The Reader’s Digest Guide to Getting Rid of Sunburns

Depending on its severity, sunburns can cause anything from an acute inflammation of the skin to severe blistering. Sunburns significantly affect your future skin health and can contribute to aging as well as skin cancer risk.

Sunburn Symptoms

  • Redness of the skin with a sharp burning sensation
  • Blisters, then peeling of the skin
  • In severe cases, fever, nausea and headaches (sunstroke)

If you have several or all of the above symptoms, you should consult a doctor. All cases of serious sunburn need rapid medical attention.


The principle cause of sunburn is sun exposure, including exposure to reflected sun rays from the snow or sea. It is possible to get sunburnt even on cloudy days. Prolonged or repeated sun exposure is a major risk factor for the development of skin cancers.

Certain drugs can also make you more susceptible to sunburn (some antibiotics and acne treatments in particular, but also some herbal medicines).

PUVA therapy (the technique of using the sun’s rays to treat certain skin complaints, such as psoriasis) can also have the same effect.

Which Plants Provide Sunburn Relief:

For internal usage:

  • Gotu Kola. Capsules, up to 600 mg dried herb equivalent, three times a day.
  • Grape Seed. Tablets, capsules, up to 24 g dried seed equivalent per day, standardized for anthocyanidin content.
  • Pineapple. Bromelain tablets, capsules, up to 2 g per day in divided doses before meals.

For external application:

  • Aloe Vera. Gel, apply aloe vera gel two to three times a day, or as directed on the label.
  • Lavender. Add 3 drops of essential oil to 10 ml carrier oil and apply to the affected area two to three times a day.
  • Calendula. Infuse 5 g dried flower heads in 1 litre of boiling water for 5 minutes. Cool, strain and apply to the affected area as a compress three times a day.
  • Witch Hazel. Apply witch hazel water to the affected skin once or twice a day, as directed on the label.

Other Remedies for Sunburn:

  • Protect your skin before any exposure to the sun, and do not sunbathe without sun protection. The sun’s rays are likely to be strongest between noon and 3 pm.
  • Avoid sunbeds. Use a strong sunscreen, cover up and wear a hat.
  • Drink plenty of fluids whilst in the sun, and avoid consuming alcohol, which can contribute to dehydration.
  • If blisters occur, do not pierce them.
  • Have regular skin checks for skin cancer and pre-cancerous lesions.

Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada