a paste, then apply it directly to the burn.



Aloe Leaves
Yep, you can use the actual leaves from aloe plants to soothe burns, just as you would aloe gel from the drugstore (another reason to add a little flora to your indoor environment). Simply break open one of the leaves to expose the white aloe within, and rub the gel on the inflamed area.



Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is one of the most popular kitchen remedies for burns. Although it can leave sunburn victims smelling a bit like pickles, soaking some up with a sponge or cotton balls and dabbing it over a burn will help reduce inflammation.



Coconut Oil
This great baking ingredient is also useful for soothing sunburns. Rubbing coconut oil on a burn (after cleaning it gently) will soothe it by relieving itchiness and pain?and make it smell good. In addition, the oil will moisturize your skin the same way lotion does.



Egg Whites
Not just for protein-infused breakfasts, egg whites can soothe burns, too. After cracking a few whites into a bowl, rub them over the burn with a sponge or cotton balls. Yep, it’ll feel sort of disgusting, but it will ease the pain and heat.



An old-fashioned remedy for cooling down feverish foreheads, potatoes can also alleviate burns. Slice one thinly, then place the slices over the sunburn for instant relief.



Black Tea
To squelch a sunburn, turn your bathtub into a giant cup of tea: Keep the water lukewarm (too hot will be painful) and soak five to eight teabags in it. After they steep for a few minutes, remove them and soak in the tub to remove the sting. Another option is to steep a single bag in half a cup of water and apply the liquid directly to the burn with a sponge or cotton ball. Some people recommend opening the bags up after steeping and rubbing the tea leaves over the burn, wrapping it with gauze to hold the leaves in place.



Of course, prevention is the best way to avoid burns and their ugly aftereffects. Treatment or no treatment, our skin doesn’t forget burns?they leave scars like wrinkles, age spots, and skin cancer. Applying sunscreen, wearing UV-protective sunglasses, and keeping out of the sun’s glare during peak hours are absolute musts. And for those times when we do slip up? No need for an emergency trip to the drugstore?all we need to chase the pain away can likely be found right in our own homes.


Originally written by Allie Firestone for



Make a Comment

missanica by missanica | Holiday, FL
Aug 19, 2010

When I do have a sunburn, I've always used aloe vera, but sometimes that doesn't seem too helpful if the sunburn is bad enough! Thanks for the article, I'm definitely going to try these other remedies in the future!

ctaylor71 by ctaylor71 | Bellville, TX
Aug 18, 2010

Aloe Vera leaves really do work good for burns. My grandmother always had the plants around her house just for that purpose.

Tillia by Tillia | WARMINSTER, PA
Aug 17, 2010

Lifeguard Juice: Take several leaves of dark leaf type lettuce, put in a microwave safe dish...I use a 4 Cup Pyrex measuring cup...put in microwave to a boil, steep till you have a lite green to medium green "Juice", strain and cool till very cold, (you can use the freezer if you are in rush). Use paper towels to dip and pat on burn. Let dry. Re-apply as necessary. Works every time.

Leisha by Leisha | ELLABELL, GA
Aug 15, 2010

These are great ideas!!

babsywabs by babsywabs | Notre Dame, IN
Aug 12, 2010

Anybody out there have any novel ideas for poison ivy? I've been using benadryl spray, and calamine, and also read that aloe works. I've tried that, too, but it only lasts for a short time. The itch is driving me CRAZY!

BIvanov07 by BIvanov07 | TAMPA, FL
Aug 08, 2010

I've found that if I apply the apple cider vinegar and let it dry then re-apply and keep it on for 20 minutes (more or less) before showering, it really takes all the sting out plus it keeps me from peeling!

anushu by anushu | PEACHTREE CTY, GA
Aug 08, 2010

You can also use aloe vera as a sunscreen or if you already have sunburn. The actual plant itself for aloe vera gel from an herb store.

qwhakedup by qwhakedup | Cleveland, OH
Aug 07, 2010

Excellent tips. Thank you. I burn always and there are few in this list I din't know about. I shall give them try. Thanks again.

Aug 07, 2010

My 6 yr. old got sunburned on his shoulders and upper back at my girlfriend's house, and I soaked a towel in milk, let it come to room temp. and applied it to my son's back and shoulders, almost instantly the sting was removed. i can't believe how much pain I could have aleviated for myself had I tried this years ago.

mommastaci by mommastaci | Bethany, OK
Aug 05, 2010

Peppermint tea also works WONDERS!!!!!

mx3myers by mx3myers | Ossian, IN
Aug 04, 2010

I purchased Banana Boat's After Sun in an aerosol can and applied it every 20 minutes. My arms and neck were always dewy looking! I had relief within a couple of days and it also helped with the healing. It's well worth the $7. Also, put it on immediately after you've been out. I put it on after we left the lake, before it really set in and I think that helped also.

jameslicex0 by jameslicex0 | Wayne, MI
Aug 03, 2010

What a fantastic article!

MadHatter by MadHatter | Whitestone , NY
Aug 02, 2010

THANKS so much for this tip! i recently got back from vacation and got sun burnt so bad that i was itching but feared scratching my skin! i had Aloe lotion, but then i didn't think they had enough aloe in it to sooth my burning skin. i will keep these in mind. I would probably go with the less messy approach though :)