Food for Thought… And Fighting Sunburn

If you find yourself the victim on a sunburn and want to speed up the healing process a bit, it may be time for you to add a few new foods to your diet (in addition to continuing to slather on that aloe vera)

Before we dive in, I want to let you all know this piece is not meant to be judgmental. As someone with fair, extremely burn-prone skin, I have years and years of experience with sunburns. My sun indiscretions have ranged from a casual t-shirt tan from a couple of hours walking around to full-blown sun poisoning after falling asleep on a tropical beach in the middle of the day that resulted in my entire body being purple for a week.

So, I get it. I’m not here to shame you or tell you to do a better job applying SPF. Sometimes, despite our best efforts and SPF 100, the sun’s rays still manage to sneak their way to our delicate skin and wreak red, itchy, peeling havoc.

If you find yourself the victim on a sunburn and want to speed up the healing process a bit, it may be time for you to add a few new foods to your diet (in addition to continuing to slather on that aloe vera). After all, what we eat shows up on our skin, and all of the foods listed below have the sunburn-fighting properties you’re so desperately in need of.

Sweet Potatoes

You may have heard that applying the boiled peel of a sweet potato directly to a sunburn will help draw the heat from your skin, and while that may be true, this tuber’s real star turn comes as an addition to your meal. Packed with beta-carotene, a serious skin-saving antioxidant, sweet potatoes help skin stay resistant to UV rays, which means they’ll keep your burn from getting worse if you do need to venture outside before it’s completely healed.

Green Tea

As a society, we might want to think about changing the old rhyme to “a cup of green tea a day keeps the doctor away.” If you’re not already drinking green tea daily, summer is the time to start. Thanks to its catechin compounds —  a potent antioxidant — and tannic acid, green tea not only protects against harmful radiation, it also works to soothe sunburn pain and lessen inflammation. What’s more, after you’re done drinking it, pop the tea bags into the fridge for a bit and use them to de-puff topically. 


One of the worst parts of a sunburn is the dryness, tightness and peeling that come with it. Staying hydrated is key to dealing with a burn; the more hydrated you are, the more hydrated your skin is and the better suited it is to heal from a burn. If you’re full up on water, consider munching on a cucumber (which is 95% water). And leave the skin on! It’s home to ultra-healing vitamin C.


Another hydration superstar on the quest to beating the burn? Watermelon. Ringing in at around 92 percent water, this juicy fruit will further up your body’s hydration efforts to stave off the dryness and peeling on a wicked sunburn.


Just because your skin may be the same color as a tomato doesn’t mean you should cut them out of your diet. On the contrary, the lycopene-rich fruit offers natural sun protection, hydration and reduced inflammation in the skin since the antioxidant works to neutralize the dangerous molecules produced from too much sun exposure. Not into raw tomatoes? You’re in luck! Tomatoes that have been processed — ketchup, soup, juice — contain the highest levels of lycopene.


If this green herb isn’t part of your regular “things to sprinkle on other things” rotation, hurry up and add it. Whether you prefer the fresh stuff or the dried variety, the leafy greenness of parsley is a killer source of vitamins K, C and A, as well as a myriad of antioxidants that nourish skin and help prevent future sun damage.


Make like a rabbit and get to chowing down on these orange beauties. By consistently incorporating carrots into your diet, you’ll give yourself a serious leg-up on sun protection and care when it comes to your skin. Rich in beta-carotene, an antioxidant that protects against free radicals and keeps skin healthy, carrots work to protect skin from UV radiation and sunburn.


When it comes to the health of your skin, it’s hard to overstate the important of healthy fats and oils, ingredients that help form the building blocks of skin cells. And since a healthy base is crucial to healing quicker and cleaner from a sunburn, get yourself some of those all-important omega-3 fatty acids from fish like salmon and nuts like almonds, walnuts and sunflower seeds.


Though this one may be a bit harder to track down than everything else on this list, don’t sleep on guava if you’ve spent too much time in the sun (or plan to in the future). One of the best things you can do your skin is eat foods rich in vitamin C, a skin-healing and protecting antioxidant . And since guava contains five times the amount of the stuff than an orange…you do the math. (If you can’t get your hands on fresh guava regularly, think about adding other vitamin-C-rich produce to your plate: bell peppers, broccoli, strawberries, etc.)


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I don’t burn easily (instead, I tan, which I also hate haha) but this is great to know! Thank you for the info! ❤️✨

Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

5 years ago

Love this post so much! x