There are many ways that your best-laid sun protection plan goes awry: you forget or run out of sunscreen, you don’t re-apply, you misjudge the weather, you don’t use enough, or your sunscreen of choice is not an effective ultraviolet (UV) barrier. Luckily, there are several soothing natural remedies that can take the sting out of too much sun!

Are you nursing a sunburn and looking for natural relief? Basically, overexposure to the sun’s UV rays causes a toxic reaction, damaging skin cells (which is why often skin peels after a bad burn), dilating blood vessels, and setting off an inflammatory response, a.k.a sunburn. (1)

Characteristically, sunburns can range anywhere from a ruddy glow to a blistering burn. The increased blood flow to the exposed site creates the signature feeling of blistering heat that radiates from the affected area.

Prevention is the best defense against sunburns, but they still occur with alarming frequency. A study published in the journal JAMA Dermatology found that in 2015 over a third of American adults got sunburned that year. (2) In other words, a touch of sunburn is surprisingly common. The biggest downside, besides the discomfort, is that according to the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery, sunburns—and suntans—increase the risk of developing skin cancer. (3)

woman sitting on lawn applying sunscreen

One simple way to make sure you decrease any chance of sunburn is to apply—and reapply—sunscreen when outdoors!

Get the natural sunburn relief you need

You don’t just have to just suffer your sunburn stoically—there are many natural, DIY home remedies that offer you optimal sunburn relief. If you now find yourself with a patch of red, sore, swollen or itchy skin, remind yourself that it’s temporary. On average, sunburns last three to seven days.

Here are four quick remedies for natural sunburn relief.

Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar for burn treatment has little science to support it—but it does carry huge sway as a folk remedy. Reports on the effectiveness of apple cider vinegar (ACV) falls into two camps. Many ACV enthusiasts believe that ACV is anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and analgesic. When applied as a diluted spray or compress on the affected skin, many naturopaths, such as Dr. Josh Axe, DC, DNM, CNS, believe that ACV balances skin pH, kill germs and eases discomfort through its cooling effect. (4) ACV contains lactic acid known for its ability to improve skin smoothness. (5)

In the other camp are people who believe the acid in apple cider vinegar can make the burn worse, particularly if you apply vinegar directly to exposed skin. (6)(7)

Try it: If you do want to explore treating your sunburn with ACV, make sure it’s properly diluted. You can make a 1:1 solution of vinegar and water in a spray bottle or dip a washcloth into the solution and dab on the affected areas.

Coconut oil

Is there anything that coconut oil is not good for? Coconut oil, loaded with anti-inflammatory fats, may already be your go-to as a moisturizer, lip balm, and mouth rinse. Consider adding it to your list of sunburn soothers too.

It’s especially effective as a balm for skin tightness due to moisture loss that’s often associated with sunburn. Coconut oil acts as a protective shield, reducing the amount of water that evaporates off of your skin that makes it painfully dry. It also contains vitamin E, omega 3-fatty acids and lauric acid, all super-hydrating and helpful for maintaining skin integrity. (8)

Try it: Mix in a few drops of chamomile essential oil, known for its calming effects, into your coconut oil base. This gives your sunburn a double dose of relief.

woman putting aloe vera extract on her face

Using aloe vera can bring quick, cooling relief to red, inflamed skin.

Aloe Vera

Perhaps the best-known botanical sunburn remedy is aloe vera. It’s been used for millennia for its healing properties, which run the gamut as a treatment for constipation to a skin beautifier (famously favored by Cleopatra). For burns, it bestows a protective effect against radiation damage. (9)

Plus, it delivers an immediate soothing, cooling sensation. Aloe vera contains compounds that repair cellular damage—you skin feels sleeved by a protective gel that seems to siphon off heat.

Try it: Straight from the plant is best, but if not, make sure you buy a 100 percent pure aloe vera gel with no additives or preservatives. If you do have a burn, keep a few leaves or the gel in the fridge for extra cooling effect.


Yogurt contains probiotics and lactic acid, which make it an excellent choice for reducing redness and soothing the skin. Probiotics—live, beneficial bacteria—are emerging as a viable topical ingredient that can mitigate the effects of UV-induced skin damage. (10) In addition, the lactic acid in yogurt can help exfoliate some of the dead skin cells.

Try it: Choose a full-fat, plain yogurt and apply it gently on the sunburnt areas. The yogurt acts as a mild anti-inflammatory agent. Let the yogurt sit for about 10 minutes and then wash off in the shower.

A bonus tip: Pay special attention to hydration when you are sunburned. The skin, the body’s largest organ, can lose a lot of water through sunburned skin. A sunburn draws fluid to the scorched area and away from the rest of the body. Drinking lots of clear fluids helps prevent dehydration. (11)

The bottom line

As the saying goes, “when you have been burned by fire once, you don’t leap into the flames again”. Once your sunburn starts to heal, be extra proactive next time you play in the sun. Choose an effective sunscreen, apply more than you think you need, and reapply every two hours. Seek shade where possible, wear hats, sunglasses and sun-protective clothing, and avoid the sun when the ultraviolet rays are at their peak, between 10 AM and 2 PM. (12) If you do get more sun than you bargained for, try one of these natural remedies—vinegar, coconut oil, aloe vera, or yogurt—to speed up healing and soothe irritated skin.

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