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Soothe That Sunburn: Cheap & Natural Remedies in Your Kitchen & Bathroom

By Vicki McClure Davidson


There are many natural, inexpensive remedies for relieving the pain of a sunburn
There are many natural, inexpensive remedies for relieving the pain of a sunburn


No matter how careful you are, you're bound to get a sunburn if you're outdoors for any period of time. While most people get burned while swimming, sunbathing, or doing yard work or sports during the warmer months, sun reflections coming from snow, water, sand, or light-colored buildings can produce a burn even during the winter. Overcast days can also produce burns.

Number 1 on your must-do list in taking care of your skin when out in the sun should always be prevention. Apply a high SPF sunscreen or sunblock (and reapply it often, even if it claims to be waterproof), limit your time in full sunlight, wear a hat and long sleeves. There are now sunscreens on the market that contain aloe to counteract possible burning. Some sunscreens also contain vitamins A, C, and E, tree tea oil, and calendula cream from marigolds as ingredients that act as preemptive home remedies for sunburn.

When the best of intentions fail and you get a sunburn, there are a number of natural home remedies that you can use to soothe the burn. Since damage to the skin must take its course to heal, these products have not been proven to heal a burn faster. But they should alleviate some or much of the pain.

Should your sunburn be severe, don't hesitate to call your doctor. Many people mistakenly disregard the health ramifications that usually follow a severe burn. Describe any symptoms you may be experiencing, and your doctor can then make the decision to treat you at home or in the office or refer you to an emergency room at the hospital. Here are many of the symptoms that follow a severe sunburn:


For sunburns that aren't severe, here are some home remedies, many of which are natural. They include hydration with cool water, cold compresses, aloe vera, vinegar, witch hazel, and many other items you may already have in your kitchen or bathroom:

There are many different ways to relieve the pain of sunburn, but it's important to avoid becoming sunburned in the first place | Photo credit: Petr Kratochvil,
There are many different ways to relieve the pain of sunburn, but it's important to avoid becoming sunburned in the first place

From Prevention:

Following a burn, skin is inflamed. Cool it down with compresses dipped in any of the following substances.

Cold water. Use either plain water from the faucet or add a few ice cubes, says Michael Schreiber, M.D. Dip a cloth into the liquid and lay it over the burn. Repeat every few minutes as the cloth warms. Apply several times a day for a total of 10 to 15 minutes each.

Aluminum acetate. If itching is intense, says Thomas Gossel, Ph.D., R.Ph., try mixing Domeboro's powder packets (available in drugstores) with water. The aluminum acetate in the powder keeps skin from getting too dry or itchy. Follow package directions.

Witch hazel. Moisten a cloth with witch hazel, says Fredric Haberman, M.D. This incredible astringent has been shown to have long-lasting anti-inflammatory relief. Apply often for temporary relief. For smaller areas, dip cotton balls into the liquid and gently wipe on.

From Eating Well:

Soothe your sunburn by halving a cucumber lengthwise and rubbing it on scorched skin as you would aloe, suggests Alan Logan, N.D., co-author of Your Skin, Younger (Sourcebooks, 2010): "Vitamin C can turn down the dial on inflammation damage in the skin."

Prevention through Eating: Eating more vitamin C-rich foods, such as strawberries, may help to ward off wrinkles and age-related dryness, suggests research from 2007 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Vitamin C’s skin-smoothing effects may be due to its ability to mop up free radicals produced from ultraviolet rays and also its role in collagen synthesis. Collagen is fibrous protein that keeps skin firm and vitamin C is essential for collagen production. ...Like lycopene, beta carotene—the compound that makes pumpkins orange—protects your skin from UV damage. Beta carotene is also converted to vitamin A in the body, which helps to keep your eyes, bones, and immune system healthy.

From Softpedia:

Aloe Vera gel is the most common home remedy against sun burns. You can use lotions that contain Aloe Vera, but it is better to apply fresh Aloe Vera gel to the damaged area of the skin, as this will help the epidermis recover faster. The sterols in this healing plant are anti-inflammatory and will prevent skin from swelling, while the nutritive mineral zinc will enhance tissue regeneration.

