Introduction: The Single Most Effective Way to Get Rid of a Sunburn

Picture of The Single Most Effective Way to Get Rid of a Sunburn

This is my first instructable, and is only going to be short because its an extremely easy and effective method to removing a painful sunburn.

This method was recommended to me by my friends mother, who is a nurse. I hope this helps many a painful sunburn to recede or disappear quickly.

EDIT: 6/26/16

As this instructable has seen over 6mm views since I first published it, I've decided to edit it for more clarity & for safety concerns.

Step 1: Gathering Materials

Picture of Gathering Materials

You will need a total of six things.

  1. A bathtub to do this in (preferably ceramic, so it wont stain)
  2. A pitcher
  3. A rag that you don't mind getting stained
  4. Water
  5. Three bags of black tea (I use Earl Grey)
  6. Ice

Step 2: Fill the Pitcher

Picture of Fill the Pitcher

First things first, strip down, because you don't want to get any of your clothes wet. Fill the pitcher with lukewarm water and soak the tea bags in it - the water should be just warm enough to help the tea brew. When you have the water almost black, like the picture, then move on to step 3.

DO NOT use hot water! As a sunburn is a first degree burn, adding more heat to a burn will exacerbate the effects and cause further damage to your skin. Use only lukewarm water at most.

Step 3: Healing the Wound

Picture of Healing the Wound

Once the water has cooled to a warm/lukewarm temperature (add your ice now to speed this)

Dunk the rag into the tea, and dab it onto the sunburn. Do not wipe it off! Leave it on and let it be absorbed into your skin. Once its dry, re-apply as necessary, but never wash it off. If you do this process before bedtime, you can go to sleep and give it time to work its magic. In the morning you can wash it off in your shower. Hopefully, your sunburn will be substantially subdued, but remember: the sooner you can apply the tea after you get the burn, the quicker and more effective it will be.

Note: I had a severe sunburn and I also used the tea bags straight up, dabbing them directly onto my skin. You may use as many "coats" of tea as you want, but the more the better.


sickdog74 (author)2010-06-23

It worked for me! Here's what it did: I used 4 tea bags (earl grey) in a large tea cup. Microwaved the 4 bags with water for 2.5 minutes. Let cool, swish around. You now have a very very very strong cup of tea. Dabbed on my sunburned face. Repeated every 45 minutes or so until bedtime. Probably did it 8 or 9 times before bedtime. In the morning, I was tanned but not burned! I went from lobster red to tanned in 12 hours!

You were probably tanned from the tea. Once the skin is burned, nothing can reverse this anymore than you can reverse the cooking of a steak in a pan. Flesh has been burned. Non-reversable. Only healing will eventually replace the damaged skin.

drpepper8412 (author)sickdog742010-08-04

Congrats! I'm so glad it works so well for so many other people! =D

RoisinK1 (author)drpepper84122015-08-31

Does this get rid of the redness overnight?

badgardener (author)RoisinK12017-02-23

It's all lies.

AdelynB1 (author)RoisinK12016-04-10

From my understanding it is supposed to. If it doesn't then you may not have applied it as many times as necessary

AyoAlter (author)sickdog742015-07-10

I Used 3 Family Size Luzianne Tea Bags And It Worked Perfect! :)

THE NURSE (author)2007-05-28

Please DO NOT take hot showers after a sunburn. This is a BURN and hot water can make it worse d/t nerve ending damage, u can't really tell how hot the water is. Cool water helps bring down the temperature of your skin. The tannic acid in the tea bag soothes the skin; this is a great remedy for any 1st degree burn. If you suffer a really bad burn seek medical attention, please!! Dehydration/burned skin is serious and u may need fluid replacement. Tea bag treatment is also great for itching burning feet!!!!

filmrebelroby (author)THE NURSE2007-09-03

Today was hell for me. I had the worst sunburn itch. If you don't have blisters and your sunburn itches, a warm/hot shower works. Make sure the temperature isn't so hot as to burn you, but after the shower, the itch will be gone. I know because this just happened to me. Also of course, Aloe Vera and cold showers are good too.

tader1231 (author)filmrebelroby2015-05-26

If u take a little bit of vinegar and then add cold water to dalute it and ten take a rag and TAP it on it helps a lot leave it on for about 3 minutes it will smell bad but it works

porkchop1 (author)tader12312017-07-02

Although I try to avoid sunburns, sometimes it happens and when it does, I've always soaked in a tepid vinegar bath and it relieves the pain and in the morning my sunburn is tan.

badgardener (author)THE NURSE2017-02-23

Interesting, "The Nurse", that you signed up to comment here apparently only for this, and have never done anything else. Curious, since you are so educated, what commercial products are available that is equal to this? Wouldn't one of the big time cosmetic/pharma companies want to take advantage of the cheap tannic acid and put it in their products?

marry.morrow (author)THE NURSE2015-04-15

tannins are in tea not tannic acid

KumoBob (author)marry.morrow2015-05-27

Tannins are tannic acid. They are the same thing.

