Nothing sours the sweetness of summer like a bad sunburn (ugh!). And though we try to be meticulous when it comes to our SPF habits, we’re not perfect. At some point that fateful pink-hued skin is practically inevitable. However, with proper after-sun care, the damage and cringeworthy aftermath of a bad burn can usually be contained. But when said burn is on your scalp and not, say, your shoulders, proper care and damage control can get a lot trickier—and wreak havoc on your locks. Even worse? Some store-bought remedies (we see you, dandruff shampoo) may do more harm than good in terms of calming that irritated and flaky skin.
Don’t get us wrong—here at Byrdie, we love our product. But we also know that sometimes the natural solution is the right solution. Keep scrolling for the DIY sunburn saviors you need to know about.
Why it’s amazing: It’s no coincidence that green tea can often be found in the top-of-the-line skincare products. Loaded with beautifying and soothing antioxidants and tannins, tea naturally and effectively reduces inflammation, which makes it perfect for soothing an angry and itchy scalp. When applied in the form of a compress or rinse (as we describe below), green tea can help heal the irritated skin and also expedite recovery.
What to do:
1. Pour boiling water over a green tea bag and let steep for about 10 minutes.
2. Remove the tea bag and place in the refrigerator to let cool.
3. Wash your hair as usual, making sure to cleanse and condition with an ultra-gentle shampoo and conditioner (we like Oribe’s Ultra Gentle line).
4. Pour the lukewarm tea over towel-dried hair and lightly massage into scalp.
5. Do not rinse, and let hair air-dry (styling tools and sunburned skin do not mix!).
Why it’s amazing: Milk contains essential enzymes that bond to skin and speed up your skin’s ability to heal. The fat, protein, and pH (why we recommend 2% or whole) have anti-inflammatory properties that help calm the skin. The cold temperature takes this remedy a step further by restricting the blood vessels in the scalp and reducing any swelling.
What to do:
1. Dip a clean washcloth into freezing-cold milk.
2. Gently press the milk-drenched cloth against your scalp for approximately five minutes.
3. Repeat up to three times.
Why it’s amazing: Oils are known for their miraculous skin-saving, youth-preserving, all-around amazingness; thus, their ability to calm an inflamed and irritated scalp shouldn’t come as any big surprise. Our preference? Tea tree—the holy grail of oils. This is the remedy you’ll want to turn to if your burn is inducing serious flaking and itching. Not only is tea-tree oil anti-inflammatory, but it’s also antibacterial, antifungal, and a natural antiseptic—so basically an elixir of the gods. Use it to tame your screaming head while simultaneously curing any and all pre-burn scalp woes (and yes, you’re welcome).
What to do:
1. Fill a container or bottle 3/4 full with any oil other than tea tree (jojoba, coconut, olive, or almond are all great options).
2. Add 10-15 drops of tea-tree oil (the stuff is strong!) and mix well.
3. Apply oil mixture to scalp and hair.
4. Gently massage until hair and scalp are well saturated (and don’t worry—the tingling sensation is normal).
5. For best results, leave in overnight.
6. In the morning, shampoo and condition hair thoroughly.
Don’t trust yourself to DIY? Scroll down to shop our editor-approved scalp soothers!