Sunburn - Natural Remedies that work

Fun in the Sun - The Summer months mixed with School holidays in the Southern Hemisphere for many of us, means days out with friends and family at the beach. Swimming, surfing, paddle boarding, snorkelling, kayaking, beach cricket, building sand castles to name but a few activities. During summer, the earth's orbit brings Australia closer to the sun than Europe during its summer, resulting in an additional 7% solar UV intensity. This, coupled with our clearer atmospheric conditions, means Australians are exposed to up to 15% more ultraviolet rays than Europeans. We are a nation located close to the ozone hole over the Antarctic which means much higher, more severe levels of UV radiation get through to ground level, the sun and its UVB and UVA (ultraviolet) rays are intense.

With the best intentions, beach shelters, umbrellas, rash tops, hats, shoes (yes sand, concrete and bitumen can and do burn the soles of your feet!) and factor 50 zinc sunblock in hand [and on body] we still at times get caught out and suffer some level of sunburn. Here we take a look at some of the natural ways nature can help soothe our distressed, sun damaged skin. 

A record-high number of Victorians required hospital treatment for sunburn in the past year, Cancer Council Victoria says. According to data released through its SunSmart program, 355 people went to the emergency room with sunburn last financial year, compared to 216 the year before. Almost 200 of the cases recorded last financial year were in January.
For further information visit SunSmart

Sunburn sunburn infographic

Burns can be classified into 1st, 2nd and 3rd Degree Burns according to their severity.

  • First degree burns show characteristic like redness and some mild swelling of the skin. 
  • Second degree burns are severe than the first degree burns. They exhibit the characteristics like skin with swelling and blister formation.
  • Third degree burn is the worst. These burns cause no or little pain due to the damage caused in the nerves. They destroy all layers of the skin.

Medicinal plants have been used for centuries to treat wounds, and burns. Sunburn can be dangerous and medical help and or advice should be sought immediately especially for the young and elderly. For mild sunburn // windburn there are many medicinal plants that help ease the sting and pain, now lets take a look at at home remedies for superficial first-degree sunburn...

COMPRESS - A cold compress simply means that you’re using ice (never put ice directly onto skin) or cold water to treat inflammation and pain using a muslin bag // piece of material // or gauze in which to put the plant matter i.e. dry herbs. A gauze can be found in a first aid kit - you can make a small pouch using the gauze to contain the loose herbal ingredients - your basically trying to replicate a tea bag! Google it

ALOE VERA (Aloe Barbadensis) The gel from inside this cactus plant eases discomfort, speeds healing, and moisturizes skin. Either split a plant leaf and apply the sap directly to skin, or buy pure aloe vera gel. Soothing and healing aloe vera is great for immediate relief of sunburn. 

BLACK TEA (Camellia sinensis) - Using steeped black tea bags which contain tannic acid, can provide a natural sunburn relief. Take a few tea bags and steep in hot water for two to three minutes and then remove. Allow the tea bags to cool down, squeeze the cool tea from the bags onto the burn and spread the liquid on the burn as needed. This method will fade the burn and the pain overnight. Drinking green tea may also help prevent sunburn. If you know you will be spending large amounts of time outdoors, prepare a couple of cups of green tea to take with you – the flavonoids in the tea stabilise collagen.

TAMANU OIL (Calophyllum tacamahaca tree) - Tamanu oil is a heavily researched natural remedy that is used as an antibiotic, anti-inflammatory and healing solution which also contains remarkable regenerative and curative properties. This makes tamanu oil a great solution for nearly every skin problem, including sunburn.  The oil can help to reduce skin redness and lessens the pain and swelling - great to try for overnight relief. Tamanu oil helps regenerate new skin and aids in the rapid formation of new healthy skin tissue.

CALENDULA (Calendula officinalis) - Commonly known as marigold calendula’s anti-inflammatory properties make it a wonderful natural remedy for sunburn relief. Calendula oil can be found in gels and creams which can be directly applied to sunburned skin. Calendula is antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, helping to promote healing by stimulating the production of the outer skin cells. Calendula is most effective when it is used as a compress applied to the burn area. A cool compress can be made using the dry calendula (tea) which can be purchased from a health food store. 
NB that calendula is a member of the composite family along with ragweed, and may cause allergic reactions. 

MILK - Can help reduce pain and the heat from the sunburn. You can create a cold compress by soaking a washcloth in chilled milk and applying it directly to burnt areas.

BENEFICIAL PLANT OILS - Avocado, Camellia and Rosehip (great as carrier oils for essential oils) are rich in antioxidants and can be applied to the skin daily.  Jojoba oil is a natural wax rich in Vitamin A, D & E which is similar to the skin’s own oil in structure. This may also give a degree of natural protection and contains antioxidants which help minimise free-radical damage through sun exposure.