Jade_ashten19 (author)THE NURSE2015-05-10

Is it suppose to make it burn more when you use the tea?

drpepper8412 (author)THE NURSE2007-05-29

Thank you very much for this! Im glad that you posted this so people now understand how dangerous some of their other methods are.

dgwatson5 (author)drpepper84122014-05-28

FYI, if you can afford to use a whole bag of family tea bags and you have a deep garden tub like I do, then steeping the whole box in a hot bath and climbing in when the water becomes tepid is a great way to do this. Lay in the tub for at least an hour.

jrh143 (author)2008-08-01

I just tried this remedy on a two-day-old lobster belly, and WOW! what a fantastic difference! Only difference: I didn't have earl grey tea, so I used what was on hand, which is plain old Lipton ice tea bags. I used seven of the small (not family size) bags. I got almost immediate relief from my constant itching, which was making me think I was going to lose my mind (assuming I had something there to lose in the first place). I have posted this remedy to another site (wiki answers, I think) with credit given. Thank you very much for your helpful advice!

TorinMiasma (author)jrh1432009-05-10

I've been on instructables for a few months now and it took a wiki answers site to send me to this... and right when i needed it... my girl thinks i'm addicted but this site really does have a bit of everything.

pcanywii (author)TorinMiasma2014-05-28

My dad thinks that I should sip using this website cause I'm addicted to video games and he thinks I'm researching video games, which I am!

drpepper8412 (author)TorinMiasma2009-05-10

Glad you found it! Once summer starts up, I always tend to get a lot more comments, so I'm glad it could help with one of the first burns of summer!

drpepper8412 (author)jrh1432008-08-01

Wow, thats wonderful! I'm so pleased that it worked that well, especially on an old burn! Could you send me the link to where you reposted the remedy?

jrh143 (author)drpepper84122008-08-03

Sure! It is at:
Mine is currently still the last one on the page, signed John Hance. Thank you for the helpful tip! It is one I will be handing down to my kids and passing on to all my family and friends.

cindi59 (author)2010-08-15

I did this last spring when I forgot to put on sunscreen while gardening. I wasn't burnt to a blister state but was uncomfortable on my shoulders to sleep! I made 4 bags of plain lipton tea in a glass two cup measuring cup. I let it cool and started by dipping a washcloth in and after wringing (not completely, just to not drip) it out I dabbed. Instant difference! I was able to cool the burn enough to sleep. I left the tea in the cup and in the middle of the night when I got woke up in pain I did it again. The next morning the majority of the sunburn was gone. I did use the tea on the more burned part over the next day. Instead of days of soreness, I had one! My kids have done the same since! It isn't a cure of course but It sure helps!

mwitherspoon (author)2017-07-05

As a life long desert rat here's a bit more advice. One you realize your sunburned flush with cool water IMMEDIATELY. Do not waste time with preparations as above, your goal is to remove the heat ASAP to prevent further burning. As previously stated nothing will "get rid" of a sunburn. Of course there is the obvious advice "prevention" is best thing.

For post treatment Aloe is a decent salve to relieve the after effects, and anecdotally seems to speed the healing. Many of us Zonies have an Aloe plant or two growing arround our property

glarobats (author)2017-07-04

Just cut a slice of Aloe Vera and rub it on the sunburn. It does wonders.

Lovetra (author)2017-07-03

I FORGOT "COOL" YOUR TEA BATH--Keep dabbing it until you stop hurting or go to sleep!

Lovetra (author)2017-07-03

YES! It is the tannin's in tea that does the trick! Further if you can apply the tea solution, the stronger the better, as quickly as possible, it will prevent huge blisters from appearing. I have always used plain old black tea. It is part of my camping equipment/gear, first aid kit, boating, swimming, always have a box of tea handy. Unless burn is super bad you will be able to wear a shirt tomorrow morning and work the day. It pulls the fire out of the burn.

