As a health-focused human, I try to be smart about how much sun exposure I take in. But when you mix biking to work, rooftop patios, and spontaneous beach trips in the summer, well…sun happens. I would usually turn to aloe vera to cure my sunburns, but being away from home I couldn’t snap a leaf off of my mother’s plant, and the only aloe I could find in the drugstore had blue dye in the ingredients.

With a limited time to hunt down exotic plants, I did what any sunburned, time-starved, student would do—I googled “at home remedies for sunburn” and up came apple cider vinegar.

Why It's So Great

Phoebe Melnick

Aside from being one of my favourite salad dressing ingredients, apple cider vinegar has been marketed as a magical cure for almost everything from foot fungus to weight loss. Also known as ACV, this magical liquid is one of the cheapest most diverse products to keep in your kitchen (or dorm room).

Not only is it low maintenance (no refrigeration or expiration) but it functions simultaneously as a food, health product, and beauty aid, all in the same bottle.

The Science Behind It All

apple, pasture, juice, sweet, nectarine
Dorothy Ballowe

Bonnie K. McMillen, a registered nurse, explains that, “apple vinegar contains antiseptic properties that kill germs and relieve pain…the vinegar helps to balance the pH of sunburned skin and reduces the blisters after burning.” 

Reading this, I began to understand how my (very pungent) at-home cure, was working. One thing about this treatment though, is that it should only be used with sun burns and not any other kinds of burns, more serious burns, or anything with open sores. Have you ever gotten acidic foods in a paper cut? Imagine that about a thousand times worse (not to mention the damage that you would be doing to your poor skin).

Here’s How It Went Down
juice, sweet
Phoebe Melnick

Ultimately, I decided to try ACV to alleviate my sunburn simply because it was one of the few things I actually had in my cramped, space-starved, kitchen cupboards. I started off with vinegar-soaked cotton pads, but quickly figured out that my sunburned area was too big for that. I needed a lot more covering or I would end up looking like a fluffy snowman.

On try two, I used a washcloth soaked in cool water. This helped soothe the burning sensation, as well as dilute the ACV (which was making my eyes water). My initial thought was a string of expletives. Putting vinegar on burned skin stung, but I was willing to stick with it if I could take the “boiled lobster” look down a few notches before work the next day.

The stinging went down within a few minutes, and hours later—after a few more painful applications—I noticed that the itching and red appearance went down as well.

Final Thoughts

Although it did add assault to my already angry skin, the ACV was ultimately doing good work under the washcloth, and the cool water definitely helped to combat the stinging/burning sensation that came with the first application. It wasn’t some magical, overnight cure (my burn still took a few days to heal), but ACV can be a great supplement to your body’s natural healing process.

I definitely noticed that it took down the itching a lot. I also love how many other uses it has in your kitchen. If you find yourself attacked by the merciless sun, and all you have is salad dressing ingredients, I would recommend ACV as a decent option (that is, if you don’t mind smelling like French fries).