MILK THISTLE OIL (Silybum marianum) - has an active medical ingredient called silymarin, found in the milk thistle seed. Both silymarin and silybin offer protection against UVB-induced skin damages. Skin exposure to solar UV radiation induces photo-ageing both silymarin and silybin have been shown to exhibit preventive effects against photo-ageing. Click here to read full post. 

OATS (Avena sativa) - Finely ground oatmeal (sold as colloidal oatmeal in health food stores) works as an anti-inflammatory when mixed with bath water. Make your own by blending a cup of instant or slow-cooking oatmeal in a food processor until it has a smooth, fine consistency. Pour into tepid bath water and soak. You can also use oats to make a compress. It alleviates irritation and swelling, loaded with antioxidants to hydrate the skin. Cook the oats, let them cool and apply as a compress for 15 minutes. 

POTATOES (Solanum tuberosum) - Can take the sting out of a sunburn through their starches. Slicing a piece of potato to rub on the sunburn directly will cool the burning feeling and can also ease the pain of the burn. By grating a raw potato, you can create a compress that can sit on the skin.

LETTUCE (Lactuca sativa) - Blend lettuce in a food processor and apply the pulp directly to the skin creating a compress. Lettuce contains analgesic properties that provide natural pain relief.

EGGPLANT (Solanum melongena) - In Australia, eggplant is used as a sunburn treatment in folk medicine. Eggplant contains phytonutrients known as glycoalkaloids compounds,   used in Australia for skin cancer treatment. Mash up an eggplant and apply directly as a skin compress.

APPLE CIDER VINEGAR - Is an effective treatment for sunburn. It helps soothe sunburn pain by balancing the skin’s pH, speeding up the healing process. You can either mix together 1 part to 8 parts water, immerse a washcloth with the solution and apply to sunburned skin, or add one cup of apple cider vinegar to a tepid bath and soak in it for 10-30 minutes. 

NATURAL YOGURTHas natural anti-inflammatory properties, it helps to reduce the burning sensation. Probiotics will help moisturize your skin and reduce pain. Choose organic, full-fat yogurt – apply to gauze or cotton pad and apply to burn for 15 minutes.

VEGETABLES - On especially bad patches of sunburn, gently rub a slice of cucumber on the area – they contain compounds which help reduce swelling and draw out the burn.

The most important guideline you must follow with all essential oils do not apply undiluted essential oils to your skin. ALWAYS mix with a carrier oil first. This into avoid skin irritation, sensitisation, photosensitisation and adverse skin reactions. It is always best practice to do a patch test first with any new product or ingredient - just to be sure.

When mixing an essential oil with a carrier oil use a 0.5% - 1% dilution. For sensitive skin (after a patch test) use 0.5% maximum. For a 50ml carrier oil add 0.5ml or 10 drops to 50ml of your chosen carrier oil.

GERMAN CHAMOMILE (Matricaria recuita) - Pain relieving and restorative with both Anti-inflammatory Antiseptic properties.

BLUE TANSY (Tanacetum annuum) - With powerful anti-inflammatory, Analgesic, Antibacterial, antifungal, and antioxidant properties.

LAVENDER (lavandula angustifolia) - Prevents infection, reduces inflammation, promotes healing and reduces or prevents scar tissue formation. 

PEPPERMIT (menthe x piperita) - Is a natural analgesic, (painkiller) It also helps soothe burnt areas by providing a cooling sensationcooling and relieves pain making this an excellent essential oil for relieving sunburn.

BENEFICIAL FOODS - Certain foods naturally protect you from the sun with compounds known as carotenoids and lycopene. Foods rich in carotenoids are green leafy vegetables some examples include: spinach and kale, sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkins and orange fruits including mangos and apricots.  lycopene  rich foods are tomatoes, red capsicum and watermelon.
Please note that neither food nor plant oils will prevent sunburn, shade, sunscreen, hats and clothes are all required. 

HYDRATION BOOST - Sunburn cause a process called vasodilation, where your blood vessels dilate and you lose water from your skin very quickly. This can lead to dehydration, fatigue, and even heat stroke if not treated. Sipping water to rehydrate is also incredibly important - try Coconut water it is very beneficial because of its natural electrolytes which are effective at preventing dehydration.

Until next time

be human | be kind | be you









Hi Emma
This is the reason I wrote this weeks BLOG post as we have all ‘been there and done that’ and had a little too much sun at times.
Happy to share the natural remedies I have found useful.
Thank you

Gabrielle February 10, 2018

So glad I read your post as I accidentally got too much sun this weekend, I used the Apple cider vinegar and it worked at treat!
Thanks Emma

Emma February 10, 2018

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