How to Prevent & Manage Sunburns

Why Do We Get Sunburn?

Sunburn is an acute inflammatory response to excessive exposure to sunlight. The harmful changes that occur in the skin cells’ cytoplasm (a gel-like substance that is between the cell membrane and nucleus) and the nucleus itself are cumulative over a lifespan and can lead to an increased incidence of skin cancer.

Sunburn is common due to the popularity of outdoor summer activities and clothing styles that leave more skin exposed to the sun’s damaging UVA and UVB rays. While limiting sun exposure is the most reliable method of preventing sunburn, the sun is also helpful for us and we do want to have some fun in the sun, so here are some natural ways to prevent sunburn.


  • Limit exposure. Sun rays are strongest between the hours of 10 and 4. Try to avoid exposure during these hours, if possible.
  • UV exposure at high altitudes is substantially greater than at sea level. This means, you need to be even more careful about safeguarding your skin against the sun when you are at a higher altitude. There is a 6-10% increase for every 1000 feet. The effect of UV rays is stronger as we gain elevation.
  • Wear lightweight, light colored clothing that covers the skin. Consider long sleeves and pants - linen and cotton make great choices - and wide-brim hats. 
  • Sunscreen/Sunblock. Mineral sunscreens are beneficial to block UV rays. Sunscreens that contain titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide, like ETHYST® Sanctuary SPF 40, are great choices. Apply to all exposed areas, including the ears, lips, back of the neck, tops of the feet, backs of the hands, and the part in your hair. Apply every 1.5-2 hours.
  • Be mindful of pharmaceutical drugs/herbs and possible sun interactions. Some herbs, such as St. John’s Wort, if taken internally, Tretinoin (Retin-A), Antibiotics, and anti-histamines can make a person photosensitive. Take special care when using products like this


  • Get out of the sun immediately! At the first inkling of a burn, move to a shady area or indoors.
  • Use our First Aid Salve. Not only does our First Aid Salve get rid of Eczema, but Comfrey leaf is incredible for soothing burns. The allantoin in comfrey is much like aloe gel, in that it is very moisturizing and soothing to damaged skin cells. Apply immediately after a sunburn occurs and then several times a day for a few days after. Keep the salve in the fridge for an additional cooling effect.
  • Use tepid to cool, not cold, water applications. This can mean submerging the burn in a cool bath or soaking a cloth in cool water and applying it as a compress. Consider adding a small amount of Anti-Inflammatory Tincture to the water and taking some internally as your skin is healing.