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How to Heal a Sunburn In Less Than 24 Hours

How To Heal A Sunburn in Less Than 24 Hours

If you want to know how to heal a sunburn in just under 24 hours, I’ve got a trick for you. All it takes is two simple, real foods.

In fact, because of this trick, I rarely even admit to having a sunburn. In my family, we now call it “turning pink.”

That’s because our skin never peels, and instead our “sunburns” fade to nice tans.

Conversations go like this.

FAMILY FRIEND: “Oh, it looks like you got a sunburn today!”
ME: “Nah. It’s nothing. I just turned a little pink.”

We’re usually met with disbelieving looks, but oh well.

We already break “the rules” by not wearing sunscreen. (If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend reading my post Should You Use Sunscreen? for my take on this.)

But we still enjoy the sun!

One of the ways we do it is by having this trick for how to heal a sunburn up our sleeves.

How to Heal a Sunburn in Less Than 24 Hours

How to Heal a Sunburn: STEP ONE

Apply raw apple cider vinegar to your burn as soon as you get home.

This immediately cools the skin. Apple cider vinegar helps draw the heat and sting out of your wannabe sunburn.

(Where to buy raw apple cider vinegar.)

How to Heal a Sunburn: STEP TWO

About a half hour later, apply tallow balm from grass-fed cows to your sunburned skin and rub it in.

Beef tallow from grass-fed cows is not only an excellent moisturizer, it’s also rich in vitamins A & D — two key nutrients that help your skin heal.

Multiple studies have demonstrated the photoprotective effects of vitamin D (source). Still other studies have demonstrated the amazing way vitamin D helps aid tissue repair (source).

Vitamin A is one of the most widely recognized nutrients for promoting healthy skin. It’s been used to treat psoriasis, sunburns, burns, eczema, and acne (source).

I already use tallow balm as part of my daily skin care regimen (read: Why I Wash My Face with Dirt & Oil), so it’s easy for me to apply it after a day in the sun.

I usually apply it to pink skin at least twice on the day of the “sunburn,” and then again the following morning. By then, my pink skin is already fading into a tan.

(Where to buy tallow balm from grass-fed cows.)

A NOTE ABOUT TALLOW BALM: I buy mine scented with essential oils. For sunburns, I prefer the “Windswept” scent because it comes with chammomile, spearmint, clove, grapefruit, and carrot seed oils — all of which are incredibly cooling and soothing to pink skin.

That’s it? That’s all you do?

YES. Didn’t I say this would be simple?

How To Heal A Sunburn In Less Than 24 Hours

(standard disclosures apply)

(photo by depositphotos)

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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.

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35 Responses to How to Heal a Sunburn In Less Than 24 Hours
  1. Charlotte
    July 18, 2014 | 2:24 am

    I just slap on some fresh aloe leaf gel. Always seems to do the trick.

  2. Brooke
    July 18, 2014 | 8:25 am

    I came so close to recovering perfectly from a sunburn and then I think getting more sun zapped my progress. I began to peel over a week after my sunburn! The good news is the skin brushes that everyone has begun to chat about are GREAT for sloughing off the pealing skin. I was able to get it all gone in just a day with the brush. Thanks for the extra tips!

  3. Elaine
    July 18, 2014 | 9:23 am

    I’ve been allergic to sun screens for years. Break out in an itchy rash, scratch all thru the nights. Have tried many many different kinds. Always worried about skin cancer, but now I’ll relax. I’m doing well and the “real” foods must be working!!!

  4. Cherish Cough-fee via Facebook
    July 18, 2014 | 12:25 pm

    I use the vinegar trick, but I’d mix it in half with water & then spritz it on whenever I felt heat from it…did not know about tallow :)

  5. Lee Harper via Facebook
    July 18, 2014 | 12:40 pm

    I do a spritz of magnesium oil, and rinse off after 20 minutes, then spritz with food grade 3% hydrogen peroxide. Nice outcome.

  6. Christina
    July 18, 2014 | 1:03 pm

    I will have to give the ACV a try next time! I just came home from camping with a LOT of red.. but aloe, cool compresses and lots of a skin oil mix(avocado, sweet almond, argan,vit. E, coconut oil, jojoba and shea butter) I use instead of lotion kept me from peeling and now I have a very nice tan!

  7. Ann Campbell-Lester via Facebook
    July 18, 2014 | 1:36 pm

    Another way is to apply shredded potato on it. The potato will eventually turn black at which point you can remove it and wash off. The red and the heat from the sunburn will be gone.

  8. Molly Woodworth via Facebook
    July 18, 2014 | 2:22 pm

    I got sunburn on Friday. No sunscreen and out in full Southern sun for 2.5 hrs… I slathered on aloe vera and coconut oil, then repeated as needed with oil for two more days. Barely a tan remains.

