These 5 Old Wives' Tales About Soothing Sunburn Are Super Simple & Actually Work


Protecting skin against the sun on a daily basis is so important, and even more so while on holiday in much warmer climates for prolonged periods of time. While you should always wear a high factor SPF on your face, body and hair, it's understandable that sometimes accidents do happen, and sunburn can rear its ugly head. We should all do our best to try and avoid sunburn as much as possible, but when it does happen, there are solutions. For example, there are certain old wives' tales about soothing sunburn that actually work.

At best, old wives' tales regarding sunburn can be super helpful and actually work. At worst, they are pointless and even potentially damaging. You need to learn the difference in order to aid your sore skin, rather than making it even worse. Many old wives' tales concern natural remedies such as aloe vera and witch hazel, as well as everyday ingredients like baking soda and milk, which you'll probably already have in your kitchen cupboards.

But do these things actually work? I've picked out five remedies that have been recommended for decades, and that can actually really help with skin that's been sunburnt. From classic moisturising lotions to neat witch hazel, keep reading to find out what to reach for in times of need.

Aloe Vera


Aloe Vera has been recommended for decades (maybe longer), and is one of the most well-known old wives' tales when it comes to sunburn. But does it actually work? Well, seeing as it is listed as one of the recommended ingredients to use on skin after sunburn by the NHS, it seems likely. Aloe Vera is a natural anti-inflammatory, and is of course very soothing, so it makes sense that products featuring the ingredients will work on burnt, hot skin. Women's Health actually recommends using it on the hairline to treat a burnt scalp. Try the Dr Organic Aloe Vera Gel, or, if you prefer a lotion, The Green People Natural After Sun contains aloe, as well as other natural ingredients.

Witch Hazel

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Witch hazel is usually recommended for spots and breakouts, but it can also be another natural remedy for sunburn. Witch hazel contains chemicals called tannins, which help towards skin repair and fight against bacteria, meaning it can aid skin that's painful and burnt. You can apply straight witch hazel direct to the skin (such as this one from Superdrug), or there are many aftersun lotions with witch hazel in them.

Baking Soda

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Baking soda seems to be recommended for just about everything. From keeping teeth white and clean to relieving insect bites, it's often hailed for its versatility. So it comes as no surprise that baking soda can be used to help with sunburn, too. When mixed with water and applied, baking soda's alkaline properties can really soothe skin that's in pain. You can also add some to a nice cool bath.


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Much like baking soda, milk is something you're pretty much guaranteed to already have, and New York dermatologist Dr Joshua Zeichner told The Daily Mail: "A milk compress can help calm inflamed skin... as proteins in the milk coat and soothe the skin." All you need to do is pop a bowl of milk with a flannel in it in the fridge, wait until it's really cold, and apply it to your sunburn gently.

A Gentle Moisturiser

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Perhaps the simplest, and most obvious, solution is to apply a cooling gel or lotion to the skin. My mum always recommended some classic Nivea lotion, which is super gentle and lightweight. But most lotions or light creams will work, especially if they contain some of the above ingredients. It is best to avoid oil-based or petroleum-based products however, as reveals they can actually trap heat and worsen your sunburn. They also recommend applying your product while skin is damp from the shower for best effects.