Tips to Treat Your Sunburned Scalp

Lauren Keller
Tips to Treat Your Sunburned Scalp
Photo: dmbaker/Getty

Warmer weather is finally coming, and we all can’t wait to soak up the sun—but forgetting to protect your head can leave you scrambling to figure out how to treat a sunburned scalp.

While aloe will do the trick to treat your burn, it can get messy and greasy in your hair—so we’ve compiled a list of other treatments you can do at home to sooth your itching, burning scalp.

Wash Away

When it comes to washing your hair, you’ll want to ditch your normal volumizing or color-safe shampoo for a few days and instead opt for a exfoliating shampoo or mask while your scalp is still healing.  Your head is desperate for moisture at the moment, and this is a great way to give it the hydration it needs while also helping to get rid of flakes. Speaking of flakes, while the dead skin may resemble dandruff, it should definitely not be treated like so. Avoid dandruff shampoos at all costs, as the chemicals in them might irritate your scalp even more.

MORE: Sunscreen 101: The Best Moisturizers with SPF

At Home Remedies

Some of the quickest ways to relieve the burn can be found right in your kitchen.

Within the first 24 hours of getting burned, whip up a quick Green Tea Rinse for your hair by steeping two Green Tea bags and cooling them to lukewarm in the fridge.  Once you’ve shampooed, soak your hair in the tea for five minutes before rinsing. The antioxidants found in green tea will be ultra soothing to your scalp and help to alleviate the sting.

Another option? Apple Cider Vinegar. Celebrities already claim it to be a miracle worker for the rest of your body, so it’s no surprise that the acid found in it will also help relieve your scalp.  Mix one part Apple Cider Vinegar and one part water to create a mixture to be used after you shampoo and condition your hair.

The last, and probably weirdest, at home remedy to use is 2% milk. The trick, used by dermatologists to treat chemical burns, is to soak a washcloth in ice cold milk and apply it to the scalp for up to five minutes.  The enzymes and proteins found in milk promote healing, and the cold temperature will help reduce inflammation.

MORE: 12 Seriously Amazing Lip Products You’d Never Guess Have SPF

Avoid the Itch

Just like the skin on your body, your scalp is inevitably going to start to itch and peel. While it’s gross on your body, it’s even worse on your scalp because the dead skin will get stuck in your hair and start to resemble dandruff—and nobody wants that. As tempting as it is to scratch and pick at your head until it’s all gone, this is actually the worst thing you can do.  Itching will only inflame the already sensitive skin and your fingernails could even cause an infection. Keep your hands away from your head as much as possible and do your best to let your scalp heal on its own.

Simple Style

We already have a red, peeling scalp (cute, right?) and don’t want to make matters worse by styling our hair incorrectly. Absolutely do not use heat tools near your roots (i.e. a blow dryer!) as it’ll only lead to more irritation and a longer healing process. If you can’t go a day without your blow dryer, limit the use to only your ends. But remember, there are plenty of ways out there to style your hair without heat and still look amazing. Another way to look cute and still protect your scalp is to switch up your part. The ‘90s Hair Flip is back in style, so play around with your look until you find the perfect part to hide your burn.

Originally published June 2015. Updated March 2017.