If you have had a tooth pulled and the bleeding won't stop get a tea bag wet and put the bag in your mouth on the extraction hold it there for a period of time. It will help the blood vessels retract, same on minor but bad cuts, (other than arteries).

PolishHussar (author)2017-07-03

I'm blessed to have learned from my Polish Grandma who learned it from HER Grandma. Used it ever since (50 yrs) for family&friends. Works brilliantly! EXCEPT I use a paper towel to dip, open up and drape over sunburn, leaving it to dry out in about 5 minutes. Repeat as needed. Pain, burning and heat reduces almost right away! Especially important for KIDS AND REDHEADS as non-toxic and gentle on sensitive skins. Everyone said more useful and faster than aloe vera etc.

See, sometimes OldCountry remedies ARE effective!

RussellS8 (author)2017-07-03

Sunburn is caused by the body killing skin cells that have been damaged by solar radiation. It is an immune defense against skin cancer so you don't want to *stop* the process. If this soothes the process, excellent! I've always used vinegar, but this seems less smelly.

MarioB137 (author)2017-07-03

Please DO NOT use Earl Grey tea for this. Use plain black tea! The main component of the aroma of earl grey is limonene, which not only causes skin irritation in itself if administered in big amounts, but will make your skin more suceptible to sun damage.

Better than black tea, use a standard over the counter cortison product for the inflammation and a bit of aloe vera to soothe the skin. ;)

Source for the scientifically inclined:

nivchek (author)2017-07-03

If you are deficient in zinc, a sunburn will not heal easily. Pick up some supplemental zinc and take double a daily dose for a while so you can catch up on the deficiency. Then take a maintenance amount every day after that. You will be much less likely to get sunburn if you have enough zinc in the system.

source: research and personal experience

Alaskan Bev (author)2017-07-02

Thank you for this very helpful Instructable! I lived in FL during college years, was a natural blond, and sunburned fairly easily despite any preventive treatment (college kids love the beach, right?). My landlady insisted that I apply white vinegar. It relieved the burning sensation, which was not severe, and I did not really turn tan from it anyway. We have lived in AK for 39 years and have no opportunity to sunburn, but I go Outside nearly every summer to visit family, etc. and seem to be more susceptible to sunburning than I was before we moved here. Next trip I'll carry some Earl Grey bags just in case, and them leave them with my sister if I don't need to use them, since she drinks the stuff and I don't. A few summers ago some friends took us out on a large lake and we boated for hours. My lips received an extremely painful sunburn which would even awaken me in the night in agony. Vinegar did not help. Now I always carry Clown White or else zinc oxide ointment to rub generously on my lips if I am Outside in severe sun. As many posters have already observed, prevention is the best cure.

Our oldest son's godparents are African American. I have a picture of John pointing at my mild sunburn after a day at the beach, laughing, and offering the classic observation, "I just get tanner! Ha-ha! Today I barely got burned - and you can't tell." I shared my vinegar with him anyway.

wolfmaker (author)2017-07-02

i use this solarcaine spray but first i lay in the tub with not hot and not cold water but a little bit colder than lukewarm for a very long time then i use the this

AndrewR254 (author)2017-07-02

this is a well known old remedy with a solid scientific basis. My family have used cold tea as a treatment for sunburn for a few generations.

GaryA47 (author)2017-07-02

Fill tub with cool water. Add one box of baking soda. Get in and submerge sunburned areas. I don't know it it helps healing but it will stop the discomfort.

kwhit190211 (author)2017-07-02

I never tried this method for sunburn, sounds interesting. But, what I use for sunburn is what I also use for burns. Use baking soda & water, mix it into a paste. Slop it on a piece of cheese cloth & apply it to the burn. Takes the sting right out. You can skip the cheese cloth but I have to warn you. When it dries it can get messy, hence the cheese cloth.

bruno13069 (author)2017-07-02

My mom did this to me back in 1989 when I was outside for 6 hours without sunblock. She used a tea soaked calendar towel to lay across my back. Took away the sting and the redness. No blisters and minimal peeling.

DennisS4 (author)2017-07-02

I don't have a sunburn but I see it working for some and not others. I think I might know why. Some teas us an herb for flavor and that herb is a mild pain reducer commonly use in India.
Earl Grey tea happens to have a more in it than other teas. Some have none at all.
For best results use Earl Grey tea.
Just be careful you don't hurt yourself, for serious burns see a doctor.

jtancrede (author)2017-07-02

Shouldn't you ice the burn to remove the heat first then treat the skin?
That is what a pharmacist told me.

