Don't...Feel The Burn

Natural Sunburn Relief

Summer is here, and activities outdoors are increasing, as does sun exposure. We hope everyone is doing their part and using the proper sunscreen. It's common knowledge how important sun protection is, but sun damage still happens. Not reapplying sunscreen regularly, not using the right grade SPF for your skin tone, going out in the sun during peak times, and staying out too long can all contribute to sunburn.

Most of us have suffered some type of sun damage and while it isn’t the end of the world, it can be extremely painful. Have you ever tried to sleep with a sunburn? It’s almost impossible to get a good night’s sleep!

We aren’t knocking OTC sunburn remedies. They have their place and can be effective, but we know most of our clients are interested in NATURAL remedies.

As luck would have it, a staff member needed some suggestions for her daughter who had recently been burned on a lake trip. We asked her to try some of our remedies. 


Cold Water

A cold wet rag, gently applied to sunburned skin can bring instant relief. Don’t count it out until you’ve tried it. By the same token, don’t even think about a warm/hot shower. Keep showers and baths on the cool side to avoid aggravating already hot, sore skin.

STAFF REPORT: This worked well. Our staffer saturated soft clothes in water, THEN put them in the freezer for 10 mins. She then laid the cold rags over the sunburn for instant relief.


The acetic acid found in vinegar is responsible for its ability to reduce pain, itching, and inflammation. Add a cup of cider vinegar to your bath water and soak your burned skin in it. It can also work like a natural aspirin. Simply dab a bit of white vinegar onto your sunburn for 20 minutes of instant pain relief.

STAFF REPORT: Her daughter reported no additional relief from this.

Cool Milk Compress

A cool milk compress is a quick and low-cost way to treat sunburn. The initial coolness of the milk will ease the heat, while it also creates a layer of protein to protect your skin, help it heal, and further soothe discomfort. Saturate a soft rag or gauze in cold milk and drape over the burn. You can leave it on if necessary, but our suggestion is to apply for 15 minutes and reapply as often as necessary until you start feeling relief.

STAFF REPORT: This remedy was used at probably the height of discomfort and was a welcome reprieve from the sting and discomfort. They reported instant relief, but it may have been a little drying. They reapplied every 10 minutes for a couple of hours and it seemed to speed up healing.

ACV & Herbs Spray

Apple Cider Vinegar has many uses, but its effectiveness at reducing the pain and inflammation of sunburn is well documented. Some say this is the most effective remedy they’ve tried to treat sunburns. We found a remedy that combines apple cider vinegar (diluted) and a strong tea of soothing herbs on Wellness Mama. Here’s how they make it: Boil 1 cup of water and add 2 tablespoons of dried mint leaf, lavender flowers, and dried plantain leaf. Remove from heat and let cool. Once cool, strain out the herbs. Add an equal amount of apple cider vinegar to the cooled tea mixture and pour in into a spray bottle. Spray on the burn as often as needed to cool and soothe the pain. Another option is to add one cup of apple cider vinegar to a bath to help balance the pH (acid or alkalinity) of sunburned skin and promote healing.

STAFF REPORT: This wasn’t popular or effective! It burned and her daughter cried! Perhaps the ACV wasn’t diluted enough, but whatever the case, be careful with vinegar and do a SMALL test spot first to avoid potential tears.

Topical Remedies

Aloe Vera

This is the best remedy out there to treat sunburned skin naturally. It is loaded with powerful glyconutrients that speed healing. Ideally, it is best to use the gel from a fresh plant. We know some great aloe gels come in a bottle. However, if you can, the best source of aloe is straight from the plant! Cut a mature Aloe Vera leaf open, and a thick gel-like juice will come out of it. Use that as a topical ointment to reduce the sting and redness of your sunburned skin. Apply it five times a day until your condition improves.

STAFF REPORT: They started by buying aloe gel at the store. Her daughter reported feeling like it wasn’t doing anything and stung a little. After looking at the ingredient list it was clear that they were probably getting very little aloe. They decided to buy an actual aloe plant and the healing and relief seemed almost immediate. If you are going to use aloe, don’t buy the gel, just buy the plant. If you use the plant, a great method is to cut several big leaves down the middle, spread them flat, and lay them on the affected skin.


This remedy is old but has many testimonials as to its effectiveness. Potatoes have starch-based compounds that help soothe sunburn. Chop an uncooked potato into slices, and rub or pat down a piece on your sore sunburned spots. You can also try grating a cold raw potato and applying it as a poultice.


Gosh, what doesn’t honey do? The Holistic Pediatrician author Kathi Kemper, M.D. says, "Studies suggest it may work better than some antibiotic creams at speeding up healing, reducing infection, and minimizing pain."

STAFF REPORT: They were not a fan of this remedy. Honey is great for many things, but the stickiness, etc…, along with the fact that it was rather ineffective, means it may be best to save honey for its antibacterial and antiviral properties.

Baking Soda

Add 2 cups of baking soda to a bath to help ease irritation and redness from sunburn.

STAFF REPORT: This may have decreased redness and irritation a little.

Black and Green Tea

The tannic acid in the black tea helps draw heat from inflamed skin, and in restoring the pH balance of skin. Green tea has both tannic acid and catechins that cool and soothe sunburned skin. You can either use the tea bags themselves as a cold compress on the burnt areas or wash your skin gently with the cold tea extract. Studies also suggest that drinking just two cups of green tea a day can provide additional sun-protective benefits.


Like green tea, berries also have tannin, which helps alleviate the sting of sunburn. Use it as a topical balm by mashing a cup of ripened strawberries and applying it on top of your sunburns. Let the balm sit on the affected skin for a few minutes and then rinse with fresh, tepid water afterward.


Cucumbers have natural antioxidant and analgesic properties. They have a natural cooling effect, so just putting the slices on affected areas can produce instant relief. This works for small areas, but for larger areas chill cucumbers, then mash in a blender to create a paste, and apply to affected sunburned areas including the face. Cucumbers also can be soothing for peeling skin following a sunburn.

STAFF REPORT: They blended and used as a paste. Some relief was reported, but as far as topical ointments, it was hard to beat the aloe. The gel from the aloe plant simply cannot be beaten for a sunburn.

Of course, we would have loved to have been able to try all of these remedies, but time and healing prevented trying them all! Let us know if you’ve tried any and what the results were. Let’s not forget the most effective sunburn relief remedy-not getting burned in the first place. If you do find yourself in this painful predicament try some of these simple, natural remedies!