Surprising Natural Sunburn Remedies

Surprising Natural Sunburn Remedies

Now that summer’s here for the northern hemisphere, adults spend much more time soaking up the sun’s rays and vitamin D. That said—even for the most careful and diligent—those who spend more time in the sun run a higher risk for sunburn. As sunburn develops, you may be understandably tempted to wash the burn, or use cool water to stave the pain.

The first step: don’t wash immediately after developing sunburn. The skin responds to the first-degree burn like any other injury and secretes protective oils to keep the burn from sustaining any more sunlight. This includes vitamin D. Some studies show that waiting eight hours after developing sunburn will help the sunburn to heal more quickly, with less peeling. Of course, the afflicted are more than welcome to use cold compresses, or lightly damp cold towels, to absorb the heat and minimize the pain.

Instead of water, try these surprising natural sunburn remedies:


Some red pomegranates on old wooden table
The acids in pomegranate help cells heal more quickly from sunburn damage and boost the skin with powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants help prevent cell damage and inflammation. This berry is also easily incorporated into many dishes, to fight sunburn from within. Apply gathered pomegranate seeds onto the burn and leave to soak for a few minutes, or gently massage the inside flesh of the fruit onto the skin for a few minutes.



Cold tea can numb the pain, while powerful antioxidants and other nutrients can add to your body’s natural oils and begin the cell reconstruction process. Peppermint tea especially soothes sunburns. Black and green tea reduces redness with tannins, catechin, theobromine and, in the case of green tea, chlorophyll.

If you have sunburn in one specific area, soak the tea bag in cool water and apply as a compress. If you have wide area or full-body sunburn, steep the tea in warm water and let cool, then apply to the sunburn like a wash. Massage well into the skin as needed.

Coconut Oil

Coconuts and organic coconut oil in a glass jar
Some people find that coconut oil works as a mild sunscreen; coconut oil possesses a recorded SPF of anywhere from 5-10. Coconut oil keeps the skin moisturized and helps the skin absorb essential cell-repairing nutrients, trap essential oils, stop the burning process and absorb bacteria.


Puffy, cooked, cooled oats can become a natural whole-food Band-Aid for sunburn. Especially after it has absorbed milk or yogurt, the saccharides in oatmeal will restore moisture, nutrients and vitamins to the skin while it heals. Oatmeal can be applied as a paste and left to dry, like a mask, or oats can be folded into a wet cloth, allowed to saturate, and applied in compress form.


Strawberry. Strawberries. Organic Berries
Strawberries, like green and black tea, contain tannin—a natural pain reliever. All foods with tannin will absorb the painful sting from sunburn. Like pomegranate, strawberries are also easily incorporated into many summertime dishes. Rub the skin of strawberries onto the burn itself, slice strawberries to steep in a tea, or pulverize strawberries for application like an ointment.

White Vinegar

bottle of apple juice
White vinegar, besides being antiseptic, reduces inflammation and redness in the skin. Like cucumber, white vinegar makes a great natural, leveling toner for the face. On sunburns, frequent white vinegar application can reduce the chance of peeling, or reduce actual peeling, over time. On mild to moderate sunburns, white vinegar can relieve pain, but beware—the more potent acids in white vinegar could aggravate severe sunburns with open blisters. If you sustain blisters, see a trusted medical specialist.


Milk in jar and glass on the old wooden table on a outdoor setting.

Milk traps cool moisture onto the skin and gives the skin more added proteins and more vitamin D. In a similar way, milk aids in healing skin of the mouth and throat burned by spicy foods and peppers—milk coats the tongue and throat, stops the burning process and keeps harmful chemicals from reaching the cells. Milk can be poured over wide area burns, briefly bathed in in severe cases, or absorbed into a cloth to make a compress for sectional, small burns.

If, for whatever reason, milk is not your remedy of choice, substitute with nutrient plain yogurt. Yogurt with probiotics helps stop the burning process, heal the burn and cultivate faster cell turnover than if you left the sunburn unattended. Yogurt is a refreshing, cooling paste that can be left on the skin for up to ten minutes before light rinsing.



fresh potatoes
Humans have been using potato skins as a pain reliever for centuries. Typically, the skin is saved and applied to the pained area in question. Potato works for sunburn, but can also help heal minor pains and injuries. The starches absorb the pain and neutralize sunburnt skin. You can rub individual slices onto the skin, massage the burn with the skin itself, or slice raw potatoes thinly and sieve the liquid for a small sunburn wash.


Harvest cucumbers in a basket on the wooden background
Cucumbers have little added effects, like protein or cell rejuvenation, besides impeccable cooling properties. Cucumbers applied to the face will reduce natural redness, dryness and irritation; it performs the same tasks when applied to sunburn. Cucumbers can reduce swelling, the chance of peeling, and redness in faster increments. Lay thin cucumber slices over small burns, or strain cubed cucumber slices for water and apply.

While treating for sunburn, drink water and hydrate with many of the more liquid treatments, like teas, cucumbers, pomegranates and strawberries. Many of the vitamins and nutrients that fight sunburn externally will help fight current and future sunburns internally. Well-nourished, hydrated, healthy skin is less prone to sunburn and can build up decreased sensitivity to sunshine. That said, always use sunscreen prior to outdoor activity. Many alternative sunscreens exist, or can be made using some of the ingredients on this list. Some infuse coconut oil with cucumbers and strawberries for mild sunscreen; others believe that frequent tea drinking can help protect against sunburn over time.

You may be tempted to just rinse fresh sunburns, or ignore the pain and hope for swift healing, when in reality many of these remedies can provide fast—even instantaneous—relief. The aloe vera is a famous sunburn-treating plant, but you can find other easy-to-reach remedies right in your own kitchen or garden. Which sunburn remedies work the best and fastest for you?

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