I’m going to take a wild guess and say that of these 14 natural sunburn remedies – which include recommendations from Seattle Children’s Hospital, dermatologists, and respected herbalists – honey is probably not your first choice for whole body application. At least not if you need to wear clothes. Or sit on furniture. Or leave your house. Fortunately, there are more practical options, like this cooling after sun spray that’s super simple to make.
You can make this recipe a couple of ways depending on what you have on hand. Here’s an overview of the ingredient options:
Option #1: Witch Hazel
Made from the twigs and bark of the witch hazel shrub (Hammamelis virginiana), liquid witch hazel extract is rich in several antioxidants that soothe inflammation and make skin more resistant to oxidative stress. (1) (2) According to this study, it’s particularly helpful for UVB-related skin irritation.
Two of the most notable constituents in witch hazel are:
- Tannins – Witch hazel bark and leaves contain up to 10% tannins – mostly in the form of hamamelitannins – which help soothe many types of irritated skin. Tannins are considered the primary reason that witch hazel is so helpful for sunburned, acne-prone and eczema-prone skin. (2) (3)
- Gallic acid – Also found in blueberries and other polyphenol-rich plants, this powerful antioxidant also helps ease inflammation. (4)
I prefer this brand because they double distill their extract – the final extract contains 86% organic witch hazel. They also use less alcohol than other brands, which is important to me because it’s more gentle.
Option #2: Apple Cider Vinegar
Though there is not a consensus on why apple cider vinegar is helpful, this study did conclude that vinegar supports healing after a burn. Some say it’s because the apple cider vinegar helps to damaged skin’s pH, while other’s say it’s due to the high percentage of “pectin, succared, vitamins (B1, B2, B6) (A, E, C), salt, mineral[s such as] as (sodium, calcium, magnesium, aluminum, phosphor, copper, [and] silicon).” (5)
Essential Oils for After Sun Spray
According to Medical Aromatherapy, lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and German chamomile* (Matricaria chamomilla) essential oils are both helpful for soothing sunburned skin. Another good option is helichrysum (Helichrysum italicum). Also known as Immortelle, it’s known for its ability to support wound healing and tissue regeneration.
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) and rosemary ct. cineole are also sometimes used because they create a cooling sensation on the skin, but they should not be used with small children – more info in this guide to using essential oils safely with kids. Peppermint is also not recommended for nursing mamas as it may negatively impact breast milk supply. If you use either of these oils in this recipe, I suggest using a maximum of 12 drops instead of 24.
If you don’t have any of the above essential oils available, here are some good second tier options: Carrot seed (not for use during pregnancy or breastfeeding), frankincense, manuka, and neroli. (6, 7)
*Note: German chamomile should not be taken with certain drugs. See a list of them here.
An Important Note On Moisturizers
Applying moisturizer to freshly sunburned skin may trap heat and delay healing. For that reason, it’s generally recommended that moisturizer be avoided until the skin is cool and healing is underway. When that stage is reached, here are some of my favorite recipes for restoring lost moisture:
- Calendula salve or calendula infused oil
- Tallow balm
- Skin repair serum
- Dandelion salve or dandelion oil
- Plantain salve
If you’d rather buy a pre-made healing balm, I’ve included some recommendations at the bottom of this post.
DIY After Sun Spray (Sunburn Spray Recipe)
- 2 fluid ounces witch hazel (low alcohol so it’s not drying – I like this brand) or apple cider vinegar (preferably raw – I use this brand or this homemade apple cider vinegar recipe)
- 2 fluid ounces filtered water
- 12 – 24 drops lavender, German chamomile, or helichrysum essential oil (see the essential oil section above for additional options if you don’t have any of these on hand)
Add the witch hazel or apple cider vinegar to a dark glass spray bottle, like this one or this one. Drop in the essential oils, put on the cap, and shake the bottle well in order to distribute the essential oils. Next, remove the cap and add in the water. Put the cap back on and shake again. Use as needed.
Note: I prefer dark glass because it protects essential oils from sunlight better than clear bottles. Essential oils can oxidize when exposed to sunlight, and oxidized essential oils irritate skin rather than soothe it. If a dark glass spray bottle is not available, I recommend storing this after sun spray in a dark cabinet.
Shake the after sun spray well to distribute the essential oils. Spray on skin as needed.
Store in the fridge and use within one week.
Products Recommended In This Post
- Calendula salve
- Calendula oil
- Tallow balm (use code MOMMYPOTAMUS at checkout for 10% off your first order)
- Witch hazel
- Apple cider vinegar
- Lavender essential oil
- German chamomile essential oil
- Helichrysum essential oil
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1. Thring, TS et. al. (2009) Anti-collagenase, anti-elastase and anti-oxidant activities of extracts from 21 plants. Retrieved from this PubMed article.
2. Thring, TS et. al. (2011) Antioxidant and potential anti-inflammatory activity of extracts and formulations. Retrieved from this PubMed article.
3. WebMD. Witch Hazel: Uses & Risks. Retrieved from WebMD
4. Kroes, BH et. al. (1992) Anti-inflammatory activity of gallic acid. Retrieved from PubMed
5. Ashraff, Waleed A. (2012) Early Event In Effect of Apple Cider Vinegar On The Induced Burn Healing In Rabbits. Retrieved from ResearchGate.net
6. Purchon, Nerys and Cantele, Lora (2014) The Complete Aromatherapy and Essential Oils Handbook for Everyday Wellness
7. Battaglia, Salvatore (2004) Complete Guide to Aromatherapy