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Natural Ways to Heal After a Sunburn

Aloe can only do so much…

· skin care,skin,sunburn,natural

If you’re a sun worshipper and love to bathe in the afternoon rays, especially on the hottest summer days, you’ve probably also experienced the cruel side of your favorite star. As beautiful as it is in its infinite yellow glow, the sun is more volatile than you may realize – spewing random particles and plasma around like a deadly cosmic light show.

In less than 7.59 billion years when our sun becomes a red giant, essentially a dying star, it will grow 256 times larger than its current size and engulf the inner planets – possibly even burning up the Earth. As the third planet from the sun, about 92.9 million miles away, fortunately for you, you only have to worry about healing relatively minor sunburns right now. That is – if you don’t protect your skin properly from ultraviolet (UV/UVA) radiation with sunscreen and sun protective clothing.

Keep reading to find out some natural ways to soothe that sunburn!

11 Ways to Heal a Sunburn

Aloe Vera

Many people first turn to the naturally cooling and calming effects of aloe vera after a sunburn. Used typically in gel form or in a topical lotion, most sunburn relief products contain the jelly-like part of Aloe Barbadensis Miller (aloe vera) leaves, along with vitamins A, C, D, and E, various oils, other herbs, and a local anesthetic to temporarily numb pain. Homemade remedies rely on simply cutting open an aloe leaf and using the clear gel inside.

Aloe vera is considered a “wonder plant” by many herbalists, as it has been used since ancient times for its therapeutic properties, especially in softening the skin and healing wounds. Even Egyptian Queen Cleopatra used it!

However, although recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) for sunburn relief, aloe vera has not been proven through scientific research as an effective treatment for a sunburn. The sun is hotter than Hell, and aloe vera can only help you so far when it comes to healing damage from the free radicals of UV/UVA radiation that are burning up your DNA.

If you experience redness, a rash, or itchiness after using aloe vera, immediately discontinue its use. Although rare, a severe allergic reaction may be marked by swelling of the lips or tongue, shortness of breath, wheezing, lightheadedness, or loss of consciousness.

Fortunately for most of us, aloe vera is a safe, convenient way to help heal a sunburn. You can cool and hydrate your sun-parched skin with many natural aloe options, including our favorites: Aloe & Coconut Oil After Sun Soother by Burt ’s Bees; Unscented Fair Trade Certified Aloe Vera Gel by Badger; Aloe Soothing Gel by NOW Foods; 99% Aloe Vera Gelly Soothing Moisturizer by Lily of the Desert; and Pure Aloe Vera Refreshing Spray by Aubrey Organics.


Just like cold milk helps soothe your mouth after eating spicy foods, it can also help pull heat away from sunburned skin. The next time you have a sunburn, open your fridge and pour yourself a glass of cold skim milk. Instead of drinking it, though, dab a washcloth in the liquid and apply it as a cold compress to your sunburn. The vitamins A and D in milk will help fight free radicals (thanks to their antioxidant qualities), and lactic acid in milk will exfoliate your dead skin cells away.


Calamine lotion acts similarly as aloe vera gel in soothing sunburned skin. It treats itching by creating a cooling sensation as it evaporates on your skin. However, it should never be used internally.


Gentle soy skin care products help hydrate the skin after a sunburn, helping to moisturize dry, itchy skin so it can properly heal.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is a common kitchen staple; look around your house and you’ll probably find some lying around. Mix 1 cup of water to 4 tbsp of baking soda and blot the mixture on sunburned areas with a cotton ball. According to Angie’s List, it “will take a little bit of the bite out of your burn.”


You can make an oatmeal paste to help moisturize and heal your sunburn naturally – just soak in a tub of finely ground oatmeal for 20 minutes! (The water should be a cloudy white before you get in.)


Some of the painful symptoms of a sunburn may be relieved with an over-the-counter 1% hydrocortisone cream applied three times a day for up to two days after a sunburn.


An old-fashioned sunburn remedy involves taking a mixture of half water and half white distilled vinegar or apple cider vinegar and dabbing it on the affected area with a washcloth. Vinegar has natural antibacterial properties, which can help in the healing process.

Green Tea

A cool compress of green tea is also helpful in healing a sunburn. Green tea contains antioxidants and protects the skin against inflammation.

Cool Water

Not only should you drink more water to help flush out toxins, the AAD also recommends frequent cool baths, showers, or placing a cold, damp towel on your sunburn (carefully) for up to 15 minutes a few times each day. After a bath or shower, pat yourself gently, allowing some water drops to stay on your skin and naturally hydrate you.

Over-the-Counter Pain Medication

Over-the-counter pain medications or anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or aspirin, may help reduce pain and redness, the AAD reports. However, for a natural anti-inflammatory, try a turmeric supplement like Curamin Extra Strength + Caffeine by Terry Naturally.

Things to Avoid if You Have a Sunburn

If you're wondering what's in your sunscreen, you're not the only one! Many beauty products may contain harmful or toxic chemicals that could damage or irritate skin. Be sure you know what's lurking in your sunscreen products, and avoid contact with anything that contains petroleum (which can trap heat in your skin) or Benzocaine or Lidocaine (which can irritate your skin).

Also avoid:

  • Picking scabs or blisters
  • Hot water (baths or showers)
  • Going back into the sun
  • Touching your sunburn

If you have a severe sunburn over a large region of your body and worsening redness, selling, or seeping of blisters, you should seek medical attention, as this could indicate an infection.

How do you naturally heal a sunburn? Share your thoughts with us by leaving a comment below!


Photo by Federico Giampieri on Unsplash

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