5 Research-Backed Foods to Help Heal a Sunburn

composite image of woman sitting at pool surrounded by healthy food

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Key Takeaways

  • Having a sunburn can be uncomfortable in the short term and can increase your risk of developing certain cancers over time.
  • Eating certain foods after getting sunburnt may relieve your symptoms, help your skin heal faster, and reduce your cancer risk.
  • Foods like carrots, pomegranates, and tomato-based foods have unique health benefits that may help sun-damaged skin.

Wish you could make your sunburns go away faster this summer? Topical solutions like aloe vera and hydrocortisone cream aren’t your only options.

Eating and drinking certain things may support the healing process, though your diet won’t make or break your sunburn recovery.

Here are five foods that offer unique benefits for sunburned skin.


A bunch of fresh carrots

Nick Fewings/Unsplash

Carrots are one of the best foods to eat if you have a sunburn thanks to the beta carotene in the vegetable.

Beta carotene is a carotenoid that’s naturally found in many foods that are (naturally) orange and yellow. Along with carrots, sweet potatoes and cantaloupe also contain this key carotenoid. Non-orange foods like green leafy vegetables (like spinach) are also good sources of beta carotene.

Carotenoids build up in the outer layer of the skin to form a protective barrier against environmental influences, including ultraviolet (UV) radiation. That helps protect against skin aging by promoting skin elasticity and hydration while reducing the development of wrinkles and age spots.

Research has shown that getting adequate amounts of beta carotene in your diet may help protect your skin from the damage caused by UV light.  

Fermented Milk

A small white ramekin of yogurt next to some blueberries and waffles.

Jill Wellington/Pexels

Fermented milk products, like kefir, are made by adding beneficial bacteria and/or yeast to dairy milk. The result is a beverage that contains live cultures with many health benefits.

Milk fermented with lactic acid bacteria has been shown to amplify DNA repair and improve skin immunity after a sunburn.

If your fermented milk drink also contains collagen hydrolysates, it may further promote healthy skin.

Taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) can help with inflammation and pain caused by a sunburn.

100% Orange Juice Fortified With Vitamin D

A glass of orange juice surrounded by whole and sliced oranges on a white background.


Fortified, 100% orange juice can provide 15% of your daily recommended value of vitamin D. The drink also gives you a boost of hydration, antioxidants, and polyphenols.

Research has shown that polyphenols may decrease the damaging effects of ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation on the skin.

Dietary vitamin D has been shown to rapidly relieve inflammation from sunburns.

Studies have also shown that getting plenty of citrus in your diet (including OJ) is linked to a lower risk of developing basal cell carcinoma (a type of skin cancer).

Tomato-Based Dishes

Slices tomatoes on a cutting board

The Spruce Eats / Preethi Venkatram

Enjoying a dish made with tomato paste is a delicious and satisfying way to support your skin health at any time, but might be especially helpful post-sunburn. 

Tomato paste contains lycopene, a carotenoid that can offer skin protection.

In one study, people who ate 55 grams of tomato paste with 10 grams of olive oil daily over 12 weeks had less UV exposure-induced skin reddening (erythema) than people who did not include tomato paste in their diets.

Other studies have found that tomato consumption may help reduce the risk of certain cancers.


Sliced pomegranate fruit on wood cutting board with seeds and striped cloth nearby

The Spruce / Michelle Becker

Pomegranates are a rich source of polyphenolics, which may have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-cancer benefits.

The fruit may also help you heal a sunburn. In one study, both pomegranate juice and pomegranate extract were more effective than placebo in increasing the minimal dose of UVB required to induce erythema, highlighting the protective effects of pomegranate against UVB-induced cell damage.

Health Risks of Sunburns

Short-term sunburn side effects include inflammation, itching, and peeling.

In the long term, getting a sunburn can increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Frequent sun exposure can also lead to wrinkles and brown spots on certain skin tones.

Preventing a Sunburn

Eating well can help you feel better after a sunburn, but it’s much better to try to keep from getting too much sun exposure in the first place.

You can prevent sunburns by:

  • Not going outdoors at the times of day when the sunlight is strongest
  • Staying in the shade under an umbrella, tree, or another shelter
  • Wearing a hat with a brim that goes all the way around to shade your face, ears, and the back of your neck
  • Using a broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays

What This Means For You

Including certain foods and beverages in your diet after you get a sunburn may support skin healing in the short term and even help lower your risk of long-term consequences like skin cancer. That said, the best thing you can do for your skin and overall health is to prevent sunburns.

11 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Stahl W, Sies H. β-Carotene and other carotenoids in protection from sunlight. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012;96(5):1179S-84S. doi:10.3945/ajcn.112.034819

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  4. Skin Cancer Foundation. Sunburn & your skin.

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  7. Wu S, Cho E, Feskanich D, et al. Citrus consumption and risk of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma of the skin. Carcinogenesis. 2015;36(10):1162-8. doi:10.1093/carcin/bgv109

  8. Rizwan M, Rodriguez-Blanco I, Harbottle A, Birch-Machin MA, Watson RE, Rhodes LE. Tomato paste rich in lycopene protects against cutaneous photodamage in humans in vivo: a randomized controlled trial. Br J Dermatol. 2011;164(1):154-162. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2133.2010.10057.x

  9. Cooperstone JL, Tober KL, Riedl KM, et al. Tomatoes protect against development of UV-induced keratinocyte carcinoma via metabolomic alterations. Sci Rep. 2017;7(1):5106. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-05568-7

  10. Henning SM, Yang J, Lee RP, et al. Pomegranate juice and extract consumption increases the resistance to UVB-induced erythema and changes the skin microbiome in healthy women: a randomized controlled trial. Sci Rep. 2019;9(1):14528. doi:10.1038/s41598-019-50926-2

  11. Cao H, Brehm M, Hynan L, Goff HW. Wrinkles, brown spots, and cancer: Relationship between appearance- and health-based knowledge and sunscreen use. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2019;18(2):558-562. doi:10.1111/jocd.12712