How to Take the Sting Out of Sunburn, Naturally

Summer is better without the sunburn, but accidents happen. Sometimes we miss a spot when slathering on the sunscreen, or we forget to re-apply especially after swimming or breaking a sweat. The resulting burn is not only painful but can last for days.

More importantly, sunburn raises the risk of developing skin cancer, so treating it quickly is vital to reducing skin damage. Holistic plastic surgeon and skin expert Dr. Shirley Madhère shares her top three natural ingredients for first aid use on sunburned skin.

  • Check your pantry for apple cider vinegar. It’s an old-school remedy for sunburn relief. The main ingredient in vinegar is acetic acid, which works like aspirin to relieve pain. “Try combining a cup of water with a cup of apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle and spritz directly onto your sunburn to soothe the discomfort,” says Madhère. This works best for mild sunburn and should not be used on blistering or open skin or on deep burns. (Of course, any deep or serious burn, or one that is severely painful should prompt a visit to your nearest emergency room.)
  • Aloe vera is well-known for its ability to soothe and cool hot skin. Madhère explains it can also help reduce redness when applied after sun exposure. If you’re not using raw aloe from the plant, look for products made from 100% pure aloe. Be cautious that some aloe lotions or gels contain alcohol or other ingredients that can further irritate and dry out the skin. Also, note that aloe contains natural latex, which can cause a reaction in people with latex allergies.
  • For hundreds of years, Calendula (garden marigold) has been a go-to ingredient to improve healing. “It contains flavinoids and linolenic acid that fight inflammation,” says Madhère. She recommends using a homeopathic Calendula topical likeBoiron Calendula Cream or Ointmentto relieve a variety of skin irritations, including sunburn. Not only does this topical medicineprovide soothing relief, but it also promotes healing and moisturizes the skin.* Dr. Madhère adds, “For an added benefit of soothing the skin, Boiron Calendula also helps to reduce the discomfort of the skin surrounding the burn.”

There’s one more natural ingredient needed for sunburn recovery, but it goes in your body instead of on your skin. “Sunburns are very drying for our skin,” says Madhère, “and often, we may be dehydrated after spending time in the sun.” Replenish lost fluid by increasing your intake of fluid using pure water, electrolyte water, or coconut water. 

Want more tips for healthy, glowing skin? Visit the Skin Health Center at and listen in on weekly episodes of Dr. Madhere’s podcast, Forever F.A.B.

*Claims based on traditional homeopathic practice, not accepted medical evidence. Not FDA evaluated.

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