Natural Ways to Treat a Sunburn

A round of golf or an outing at the beach may be a warm-weather treat, but even if you protect yourself from the sun’s rays, your skin can sometimes burn. A number of healing supplements that can relieve the pain and help prevent long-term skin damage are readily available.

Natural Ways to Treat a Sunburn

What is a Sunburn?

Sunburn is the reddening and inflammation of the skin’s outer layers, which occurs in response to overexposure to the sun. It may be mild with some redness; moderate, with small blisters; or severe, with purple skin, chills, and fever. Symptoms appear gradually and may not peak until 24 hours after exposure. Sunburn is best avoided, and not just because it may hurt: It speeds up the aging of your skin and increases your risk of skin cancers later in life.

What Causes a Sunburn?

The amount of sun exposure needed to produce a sunburn varies with an individual’s skin pigmentation, the geographic location, the season, the time of day, and the weather conditions. Melanin, a skin pigment that absorbs the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, is the body’s natural defense against sunburn. Fair-haired people with light eyes have less melanin than darker-skinned people and are more prone to sunburn. Some antibiotics and other drugs can also make the skin more sensitive to the sun.

How supplements can help

Supplements cannot prevent sunburn, but applied to the skin and taken orally, they can lessen the discomfort and damage that it causes.

Supplement Recommendations
Chamomile oil Dosage: Dosage: Add to a cool bath or mix with 1.2 ounce almond oil (or other neutral oil) and apply to skin twice a day.
Comments: Use with lavender oil; chamomile or calendula ointment applied several times a day also promotes healing.
Lavender oil Dosage: Add to a cool bath or mix with 1.2 ounce almond oil (or another neutral oil) and apply to skin twice a day.
Comments: Use with chamomile oil.
Aloe vera gel Dosage: Apply gel to affected areas of skin as needed.
Comments: Use fresh aloe leaf or store-bought gel.
Vitamin C Dosage: 1,000 mg 3 times a day.
Comments: Reduce dose if diarrhea develops.
Vitamin E Dosage: 400 IU twice a day, or topical cream applied as needed.
Comments: Don’t use orally if taking an anticoagulant drug.
Flaxseed oil Dosage: 1 tbsp. (14 grams) twice a day.
Comments: Can be mixed with food.Use until fully healed.

Topical treatments may provide immediate soothing relief. For a mild sunburn, add 10 drops each of chamomile oil and lavender oil to a cool bath and soak for 30 minutes or more to relieve discomfort and moisturize the skin; alternatively, soak in a lukewarm bath containing a cup of dissolved baking soda. If the burn is more serious, prepare a topical remedy using a few drops of chamomile oil or lavender oil, or both, and half an ounce of a neutral oil, such as almond oil, and apply it gently to the affected areas twice a day. Aloe vera gel and chamomile or calendula cream (available in health-food stores) also soothe the skin and help speed healing.

Because sun exposure releases free radicals that can damage the skin, oral supplementation with the antioxidants vitamin C and vitamin E (used long term, if needed) may also be beneficial. For bad burns, vitamin E cream is very useful and should be applied to aid the skin in healing and to prevent scarring. Or try flaxseed oil, which is rich in fatty acids that reduce inflammation and promote skin healing.

Other Ways to Treat Sunburn

  • Use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. Avoid the sun between 10 A.M. and 3 P.M., when rays are strongest, and cover up with clothing and wide-brimmed hats.
  • Relieve severe sunburn pain by soaking a cotton-flannel towel or shirt, or a gauze pad, in cold milk and placing it gently on the affected areas. Or place cooled, used tea bags on the affected areas. The tannins in the tea may be effective in easing the sunburn pain.
  • Add a cup of finely ground oatmeal (sold as colloidal oatmeal in pharmacies) to the bath. It can help relieve the pain and itching of sunburn.