The healing power of plants cannot be denied, especially when something as simple as an aloe vera plant can provide great relief to something so painful: sunburned skin. This aloe vera sunburn remedy is one that I have been using for as many years as I can remember.
When I was a kid (a freckly, redheaded kid at that), I fondly remember visits to my grandmother’s place at the beach. She lived in a warm city where the sun shone relentlessly in the summer despite the fact that it was windy enough to keep us cool. This meant more hours of fun in the sun than my skin could reasonably handle. Even if I did put on sunscreen and reapply regularly, the sun would win out by the end of the day and I would be left with those bright pink shoulders that radiated heat up to my ears! That was when my brilliant grandmother would cut off a little piece of her aloe vera plant, split it open with a knife, and apply it to my shoulders. It stung just a bit at first, but then cooled the burn right down. The relief came almost instantly and when I woke up the next morning my shoulders were pink but not inflamed and not radiating heat like the sun.
That’s because aloe vera is a powerful anti-inflammatory and it is most potent when applied directly from the plant. Since then, I’ve always kept an aloe vera plant growing in my house. I’ve had some that have grown and provided me with the healing gel for many years.
Growing aloe vera is easy. Simply treat it like you would any indoor succulent or cactus, except that it is much more forgiving of low-light conditions. You can see how to care for succulents here:
To use aloe vera gel on a sunburn is simple. Cut a piece of aloe vera off of the plant with a sharp knife. Cut the tip off of one of the leaves; it can be as large as the whole leaf or as small as just part of the tip. If you cut at an angle and don’t cut the whole leaf, the end of the leaf will seal up and it will be available for cutting again another time. Then take a paring knife and split the leaf in half so that the gel inside has the most surface area. Take the leaf and rub it directly on the burn*. You can also put the leaves in the fridge and use them as a cold gel to soothe the burn. It will feel good but will not add any additional healing properties so this isn’t an essential step.
*Be sure to test a small patch of skin before applying it en masse. Some people have allergies to aloe vera straight from the plant and you don’t want to cause a worse reaction!
Compost the leaves when you’re finished applying the gel to your skin and repeat every six hours if you’re still looking for relief from a nasty sunburn. Please note that this is for a typical sunburn, serious burns with blisters, headache, or severe pain should be seen by a doctor.
I hope that these instructions help you as much as they have helped me for all the years that I was getting sunburned. Luckily, now that I am older and wiser I no longer burn. Not because my skin has changed, but because I know the secret tips to keep my skin healthy: staying out of the sun between 11:00 A.M. – 3:00 P.M. on hot days, wearing long-sleeved clothing and a wide-brim sun hat, and always wearing sunscreen on exposed skin (even if it’s cloudy out).
More Summer Sun Recipes from the Garden
- Protect Your Lips with an All-Natural Sunscreen Lip Balm Recipe
- If you’ve sunburned your lips and need something to soothe them, whip up this healing after-sun lip balm.
- Even if you don’t have a sunburn, this after-sun salve recipe is a summer necessity to re-hydrate and soothe sun-kissed skin.
- Re-hydrate your body from the inside with Sun Tea!
- Preserve the beauty of the garden with cyanotype Sun Print Cards.
- Heat-Tolerant Plants that love the sun.
- Plants some of these Best Perennials for Sun.