13 Foods That Fight Sunburn

Soothe—or prevent—scorching sunburn with common kitchen ingredients.

June 27, 2012

No one sets out to get sunburned, but the pleasant distractions of summer—the long, sunny days, the beckoning beach, losing track of time in the garden—all make it easy to forget that extra coat of sunscreen, or the need to take a break in the shade. Of course, it’s best to avoid sunburn in the first place, given its ability to cause skin cancer and premature aging. Luckily, common foods in your kitchen possess sun-protection compounds to aid your current sun-protection routine. Others may not help prevent sunburn but offer surprising relief if you do accidentally catch too many rays.

Check out these natural food remedies to deal with—or prevent—summer sunburns:


1. Potatoes

Sunburn-fighting effect: Overindulging in potatoes may be a no-no if you’re trying to lose weight, but keep a few on hand in case a sunburn strikes. The potato’s starchy compounds will help take the sting out of sunburn.

Utilize it! Cut a raw potato into slices and rub a piece on your most painful sunburned spots. For a more intensive treatment, grate a cold raw potato and apply it as a poultice.


Photo: Tom Gettings


2. Tea

Sunburn-fighting effect: Green tea’s catechin compounds help protect against the sun’s harmful radiation; its tannic acid helps soothe sunburn pain.

Utilize it! Studies suggest drinking just two cups a day could help provide a bit of added sun protection. (You should still use other sun-protection methods, like nontoxic sunscreen, sun-protective clothing, and time in the shade.) If you’re suffering from a scorched face, soak two tea bags in cool water and apply them to your aching eyelids. Tea’s tannic acid will ease sunburn pain.

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Photo: Thomas MacDonald


3. Oatmeal

Sunburn-fighting effect: When your whole body is sunburned, oatmeal provides the best type of relief.

Utilize it! Grind up a cup of oatmeal in a food processor, add it to cool bathwater, and soak. You can also wrap dry oatmeal in cheesecloth or gauze, run cool water through it, and then toss the oatmeal and soak compresses in the liquid, applying every 2 to 4 hours.

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Photo: Mitch Mandel


4. Pomegranate

Sunburn-fighting effect: Pomegranates are a rich source of ellagic acid, which can help protect your skin from UVA- and UVB-induced cell damage, according to research from the Department of Nutrition and Food Science at Texas A&M University.

Utilize it! Indulge in pomegranates during the summer months. The fruit’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties could help add another layer of sun protection to your routine.

Exclusive Recipe: Pomegranate Spritzer

Photo: Rodale Images


5. Strawberries

Sunburn-fighting effect: The berries' tannin content helps reduce the sting of a sunburn.

Utilize it! Mash a few ripened strawberries and slather on sunburns for natural relief. Rinse off after a few minutes. If you'd rather not go the fruit route to avoid stickiness, you can make a paste out of cornstarch and water and slather it over sunburned skin for relief, too.

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Photo: Tom Gettings


6. Cucumbers

Sunburn-fighting effect: Cucumbers offer sunburn relief on par with store-bought sunburn-relief products, without added with chemical preservatives and harmful fragrances.

Utilize it! If you’re already burned, mash a cucumber and apply it to your skin. Dian Dincin Buchman, Ph.D., author of The Complete Herbal Guide to Natural Health and Beauty, suggests cucumber can provide sun protection in a pinch, too. Grab an organic cucumber from the garden or farmers' market, peel and chop, and then squeeze the juice. Mix it with glycerin and rosewater for protection from the sun.

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Photo: Rodale Images 


7. Lettuce

Sunburn-fighting effect: Lettuce’s natural pain-killing properties can help wipe away sunburn pain.

Utilize it! Boil lettuce leaves in water. Strain, then let the liquid cool for several hours in the refrigerator. Once chilled, dip cotton balls into the lettuce water and gently wipe over irritated skin.

Read More: The 6 Best Vegetables You’re Not Eating

Photo: Thomas MacDonald


8. Guavas

Sunburn-fighting effect: An antioxidant-rich diet could help prep your skin for more potent sun protection before you even step foot outside. One guava contains about five times the amount of vitamin C, a skin-healing antioxidant, as a medium-sized orange.

Utilize it! Enjoy a guava here and there, but work more local vitamin-C-rich foods into your diet, too, including bell peppers, strawberries, and broccoli.

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Photo: Photo Alto


9. White Vinegar

Sunburn-fighting effect: White vinegar's acetic acid acts like a topical nonsterioidal anti-inflammatory drug (think aspirin and ibuprofen).

Utilize it! If you’re red (just not blistered), dab a bit of distilled white vinegar onto your sunburn. It will kill the pain for about 20 minutes.


Photo: Mitch Mandel


10. Tomatoes

Sunburn-fighting effect: As if you need another reason to indulge in organic tomatoes from your farmers' market or garden. Turns out the red gems help protect your skin from sun damage. In one study, volunteers who ate 5 tablespoons of lycopene-rich tomato paste daily for 3 months enjoyed 25 percent more natural protection against sunburn.

Utilize it! Indulge in fresh tomatoes and add organic ketchup to meals for a lycopene burst.

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Photo: Rob Cardillo


11. Calendula

Sunburn-fighting effect: This easy-to-grow plant is packed with anti-inflammatory properties that ease burns, including sunburn.

Utilize it! Make a poultice of calendula blossoms and apply to sunburn to help accelerate healing.

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Photo: Christa Neu


12. Aloe

Sunburn-fighting effect: Aloe is popular in many health drinks, but the succulent plant shows promise in sunburn relief, too.

Utilize it! Break off a leaf and apply the juice to your sunburned skin. (Test a small spot first to make sure you’re not allergic.) If you don’t have an aloe plant in the house, buy a bottle of pure aloe vera gel at a pharmacy, chill it in the fridge, and apply.

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Photo: Image Source


13. Fat-Free Milk

Sunburn-fighting effect: The milk creates a protein film on your skin that will help ease the discomfort of fresh sunburn.

Utilize it! Apply cool, not cold, milk to your skin using a clean cloth or gauze. Apply compresses for 15 to 20 minutes, and repeat every 2 to 4 hours.


Photo: Mitch Mandel