In my last post, I explored ways to soothe bites and stings using simple herbal remedies and household items you probably already have on hand. Unfortunately for us, however, bites and stings are only half the battle when it comes to keeping our skin happy – as anyone who has  fallen asleep in a lawn chair knows all too well. But just as we can turn to simple herbal concoctions to soothe our bee stings and mosquito bites, so too can we easily and speedily recover from an hour too many spent in the sun. Read on for tips and simple recipes to turn your sunburn into a distant memory.

You’ve fallen asleep in the lawn chair, and wake up red as a lobster. What do you do now?

A cool or tepid bath helps to immediately cool the skin and body. Add one cup of apple cider vinegar to the bathwater, along with ten drops of lavender essential oil, to help reduce inflammation, itchiness, and pain.

If a bathtub isn’t available, you could make a cold compress instead to place over the burned area. Add a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and several drops of lavender essential oil to a bowl of cool water. Soak a towel or cloth in the water and then drape it over the affected area, rewetting as necessary.

Alternatively, you can also do a cold milk compress. The proteins and fats in milk are extremely soothing to burned skin, so if you don’t happen to have any apple cider vinegar around just dip a clean cloth in a bowl of cold milk and apply that to the burn for 10 – 15 minutes.

Once you’ve bathed the area and cooled it down, slather your skin in aloe vera gel, which further helps to reduce inflammation and promote healing as well as keeping the skin supple and hydrated. I like to make this aloe vera spray (see below), which I keep in the fridge as the cool spray feels extra delicious spritzed over hot, inflamed skin.

Aloe Vera Spray


Combine the following in a 4 oz spray bottle:

  • 60 ml rose water or witch hazel
  • 30 ml aloe vera gel
  • 15 ml calendula tincture
  • 15 drops lavender or chamomile essential oil

Spritz over the affected area every two hours.

Moisturizing with extra-virgin coconut oil mixed with a drop of lavender essential oil also helps to keep the skin hydrated as well as reducing inflammation.

Sunburns are dehydrating, so be sure to replenish your body with lots of water. Coconut water is especially helpful as it replenishes electrolytes as well.

Finally, UV light causes a good deal of oxidative damage to the body which should also be addressed internally by making sure you consume extra antioxidants in your diet. Blueberries and green tea are both great sources of polyphenols, while carrots and sweet potatoes provide beta-carotene and tomatoes and watermelons supply lycopene.

Now, it goes without saying, but the best way to recover from a sunburn is to never have gotten burned in the first place. Here are a few tips to keep your skin safe the next time you head to the beach:

  • Make sure you wear a high SPF sunscreen and do reapply it frequently (at least every hour but more often if you’ve been swimming or sweating profusely).
  • Wear a sun hat to protect your scalp and the back of your neck —  two particularly vulnerable areas to sun damage.
  • Try to stay out of the direct sun between the hours of 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  • Stay hydrated and up your anti-inflammatory antioxidants by sipping on iced green tea and eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables.

Writer Danielle Charles Davies holds a Bsc in Herbal Science from Bastyr University and completed the two-year clinical training program at the Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism in Montpelier, VT. Her writing has appeared in Taproot, The Journal of the American Herbalist Guild, and Kindred Magazine, among others. She lives in Northern Michigan with her husband, two dogs and eight ducks. She blogs at

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or sell any product.