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Seasonal Health

3 Ways to Treat Sunburn, Naturally

Sunburns happen to even the most dedicated sunscreen-wearers among us. These expert tips will provide relief.

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Listen, we all love to lounge in the sunshine, basking in the long, hot days of summer. But catching too much sun and finding yourself a little (or a lot, ouch!) rosy come sundown is no way to end the day. Taking care of your skin—your body’s largest organ—should be your number one priority any time you’re outside for extended periods. Still got scorched? These tips will help you soothe sunburned skin when you overdo it.

Ayurveda

Both oil and water can help broiled skin and overheated bodies heal.

Hydration: Severe sunburn can produce flu-like symptoms: fever, chills, headaches, and fatigue. Ample hydration speeds recovery, just as it does when you’re under the weather. Here’s how to get more H2O, depending on your dosha.

  • Vata (air and ether dosha) needs more than just water to rehydrate. Aloe juice, honeydew melon, and cucumber are great options.
  • Pitta (fire and water dosha) also needs to take extra steps to cool down. Try coconut water, celery, and watermelon.
  • Kapha (earth and water dosha) types should opt for homemade low-sugar lemonade, romaine lettuce, and green apples.

Oil Application (Abhyanga): Turmeric-infused brahmi oil, which is made from gotu kola (Centella asiatica) or brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) herbs, helps tone down inflammation and itchiness in all dosha types. Here’s how to make your own:

Slice and crush a 2- to 3-inch piece of turmeric root (or use 2-3 teaspoons powdered turmeric) with a few drops of water to create a paste. Mix in 1⁄4 cup of brahmi oil. Warm on the stove for about 5 minutes. Cool, then strain with a cheesecloth. Turmeric can stain, so let the oil seep into your skin before getting dressed.

Sahara Rose, Ayurveda expert, podcast host, and author of Discover Your Dharma: A Vedic Guide to Finding Your Purpose

Herbs

The plant world can help treat skin that’s hot and painful from sun overexposure. Try these two soothing remedies.

Aloe vera: The leaves of this spiky succulent contain a compound called aloin, which has anti-inflammatory benefits. Aloe moisturizes skin and prevents peeling. Break off a small piece of aloe leaf, strip off the outer layer, and apply the gel to the affected area four to five times a day until the burn subsides. Store-bought 100% aloe vera gel works, too. For extra cooling relief, keep it in the fridge.

Rose: Rose petals are full of flavonoids—plant compounds with health benefits. Use them to create a cooling, anti-inflammatory sunburn spray. Place 1 cup of dried rose petals (or 2 cups of fresh petals) in a glass jar. Add 1⁄4 cup dried chamomile or lavender flowers, 1 1⁄2 cups apple cider vinegar and 1⁄2 cup witch hazel. Steep in a cool, dark place for two to six weeks. Strain to remove the flowers. Pour the liquid into the spray bottle, then spritz on skin as needed.

—Ashley Litecky Elenbaas, MSC, registered herbalist, founder of Sky House Herb School & Apothecary

Dermatology

Treating sunburn is best done by prevention, and the old standby still works best: a water-resistant, broad-spectrum, zinc-based sunblock of SPF 30 or higher. Reapply every one to two hours (every hour if you’re wet, sweating, or very light-skinned). Cover up with long-sleeved, lightweight clothing, and wear hats and sunglasses to protect the face and eyes. Still got burned? Apply a cold milk compress: Soak a towel in one part water and one part milk. (Cow’s milk contains proteins that soothe the skin.) Or rub hydrocortisone cream into the affected area twice a day to reduce inflammation.

—Rebecca Baxt, MD, MBA, cosmetic dermatologist at BAXT CosMedical

See also: 

6 All-Natural Sunscreens to Protect Your Skin

Are Mineral Sunscreens Safe?

Super Natural Skincare Products We’re Swooning Over