How to Take Care of a Sunburn Naturally

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I love working outside, but an adverse effect of that…sunburn. Find out how I deal with the sun naturally.

I’ve always enjoyed spending time outdoors, whether it is kayaking down a river or hiking through the mountains. Now that we have purchased a property and are building our homestead, outdoor time seems to have been taken to a whole new level. There’s animals to care for, chicken coops to clean, pasture to mow on the tractor, gardens to build and care for. The list goes on and on.

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The other day, I was outside from sun up to sun down. I came inside, took a shower, threw on my pajamas and glanced in the mirror. Oh my!

How to Take Care of a Sunburn Naturally | Get tips and tricks for dealing with the summer sun from Cosmopolitan Cornbread

I shared this photo on Instagram & Facebook, and was immediately met with horror, advice and lots of “SUNSCREEN!!!!”

The next day a few people asked me how my sunburn was doing, and I could gladly tell them that it was just fine. Even though the photo above looks terrible, my skin didn’t hurt at all, it only felt a little warm. The next morning my skin wasn’t burned looking at all, in fact, I looked quite tan.

Here’s the thing. Something you may or may not know about me, is that I am not a fan of putting chemicals on my body. Our skin isn’t our exoskeleton…not at all. It is our body’s largest organ.

What goes on our skin, goes into our bodies. More and more studies are coming out about the dangerous ingredients in most traditional sunscreens. I choose to use natural things to care for my skin, as well as for treating things like a sunburn.

Being someone with fair skin and red toned hair, I know a thing or two about sunburns. I’ve gotten a few of them over the years.

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Oddly enough, the worst ones I’ve gotten, were when I was ridiculously diligent about putting sunscreen on. Of course now-a-days there is more and more debate about the efficacy of sunscreens, and now we find out that for some people, sunscreens actually increase sun sensitivity. I am clearly one of them.

So what do you do if you’ve had too much sun and need relief? Here’s a few things I’ve learned over the years.


There’s a reason that aloe is the first thing people reach for. Aloe simply works. Aloe brings an instant sensation of cooling on just about any kind of burn.

But I do want to say, when buying aloe, make sure you get it from a reputable brand. Last summer it was discovered that several national chains were selling “fake aloe” in their stores. (See the article.) Sometimes there is a reason that a product is cheap. That’s all I have to say about that.


This might sound crazy, but I promise it works. 

Brew the biggest pot of black tea that you can. Use several tea bags and make the tea really, really strong like a concentrate. Now, head to your bathroom and fill your bathtub with water.

Pour the strong tea into the water, climb in and soak.

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The tannins and other things in the tea promote fast healing. I did this once after a bad burn, and not only did the burn heal quickly, but I never even peeled afterwards.

By the way, a cold, wet tea bag is a blessing to your arm when you bump it on the hot oven rack too.

Essential Oils

Another way to find some relief from your sunburn, is to create a mist with healing lavender, chamomile and peppermint.

In a spray bottle, combine 1/2 cup of distilled water with 10 drops of lavender oil and 2 drops each of chamomile and peppermint oil. Give the bottle a shake and mist it over your skin.

Note – always get your essential oils from a reputable source. These are medicinal oils, not room fragrances.


Here’s another mist that might sound crazy, but give it a try. Fill a spray bottle with 50/50 water and vinegar. I prefer to used Bragg’s Raw ACV, but you can use any ACV or white vinegar as well. Just mist it on the sunburn and you’ll be amazed at how quickly it brings relief. You can also add a couple drops of lavender oil to this.

Coconut Oil

Coconut Oil is honestly my #1 go-to for just about anything you can think of, including skin care and the sun.

Coconut oil is packed full of beneficial things including antioxidants and Vitamin E. Coconut oil has a natural SPF in it. It’s very low – 4 or 5, but it’s there.

I put coconut oil on my skin when I’m going to be outdoors a lot (I forgot to on the day the above photos was taken) and I put it on my skin after a day outdoors. Coconut oil brings instant relief and healing. But it is good for all sorts of summer issues.

Lips drying out from the heat? Coconut oil.

Skin chaffing from sweating in the sun? Coconut oil.

I’m telling you! I keep a jar of coconut oil in my bathroom since I use it so much outside of the kitchen. If you’ve never used coconut oil, you seriously need to give it a try. You will be amazed to see how many things it helps with.

Now, with all of the above examples of things you can use to treat sunburn, there’s one left that I must share with you.

One Last Remedy – and the Best

If you are new to Cosmopolitan Cornbread, you may not be aware that we used to live in Alaska. The thing about living up there, is that even though the sun seems to be as bright up there as it does down here, it’s different. The sunlight comes at an angle, going through more of the earth’s atmosphere making it not quite so intense.

People that live in a northern climate and come to a southern climate often suffer from a photo-sensitivity making them much more susceptible to sunburn.

We arrived in Alabama in June of 2013.

Two weeks later, I went on a kayaking trip and spent the whole day on the water. I put on waterproof, and very high SPF sunscreen – repeatedly. About every 45 minutes or so, I reapplied. But by the time I got home that evening, I was in severe pain.

Now I’m not a person that tends to go to the doctor at every drop of the hat. I’m more of a “try every home remedy, research natural treatments and try everything else first” kind of person.

The sunburn on my arms healed fairly quickly, but after living in Alaska and not exposing my legs to sunlight for 3 years…they were another story.

The burn on my legs was severe. So severe that the damage had gone through the skin and most likely into the muscle. It wasn’t pink or red, it was an ugly purplish color.

Each morning, I would wake up and as I gently swung my feet to the floor, I would bite my lip, squeeze my eyes shut and wimper in pain. The simple action of gravity pulling down on my flesh was excruciating.

It felt like a grappling hook had been stuck in each shin and was ripping through my legs. This happened every single morning, but not just in the morning.

If I sat on the sofa with my feet of the coffee table…getting up… same thing.

The pain was so severe and went on for so long, that I actually called the clinic to find out if there was something else I could do. I got no advice beyond ibuprofen and aloe.  

I had already been putting aloe on several times a day – something that alone was so painful it nearly brought me to tears.

Finally, I called up a dear friend of mine and begged her for some sort of tidbit of hope. My friend (also my natural health guru) told me to try colloidal silver gel.

Let me say here – this torment had been going on for about 3 weeks at this point. Three weeks of misery and no relief at all.

I went straight to my local health food store and bought a bottle of colloidal silver gel with aloe. I came home, put it on and prayed for relief.

The next morning, I woke up, “girded my loins” in preparation for the pain I was about to experience….and as I set my feet on the floor….what just happened??!

After three weeks of some of the worst pain I had ever experienced, overnight there was a massive difference. I still felt some slight discomfort as I moved my legs to the vertical position, but it was nothing, nothing like I had been dealing with for the past 3 weeks.

The next morning after that, there was no pain at all.

I was in complete amazement at how sudden and complete the healing was.

So as you can imagine, colloidal silver & aloe gel is now a staple in my medicine cabinet.

A few months after that incident, a relative of mine got a chemical burn on his foot. He refused to go to the doctor, but was in great pain. I suggested giving it a try…and it worked.

Of course, I’m not a doctor, I can’t give medical advice (blah, blah, blah you know the drill) but these are things that I have found to be of benefit to me, and I hope they can be of help to you.

And also, prevention is always smart as well. I always have a hat on to keep the sun off my face when I’m out there. Of course this results in my face being a different color than the rest of my body, but what’s a girl to do? I also try to work outside early and late – avoiding the mid day sun if possible.

Got a tried & true natural home remedy for sunburn? I’d love for you to share!

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