ashley englishsmall measures

Small Measures: Homemade Sunburn Soothers

by Ashley

When I was 19 years old, my then-boyfriend and I traveled south to Florida. My father lived in Ft. Lauderdale at the time, it was spring break, and we were ready to leave the barren trees and cold, wet days of the western NC mountains behind us in our quest for sunnier settings. We grabbed beach blankets, flip-flops and our swimsuits and plopped down to soak up the rays ocean-side.

I remember that it was March and that it was overcast. I remember that we decided to forgo the use of sunscreen, owing to the cloud cover. I also clearly, vividly, painfully remember that, several hours later, we both developed sun poisoning, owing to our youthful, frivolous ignorance of the sun’s penetrating abilities. The remainder of our visit was characterized by countless applications of aloe vera gel, cold showers and, yes, tears (we both cried; sun poisoning is no joke).

That experience scorched me both physically and mentally. I’m considerably less cavalier about sun exposure. Despite my best efforts, though, I still sometimes end up with a bit more sun than I’d intended. When that happens, I turn to my garden, pantry and medicine cabinet for some all-natural, DIY relief. Today I’m sharing several easy, affordable cooling solutions for soothing what ails you. Here’s to many singe-free, lazy days of fun in the sun! — Ashley English

Read the full post after the jump . . .

Lauren and Janice Cox have written a fantastic book on all things related to natural beauty. Eco Beauty is packed with recipes for whole body care, from the crown of your head to the soles of your feet. Their Cooling Cucumber Body Mask is the perfect solution to sunburn pain. Chamomile tea, cucumber, aloe vera gel and lavender essential oil provide a powerhouse of burn remedies. I’d suggest keeping these ingredients on hand all summer, so you can whip this up quickly, should a frolic in the sun take a turn for the red-hot side.

Cooling Cucumber Body Mask

The Goods

  • 1/4 cup boiling water
  • 2 bags chamomile tea
  • 1 whole cucumber with peel, chopped
  • 1/4 cup aloe vera gel (from either a fresh, whole leaf or bottled)
  • 2 drops lavender essential oil


The Deal

1. Pour the boiling water over the tea bags to make a strong tea.

2. Once the tea has cooled a bit, remove the tea bags, pressing them to extract as much tea as possible.

3. Put the tea in a blender or food processor, add the cucumber, aloe vera and lavender oil, and blend until you have a smooth mixture.

4. To use, spread the entire mixture over your body or the sunburned area using your fingers or a small paintbrush.

5. Leave the mask on for 20 to 30 minutes. You may want to wrap up in an old sheet or a large towel so you can sit or lie down and relax.

6. Afterward, rinse well with cool water, pat your skin dry and don’t forget to moisturize!

You can also put the kibosh on sunburn pain by applying several ingredients you may already have in your refrigerator or medicine cabinet. Cox suggests the following readily accessible solutions for healing what hurts:

Super Sunburn Soothers

The Goods

  • witch hazel
  • apple cider vinegar
  • cucumber juice
  • aloe vera gel
  • buttermilk
  • arrowroot or cornstarch (mix 2 tablespoons with 1 cup water)
  • baking soda (mix 2 tablespoons with 1 cup water)


The Deal

Apply 1–2 cups of your chosen soother in one of the three following ways (be sure to moisturize afterward because, while helpful for fighting the burn, these soothers can also dry out your skin):

1. Dip a thin fabric like cheesecloth, silk or cotton into the liquid, then wrap it around your burned areas. Repeat as the fabric dries out, as necessary.

2. Add liquid to a warm (not hot) bath and soak.

3. Transfer the liquid to a spray bottle and spray directly on your skin. Don’t rub it in; allow the liquid to dry and repeat, if necessary.

What about you? Have any go-to solutions for treating sunburn (or any type of burn, for that matter) pain? I’d love to hear about them. When I was a professional baker in a production kitchen, we were always burning ourselves, so we kept a bottle of lavender essential oil on hand to dab on our wounds. It’s amazing how quickly it worked.

In the meantime, enjoy the sun, but beware the burn! If I could go back in time and have a chat with my 19-year-old self, I’d advise her to slather on the sunscreen, even if it seemed there were no rays in sight. Sun poisoning, and sunburn, are no day at the park. So here’s to being safe in the sun and leaving the burn in the sand!