Adrain948 (author)2017-07-02

Best sunburn treatment
Soak cotton wool balls in brown vinegar
Dab on burn for instance relief

der_fisherman (author)2017-07-02

Putting a burn under water always helps, what was not mentioned is that it can take several hours to become effective.....Plus the water must be soothing, not hot or cold.I take a long bath, adjusting the temperature carefully.

Kids I also put in the bath, and tell the to play for some hours.

The test is, "does it still sting? If yes, back in the bath.I have used a T shirt kept very wet for some hours for my back, the next day, the areas NOT covered by it were red, but the main part looked as though I had not even been in the sun......

This works for any burn, not just sun burn.

This is a very good instructable.

The next time, for smaller burns, I will try Earl Grey too.

But how about an update for the time it takes? The worse the burn, the longer the treatment!!

Many thanks.

PS. The lady below somewhere who said it does not work, simply did not do it for long enough. In an emergency even a good moisturizer can help, but water is best and lots of it!! Take your time.

TimP5 (author)2016-06-26

I cut some aloe stems off the plant, then put it in a blender on high, add little water and it turns into a gel. I rub it all over my burn, let it dry and sleep in it. The next morning I take a shower and my burn is usually almost gone.

GingerT (author)TimP52016-06-26

I grew up in Florida, I'm a natural redhead with fair skin, I'm now 58 years old and have always sworn by Aloe gel. If you don't have access to a natural plant just buy the 100% Aloe Gel in the pump bottle (clear, no additives)... cheap, cheap (usually under 2 bux) at WM. I've been sunburned more times than I care to remember, even to the point of being hospitalized for sun poisoning... I could go on with more gory details but I'll spare you. I also work with hot glass, as in glass blowing, and have also received many burns ( I sound like a french fry don't I?) I keep pump bottles of the stuff in my studio. Because of Aloe I've never had any skin cancer thus far nor do I have any scars from sunburns, torch burns, hot glass burns, etc.

The tea bath works too, any kind of black tea, takes the burn out but doesn't really heal, just soaking in a tub of plain water will ease the discomfort as well. So does applied white vinegar but that makes you smell like a salad. But Aloe... I recommend it enough.

piojo9 (author)GingerT2017-07-02

A warning about aloe vera gel: I've read that when it's processed, it's easy to mishandle it and render it ineffective, for example by overheating it. I've also seen aloe vera gel with that's mostly water and dye. So if you get burned a lot and don't have a brand that works well, you might want to buy a plant.

BigAndRed (author)GingerT2016-06-26

I'm with you on the aloe. I'm red head and white skin and know fully the dangers of UV. To all the foolish people who strip off and stay out in full sun too long, get some aloe vera.

FlorinJ (author)BigAndRed2017-07-02

Not everybody is similarly sensitive to sunlight.

I'm white as chalk, and my skin has only three states: 1) white, 2) fiery dark red and 3) peeling off, and it only takes about 45 minutes of sun at noon for me to go from 1 to 3.

By comparison, my sister becomes chocolate dark in the summer without even staying too much out in the sun, and never ever experienced skin peeling from the sun. She can sleep a whole day in bright sun (she did, by mistake, as a child), and the only thing she gets from this is thirsty.

We live in the same city, it's only that her skin is way better than mine at secreting melanin.

LindaR53 (author)GingerT2016-06-26

Yes I relate, and I got sun poisoning as a young teenager living in Florida as well. My legs were purple for nearly a year. I still have damaged area on my eyelid. Aloe is wonderful! Medicine made by the Creator and put into the Earth for our use and enjoyment! I definitely use it for kitchen burns. Sometimes my sunburns have been so bad it didn't seem to help much though unless I mix it with the colloidal trace minerals I mentioned in another comment here.

MeganC71 (author)LindaR532016-09-26

Hi Linda, did your legs ever fully recover from that burn and go back to your natural skin colour? Mine are in pretty bad shape at the moment and would love any advice/sign of hope that they will get better.

Junio03 (author)2017-07-02

Several years ago my sister got a fairy severe burn while on holiday in Bermuda. When she returned to the hotel, one of the staff went right over to her. He told her to fill the tub with tepid water , while he went to get the tea bags.

They put her right into the tub after the water cooled. She was so grateful for the advice, and the burn didn't ruin the rest of their vacation.

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