  9. Lisa Hatton via Facebook
    July 18, 2014 | 3:11 pm

    It’s a burn…cold water as soon as possible.

  10. Lindsay Alison via Facebook
    July 18, 2014 | 4:45 pm

    Tracy Dudley Marshall

  11. Diana Moll via Facebook
    July 18, 2014 | 6:33 pm

    aspirin (internally before going out if possible) and coconut oil (externally).

  12. erin
    July 19, 2014 | 9:32 am

    i have found that a thin layer of cold yogurt does the trick for me. i put yogurt on, let it dry–if the skin is still warm, rinse and repeat.

  13. Mel
    July 19, 2014 | 9:51 am

    I keep aloe vera as a house plant. I just break off a leaf and squeeze out the juice and rub it into the skin.
    Also I like to ice my burns. I freeze water into paper Dixie cups. Then you peal away some of the cup to expose the ice then gently rub the ice over the burned areas.

  14. Rebecca
    July 19, 2014 | 10:12 am

    Here is an article that lists some ways to heal a sunburn, vinegar was definitely on the list, it is amazing:

    http://blog.purifyyourbody.com/2014/06/how-to-get-relief-from-bad-sunburn-6.html

    Another thing I want to say is the tallow cream is AWESOME. I make my own from scratch:

    http://blog.purifyyourbody.com/2014/04/recipe-best-homemade-night-cream-ever.html

    I use it for eczema as well, and it is amazing stuff. If you can’t make your own you have to find it somewhere and buy it. It is great for diaper rash, for under your eyes, to put on your hands and feet when you have dry skin, so many awesome things!

    I have never used it for a sunburn though, so I will have to try it if I ever get burned!

  15. Kate
    July 19, 2014 | 11:22 am

    My family uses Thursday Plantation’s Tea Tree Lotion. Apply at night, pulls the burn and redness out, and it gets rid of the itch too. Smell takes a little getting used to, but my kids will even ask for it because they know it works.

  16. Aliyanna
    July 19, 2014 | 12:07 pm

    What do we folks who have beef allergies do for the tallow…would lard work? Or should we just use coconut oil??

  17. Graham Ballachey
    July 19, 2014 | 2:16 pm

    Hey Kristen,

    Excellent tips! I didn’t know about the apple cider vinegar. I will give that a shot. I haven’t used tallow balm, but I generally use lotions that are based on saturated fats, which might be similar to the tallow balms. Vitamin D – interesting that its made in our skin after UVB exposure, and then goes on to protect our skin. It’s evolution! ;)

    I’m a blue-eyed fair-skinned person as well, and I have noticed a significant improvement in my resistance to the sun after learning a lot about nutrition. I think my views are very much in line with yours (after navigating your site).

    I made a post about how to increase your resistance to sunburn via a healthy diet. If you feel like checking it out, here it is:

    http://www.sustainablebalance.ca/sunburn-resistance-through-diet/

    Thanks for the great posts! I love receiving them in my email.

  18. Kathleen Ottley via Facebook
    July 19, 2014 | 2:46 pm

    Manda Miller keep this info just in case!

  19. Omar Ayyash via Facebook
    July 19, 2014 | 6:54 pm

    vanilla, moss, honey, green medical leaves, herbs, may be antidotes for this ailment.

  20. Janette
    July 19, 2014 | 8:09 pm

    Your skin is an organ and a sunburn is an injury to it. If you don’t want to/cannot use sunscreen that’s no excuse to damage your skin rather than wear a protective hat/clothing/use an umbrella. So much about this blog is about being good to our bodies – sunburn doesn’t qualify.

  21. Becky @ Rooted Blessings
    July 19, 2014 | 10:34 pm

    I usually use lavender essential oil. It will take the burn out of the sunburn in an hour if applied next to the skin every 15 minutes. Great for clumsy kitchen burns too.

  22. cathy
    July 20, 2014 | 10:26 pm

    As a physician I find this advice incredibly irresponsible. If you choose not to wear sunscreen then you must use sun protective clothing or avoid the sun. There is no such thing as healing the DNA damage that the sun does to your skin and eventually results in skin cancer which can be fatal. Allowing children to become sunburned borders on child abuse in my opinion.

    • Kristen Michaelis
      July 21, 2014 | 2:26 pm

      Hi Cathy,

      I don’t believe that exposure to the sun causes skin cancer. Thank you for giving me the idea to write a post about it soon!

      Until I get my own post written, here’s the post that inspired me to research the current science in this subject:
      http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2008/07/sunscreen-and-melanoma.html

      I hope you find it useful!