Photos and styling by Jen Altman

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  • I love this! I have a large aloe plant in my house and I’ve been using it to treat sunburns and it works wonderfully, but the aloe can be sort of gross and hard to spread evenly without chunking. This is a great idea! I can’t wait to try!

  • I have an aloe plant in my room and use it all the time as a cheap sunburn soother. Im definitely gonna try out this recipe next time!

  • For smaller kitchen burns, recently I was treated by a professional chef who turned me on to using a fresh tomato: cut it in half and clamp it on over the burn, holding it in place. For me, the results were amazing! In the event of larger burns, it’s off to the emergency room.

  • I’ve always heard that lavender makes your skin thinner and more pone to bruises, cuts and sunburns. I don’t think I would want to put it on a sunburn…

  • Awesome– love home remedies! I try to avoid the burn altogether, but it can happen no matter how hard you prepare sometimes…!

  • My favorite remedy is plain old white vinegar. Never liked the smell when I was a kid but after my own bout of sun poisoning I’ve grown to associate the smell with relief. Whenever I “catch a little sun” I make sure to douse a cloth in white vinegar and rub or pat onto my skin gently and let it air dry before bed. It always takes the heat out and makes it easier to sleep. (And though that poisoning was over 15 years ago I can vividly remember the blisters the size of my hand.)

  • Plain vinegar is amazing! It takes the heat away before you even put on aloe. It is wonderful!

  • Easy remedy, come and live in the UK, this year we have no summer at all! Rain rain rain rain and more rain…..forgotten what the sun feels like on my skin, even in safe doses. lol!

  • Kaleena, I Googled “lavender makes skin thinner” and the only thing that popped up is your comment. Could you cite your source?

  • I often get wicked burns, despite wearing hats and lots of sunscreen, and I always have (pale skin that will *not* tan). The BEST way to heal a nasty sunburn is combining coconut oil (or another natural oil) and lots and LOTS of lavender oil. Lavender is the BEST sunburn healer and it makes all the difference with just one application. It does not remove the burning feel right away but it does help the skin actually heal from the burn.

    I don’t know where you got your information Kaleena but it is not correct. Lavender oil is fantastic for burns!

  • Very timely – thanks. Just to emphasize, the best remedy is sun screen. I had sun poisoning as a child twice (once so bad that light from lamps hurt). I avoided the sun growing up, but slipped up a few times. A couple of decades later, I saw what appeared to be a wart (that description is needed) as it was pink colored. It grew, I went to a doctor, and after several biopsies I had surgery to remove melanoma and lymph nodes, then was told I had a 5% chance of living more than a year. Hey, I’m still here, but am a big promoter of sun screen, especially if you have any Irish blood. (That’s my PSA to your great post – not meaning to hijack but I don’t want anyone to have my experience, though I wish my luck on all.)

  • I’ve always found that aloe or lotion of any kind tended to hold the heat in on a sunburn. Take it from a redhead with too many over-exposures to the sun, for a really bad burn drink plenty of fluids, take aspirin and wrap burned areas in towels soaked in water. If you’ve got the chills, wrap a blanket over the wet towels.

  • I always found going for a warm shower then applying Apricot oil was the best for me. Nz northland summers with one of the ozone holes right above us, we are all careful about the sun. the other thing that I have found really good for burns is Flax jelly – not sure if you have it in the Nth H as it’s not the linen flax – but it is very good for any type of burn and works really well on chemical burns (brother had one a few years ago and didn’t know what he had been exposed to, Flax jelly was the only thing out of a list of 20 that worked) I hope this is relevant

  • Fantastic article. I’ve recently become enthusiastic about alternative medicine/home treatments soon after being misdiagnosed by my GP for a potentially life-threatening situation. I think more and mor people are starting to wake up and understand that the medical establishment doesn’t have our best interests at heart, and they have to take responsibility for their own overall health, because no one else is going to. Unfortunately, mainstream media continues to label anybody who talks about all-natural therapy/alternative medicine as a “quack” or even a “charlatan” like this article from NBC news: http://www.nbcnews.club/cancer-patients-turning-alternative-remedies/44 . It’s nothing more than a hit-piece. We need to have some sincere reporting about the success rate of alternative medicine, it is about time.

  • I use both natural cucumbers and a cucumber cream to deal with sunburn. Using cucumber on a sunburn provides instant, cooling relief. I rub a freshly sliced cucumber on my skin and after use the Made from Earth Cucumber Cooling Gel. It takes the burn right away, and it smells fresh.