Sunburn is no joke. It's a sign of severe damage to your skin and in the long term can raise your risk of skin cancer. [Photo: Bigstock]

Quick relief for sunburn and sunstroke

11 August, 2015

In the summer – as in every season – every skin is different.

What can produce a tan in one person will produce a stinging sunburn in another. The only safe advice is to learn your skin’s limits and stick to them – as well as using a variety of methods to protect your skin from the most intense rays of the sun.

Most of us know that to prevent painful burning and blistering, we need to keep the skin protected with sunscreening lotions and only expose ourselves to the sun for short periods of time until accustomed to it. But even the most careful individuals do occasionally get burned – or overcome by the summer heat.

If a person becomes severely overheated, the cooling mechanism of the skin fails and it becomes hot and dry losing its ability to combat the sun’s rays. Body temperature can rise dangerously and the person may feel dizzy, nauseated, weak, and feverish and have a severe headache. These are signs of sunstroke and you should seek emergency treatment.

Self-help methods include cooling the person off as quickly as possible with cool water until temperature begins to drop. Avoid over-chilling and give a glass of tepid to cool water with half a teaspoon of salt to encourage perspiration and equalise balance of body fluids.

Alternative medicine offers a variety of well-tried and effective skin treatments for sunburn including bathing in cool chamomile infusion and applying soothing calendula. Ointments containing essential oils such as lavender, chamomile or aloe vera are all useful for sunburnt skin – and, in addition, some remedies like lavender essential oil and aloe vera can be applied neat to the skin to promote healing.

Check out our suggestions below and stay safe and happy in the sun.

Herbal remedies

  • Chamomile, chickweed and nettle A cooling combination of herbs. Make an infusion to drink as a tea or cool the infusion and use to bathe an over-hot area.
    Calendula Creams and ointments containing calendula have been show to promote healing of rough and burned skin, and in addition have pain-relieving properties. You can make a simple soothing mixture by blending calendula tincture in olive or coconut oil and applying to the affected areas.
  • Cleavers Can be used to cool and soother all kinds of burns, including sunburns. Make an infusion which can be drunk or applied topically, or dilute the tincture in water.
  • Aloe vera An excellent remedy for all kinds of burns, including sunburn. Keep some gel in the refrigerator to help cool and heal burns. If applied quickly, aloe will also pre­vent peeling.
  • St John’s Wort The macerated oil may also be applied using cotton wool to relieve pain and promote healing.


Choose the remedy that best matches the symptoms:

  • Belladonna 30C The most commonly used remedy for sunburn. Burning, dry, red, flushed skin. Feels feverish. Dilated pupils, throbbing headache. Two or three doses four hours apart.
  • Cantharis 30C One of the main remedies for painful and blistering sunburn relieved by cold applications. Also addresses symptoms of restlessness and thirst. Two or three doses four hours apart.
  • Calcarea chlorinata diluted 1:10 parts in distilled this remedy can be applied to the sunburned area to bring relief.
  • Urtica urens 30C For simple sunburn with stinging, burning or itching pain.
  • Glonoinum 30C For a bursting, pounding headache after exposure to sun. Take two or three doses four hours apart.
  • Natrum carbonicum 30C For the chronic effects of sunstroke and where there is weakness on exertion.


  • Bergamot, Lavender: Cooling and soothing oils to apply in a massage base (add three drops of each to 20 mls of base oil) or add two drops of each to a cool bath.


For an all over burn soak in a cool (not cold) to tepid bath into which you have added either of the following:

  • Baking soda Add a cupful to your bath to help rebalance skin and relieve stinging. Instead of towelling off, let the solution dry on your skin.
  • Oatmeal. There are two ways to use oatmeal. The first involves fashioning a giant ‘teabag’  out of a couple of generous handfuls of oats in muslin bag (or tied in a muslin cloth or a pair of old tights) steeping this in your bath water while you have a relaxing soak. You can also use the same oat bag to make a soothing topical application. Soak the oat bag in a bowl of water squeezing  it repeatedly to release a viscous, milky liquid. The water will turn cloudy. Discard the oatmeal and soak compresses in the liquid. Apply to you skin every 2 to 4 hours. Refrigerate and don’t keep for more than a day.