Chamomile, Lavender, Eucalyptus, Rose hips and Buckthorn essential oils are also beneficial for the inflamed skin. They can be applied directly to the skin or added to the bath water.

From Mother Nature Network:

To speed recovery, there’s lemon juice, which disinfects, and vinegar, known to restore the acid in the skin and reduce the sting and peeling associated with the sunburn.

If you’re more of a carb person, think potatoes, either mashed or sliced, and pancakes – buttermilk, wheat flour, egg whites, or milk – to reduce the pain and discomfort of sunburn. Cornstarch and barley also fall into this category.

The American Cancer Society reports that sunburns increase the risk of melanoma, the most common cause of death from skin cancer. One in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer at some point in their lifetime, said Dr. Carolyn Jacob, a Chicago dermatologist. "One person dies every hour from skin cancer."

Of the more unusual folk remedies that have made it into the public forum are chocolate frosting, preparation H, Pepto Bismo, and toothpaste. More widely accepted remedies: Yogurt and sour cream, mustard, and cod liver oils.

Prevention of sunburn should always be your Number 1 concern - sunbathers at South Beach at Lake Michigan, South Haven, MI | Photo credit: Barb Ver Sluis,


Prevention of sunburn should always be your Number 1 concern

From Simple Remedies:

Add 10 drops of rose water to a tumbler full of ice cold water. Dab on to your face using a cotton swab.

Prepare milk and water solution using equal quantities of both, dip a muslin cloth in the solution and dab all over your face. Leave for half an hour and then rinse off.

Add 2 spoons of oatmeal to a bowl of water and make a paste. Apply over the face for quick relief.

From Huffington Post:

Taking a pain-reliever, like ibuprofen and aspirin, is a sure-fire way to relieve sunburn pain, dermatologists say. But there are also a bounty of natural options that can help.

The vinegar bath is (specifically apple cider vinegar) a famous home remedy for sunburn. But does it actually work?

There haven't been any studies on the effects of vinegar on sunburn, but it's likely effective, said [Dr. Jonette Keri, M.D., associate professor of dermatology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine], because vinegar is an antiseptic and helps to cool the skin as it evaporates.

Theoretically, vinegar could help to balance the body's pH levels to take away the stinging feeling of the burn, though it likely works by just providing a cooling sensation to the skin, said [Dr. Jessica Krant, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York City].

From eMedicineHealth:

For mild sunburn, cool compresses with equal parts of milk and water may suffice. Cold compresses with Burow's solution may also be used, and can be bought at a drugstore. Dissolve 1 packet in 1 pint of water. Soak gauze or a soft clean cloth in it. Gently wring out the cloth and apply to the sunburned area for 15-20 minutes. Change or refresh the cloth and solution every 2-3 hours.

Cool (not ice cold) baths may help. Avoid bath salts, oils, and perfumes because these may produce sensitivity reactions. Avoid scrubbing the skin or shaving the skin. Use soft towels to gently dry the body. Don't rub. Use a light, fragrance-free skin moisturizer.

Avoid lotions that contain topical anesthetic medications because a person can become sensitized and then allergic to that medicine.

Stay out of the sun while you are sunburned. Stay hydrated to avoid dehydration.

From AltMedicine:

Hydrotherapy: Brief baths, showers, and towel compresses can help to keep the sunburn cool and hydrated. The temperature of the water should be cool to lukewarm. Water that is too hot can strip the natural oils of the skin.

For a mild sunburn, try taking a cool bath or shower. Or place wet, cool towels on the affected areas for 10 to 15 minutes, several times a day.


Prevention of sunburn should always be your top priority | Photo credit: Ocean waves water beaches by Jon Sullivan


Prevention of sunburn should always be your top priority

Chan, Amanda, Huffington Post, "10 Natural Sunburn Remedies" (
Eating Well, "Foods for Beautiful Skin" (
Eating Well, "Surprising Uses for Everyday Foods" (
eMedicineHealth, "Sunburn" (
Mother Nature Network, "Home Remedies for Sunburn" (
Prevention, "12 Natural Sunburn Cures" ( Simple Remedies, "Sunburn On Face Natural Remedies: Home Cure For Sunburn Redness" (
Wong, Cathy, AltMedicine, "Natural Remedies for Sunburn" (


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