Can you use apple cider vinegar for sunburn? Or will you end up smelling like a packet of Walkers salt and vinegar crisps?
It’s not a good look, is it? The first week into your perfect vacation and there you are with bright red cheeks and scarlet shoulders that send you into orbit if a piece of clothing brushes them.
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Enter apple cider vinegar. (ACV for those of us that are hip and in the know).
One of the many things to grateful for when you are looking for sunburn relief and you are strapped for cash.
My family and I (husband and two teenage kids) recently travelled the world for a year and as a result, experienced twelve months of endless summer.
(Later in the post I will share a video of me with sunburn in New Zealand and show you what I did to treat it)
This meant having to be extra vigilant in the sun — sounds easy, but as any parent who travels with older kids will know, getting teenagers to put their shoes on can be a struggle and so sometimes the sunscreen application went out of the window.
So, often finding ourselves slightly redder than we would have liked, I googled lots of sunburn relief methods that would be fast, effective, natural and more importantly cheap for while we were travelling – and it was while doing so that I clocked up one of my all-time favourite travel hacks – the fabulous ACV.
Before I dive into the post please note: I am NOT a health practitioner (I am a traveller!) The information that I am about to share with you comes from my personal experience. The results of me seeking natural and cost-effective ways to treat minor sunburn. When I refer to ‘sunburn’ I mean a slight reddening of the skin due to too much sun exposure. If you are suffering from a burn that is anything more than this then please seek medical help immediately.
Apple Cider Vinegar For Sunburn
Let’s look at why apple cider vinegar was our go-to sunburn treater (and why you need to add it to your all-important summer vacation checklist the next time you leave for a holiday in the sun!)
I first used ACV when we were caught out by the heat of the sun in Sri Lanka.
I had heard of other travellers who swore by apple cider vinegar for sunburn and so was keen to give this natural travel hack a go.
At $6 for a big bottle, it is undoubtedly cheaper than ready-made sunburn relief creams or gels, plus, you know exactly what is in it.
How Does Apple Cider Vinegar Work On Sunburn?
Apple cider vinegar helps balance the pH of the sunburned skin; this is not only a relief to the skin but also helps to reduce any blisters from forming.
Apple cider vinegar also contains antiseptic properties that relieve pain and kill germs.
The Downsides To Using Apple Cider Vinegar for Sunburn
- The main active ingredient in APC is acetic acid (this is what gives the vinegar the pungent smell). Do not use ACV on the skin without being diluted first. It would be like putting acid onto your skin.
- The smell. There isn’t any way around this. Vinegar will always overpower any other scent that you add. I tried adding a few drops of lavender oil to our mixture, but the pungent smell was still there.
- Not to worry. It’s worth smelling like vinegar for a few hours to get relief from your sunburn.
- Never use apple cider vinegar on any burns other than sunburn. You will go through the roof with pain.
The Best Way To Apply Apple Cider Vinegar When Treating Minor Sunburn
Depending on the scale of your burn, you have three options.
Treating a Small Area of Sunburn With Apple Cider Vinegar (Nose, Forehead)
If like my daughter, your burn is in a small area (in her case, the nose and forehead) then you can dab the diluted apple cider vinegar mixture onto the sunburn using a cotton pad.
If you are travelling with a teenager (like me) then I suggest you let them do this themselves. Hands off.
Treating a Medium Area of Sunburn With Apple Cider Vinegar (Shoulders, Face, Feet)
Take a muslin face cloth, wet it with the apple cider vinegar solution, wring out and proceed to press the muslin cloth onto the affected area.
If you are at home and are treating the sunburn, add a couple of ice cubes to the solution for added relief.
Treating a Large Area of Sunburn With Apple Cider Vinegar (Back, Legs)
Bathing in ACV is particularly suitable for small children with sunburn and for those who have burned most of their body.
- Run a cool bath
- Add two cups of undiluted apple cider vinegar to the bathwater. I also like to add a couple of drops of lavender oil for added relief.
- Pat the skin dry afterwards.
What Else Helps Heal Sunburn?
There are a few other ways that we found to treat sunburn but to be honest; none were quite as effective as the apple cider vinegar.
Other sunburn relief tips that we picked up along our travels include:
I first discovered the benefits of aloe vera on the skin purely by accident when my dog had a bad skin rash.
It cleared her irritated skin up beautifully and since then, if I can get my hands on some, I often use the gel for treating sunburn.
I find that you can’t get better than breaking a piece from the plant and rubbing the skin with the sticky cooling gel straight onto the sunburn.
It’s gorgeously soothing.
If you prefer to buy the gel, I find this one to be the best.
I haven’t tried this method, but I have heard that oatmeal works a treat on sunburn.
Mix it with some water and slap (ouch – maybe not slap) gently apply it to the sunburn and feel the soothing sensation.
Sunburn Relief Essential Oil
I love essential oils and chamomile oil is fantastic for sunburn.
Add a couple of drops of Chamomile oil (I recommend this one) to any base oil (I use almond but you can use olive, avocado, grapeseed etc) and massage into the skin or take a bath by adding a 6 -8 drops of oil into the lukewarm water.
Check out this video of me looking very ‘sunkissed’ after a day in the New Zealand sunshine and the simple trick I did to cure it!
Applying cold used tea bags to sunburned eyes works a treat.
We have all heard the saying as cool as a cucumber. I wouldn’t recommend trying to cover your body with this fruit but if your eyelids are slightly sunburned then putting a slice of cucumber on the lids helps enormously.
It’s also great for puffy-I-stayed-up-too-late-drinking-wine eyes too.
Making an Apple Cider Vinegar Spritzer For Sunburn
After using ACV on my sunburn with such success while we were travelling, I make sure that for the hot summer months I have a spritzer made up. Just in case.
- Take a spritzer bottle and fill it three quarter with cold water (preferably filtered).
- Add two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
- Store the mixture in the fridge for when you need relief from sunburn. This spritzer lasts in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.
Now, why not read…
Frequently Asked Questions
Does apple cider vinegar turn sunburn into a tan?
No. It does not.
Apple cider vinegar relieves the stinging and burning and helps balance the pH of the sunburned skin.
How long does it take for sunburn to heal?
The time it takes for sunburn to heal depends on the severity of the sunburn,
Mild sunburn lasts for approximately three days.
Moderate sunburn lasts for approximately five days.
Severe sunburn can last for more than a week. If this is the case, then the patient may need to seek medical advice.
What kind of apple cider vinegar is best for sunburn?
There are two kinds of apple cider vinegar, one which is pasteurized and filtered and one which isn’t.
People say that the unpasteurized ACV (with “the mother” bacteria, left inside) is the better of the two for treating sunburn as it has more acetic acid in it.
I use whichever I can get my hands on. It’s up to you — both will do the job.
Can you put apple cider vinegar on sunburn blisters?
Hopefully, you haven’t burned so severely that the skin has blistered but if this happens, avoid putting ACV onto blistered skin and seek medical advice immediately.
Apple cider vinegar for sunburn is effective, but applying ACV to blisters should be avoided at all costs.
Putting the vinegar onto open sores would be painful. Instead, dab frequently with a cold flannel or, ideally, use the chamomile and oil mixture I showed you in the video above.
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I hope this post on using apple cider vinegar for sunburn has been of some help to you — And remember, if you know someone who is suffering from forgetting to wear sunscreen, please share this post with them!