      • Debbie
        July 23, 2014 | 11:33 am

        I love your site and remedies but to say you don’t believe the sun can be the cause of skin cancer is irresponsible and not of any service to the people who read your posts

      • Katie M.
        July 23, 2014 | 2:36 pm

        Thanks for posting the links, it’s always helpful to be able to read the actual sources of info.

        I have to point out that if you follow the link here, the conclusion from the referenced study is “Use of common sunscreen formulations that absorb UVB almost completely, but transmit large quantities of UVA, may contribute to risk of melanoma in populations at latitudes >40 degrees.”

        This is pretty far from saying that exposure to sun doesn’t cause cancer. Nor does it imply that today’s *broad-spectrum* sunscreens (which block both UVA and UVB rays, unlike the ones in the study) don’t help to prevent skin damage from the sun.

        That said, I’m still interested to read more about your thoughts on sun exposure–our family is outdoors all the time, so it’s on my mind a lot!

      • Julie
        July 23, 2014 | 9:46 pm

        Thank you for posting this link, it is very interesting. I love how your blog always makes me rethink the conventional “wisdom” I take for granted. I will be waiting for your post on sun exposure with great interest! My parents grew up on their family farms and ate the type of diet you recommend for most of their lives, and NEVER wore sunscreen, but now have twice-yearly appointments to have skin cancers and pre-cancerous growths cut off their faces and ears. I’d love to know what I can do to avoid the same predicament when I’m in my sixties.

  23. Heidi
    July 21, 2014 | 7:22 am

    As someone who has had quite a few skin cancers removed (including a few on my face) I find this article incredibly irresponsible. Just because you take the sting and heat away from a sunburn does not mean that you will not develop some form of skin cancer in the future.

  24. Rose
    July 21, 2014 | 4:41 pm

    I and only I have the BEST REMEDY to heal sunburn…….DON’T GET BURNED IN THE FIRST PLACE.

  25. Summer Hansell
    July 22, 2014 | 3:06 pm

    Thanks! We are also a family of blondies…except for my freckle-skinned sweetie…who choose not to use sunscreen on a daily basis. Once in a while, the “pinkness” does happen; thanks for these tips! We’ve been using aloe and coconut oil, but I love the tallow balm idea…
    Oh, and by the way…
    I love that you stand up for what you believe in, and how you handle the “haters” with class.

    • joanna n.
      July 23, 2014 | 9:33 am

      interesting info; i’ll be checking out these links, since i, too, burn easily, although i sure do love when it turns golden brown! btw, i agree to responding w/ class! i can def. learn from your example, since my husband & i are the real food “nuts” in my family; this has brought up more than difference of opinion, so we continue to tread lightly.

  26. Annette
    July 23, 2014 | 9:17 am

    I just wanted to say, tallow balm works! I can’t say enough about how awesome tallow balm is, for everything.

  27. Celestia
    July 23, 2014 | 9:31 pm

    I don’t have grass-fed tallow handy, but I do have grass-fed butter. Would that do the trick?

  28. Michelle
    July 23, 2014 | 10:37 pm

    I may have missed it but did not see anyone mention tea for sunburn. Make very strong tea, cool it down, and dab onto affected areas.

  29. Sarah
    July 29, 2014 | 11:26 pm

    It’s a bad idea to get a sunburn. A burn is a burn no matter how you get it. It still damages your skin. I don’t use chemical sunscreens anymore, and if anyone in my family needs it for prolonged sun exposure due to an outdoor job, I make sure it’s zinc or titanium dioxide without the nasty chemicals. But the best thing to do is to be sun smart- use hats and clothing or umbrellas, and be careful of being out in the afternoon sun for too long. Never let an infant or toddler get sunburned, and protect children as well. Most children naturally seek the shade when they start to feel too hot, and that is a protection; but when a family is out on a boat or a beach or a fair, children may not have that option and it is our responsibility to protect them. Once the skin is turning pink to red it’s too late, the damage is done. I’m not going to join the debate over whether it causes cancer,we know it causes damage, and that is enough to know we should protect ourselves. As a teen I was never concerned about getting a burn, but now I’m 54 and I can see the damage I did to my skin. I read the article you cited Kristen, and it still seems he thinks you should protect your skin. I also have used the vinegar method, and even though it cools and turns to a tan, the skin is still damaged. A tan is damage. But, we all live in the real world, and we will all sustain some kind of damage. Still, I strongly believe that children should be protected from sunburn. A note to Summer H.- If a person expresses their belief or opinion, especially if they think it is important, and they do it in a nice way, that doesn’t make them a “hater”. I may disagree with Kristen on this one, but I’m not “hater”. Thank you for reading my comment.

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.