Essential Oils for Sunburn
Sunburn relief is needed when your skin encounters the harmful UVA and UVB rays of the sun for an extended period. As the radiation from the sun meets your cells, it begins to break down bonds between the four DNA nitrogen bases.1,2 This leads to itching, redness, swelling, peeling skin, blistering, and pain. Depending on your skin tone and sensitivity, it may take you less time to burn than others.1
The best way to beat sunburns is by having a good defense in place; this means wearing hats, sunscreen, and taking shade when UV rays are at their worst. If you do find yourself turning red after a day at the beach, and you prefer not to use products with additives you can’t pronounce, there is an alternative. Many essential oils offer anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, which can counteract the sting and swelling caused by sunburns. Continue reading below for a closer look at what essential oils are good for sunburn relief.
What Essential Oil is Good for Sunburn?
Using essential oils for sunburn relief is quickly becoming a popular alternative to over the counter medicated treatments. Today, you can even find sprays and ointments which include essential oils good for sunburn in their ingredient list.
Chamomile Essential Oil
The dried flowers of the chamomile plant have been used in medicinal practices for more than 5000 years. Full of flavonoids, the benefits of chamomile essential oil include anti-inflammatory, astringent, and antioxidative properties. It is often used as a natural, sunburn remedy.
In a 1994 study, researchers tested the flavones of the plant on nine healthy women, and found that they could penetrate deep tissue layers, surpassing the surface layer of the skin.3 This makes chamomile essential oil an asset in combating the inflammation and soreness associated with deep sunburns.
A great way to harness the benefits of essential oils for burns is through the healing powers of a tepid, or cool bath. Add 5 drops of chamomile essential oil to 3 Tsp. of your favorite carrier oil, such as argan, or coconut oil; mix well and stir into the bath water. To reduce the sting of your burn, try adding a cup of uncooked instant oatmeal as well. Don’t soak too long, as excessive water contact could dry your damaged skin out.
When diluted with a carrier oil, essential oils for sunburn skin can also be rubbed directly onto the affected skin like a massage oil. Make sure to gently apply the mixture to avoid irritation.
Patchouli Essential Oil
A member of the mint family, patchouli (Pogostemon cablin) is native to Southeast Asia, and has a strong sweet, earthy aroma. The benefits of patchouli essential oil are often attributed to its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, both of which help in the treatment for sunburn.
According to one 2014 animal study, patchouli essential oil also works well as a preventative agent against sunburns. By applying the oil topically to mice 2 hours before UV exposure, researchers found that signs of photoaging, such as wrinkling, reduced elasticity, and reduced collagen were decreased significantly.4 These benefits make patchouli the best essential oil for sunburn prevention and relief.
To reap the benefits of this natural essential oil sunburn remedy, add 12 drops of patchouli essential oil to 1 oz. of carrier oil, such as sweet almond or jojoba oil. Rub the mixture into your skin an hour before applying sunscreen for an added barrier of protection against harmful UV rays, or gently massage into sunburned skin to reduce redness and inflammation.
Tea Tree Essential Oil
Tea tree essential oil (Melaleuca) offers antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, which help to prevent infection and swelling following a sunburn.5 The plant is native to Australia, and provides a soft, sweet, minty aroma, like that of eucalyptus.
In 2000, an animal study found that using tea tree oil in the form of hydrogel helped to speed up healing time, and reduce burned tissue damage on test subjects.6
You can enjoy the same sunburn relief at home by creating a cooling tea tree essential oil body lotion. In a bowl, combine ½ cup of carrier oil, ½ cup water, 1 tbsp. of liquid lecithin, and 20 drops of tea tree essential oil. Mix well with a mechanical beater, or use a blender until the mixture thickens. Apply generously to affected areas. Pour the remaining lotion into a sealable container, and store in a cool dark place when not in use. Keep out of reach of children.
Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender (Lavandula) essential oil is native to the Mediterranean, and found commonly in potpourri, soaps, and candles. Lavender essential oil’s top benefits are its analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties, each of which are helpful in counteracting the symptoms of a sunburn.
A study published in Journal of Asian Biomedicine in 2012 found that a combination of French lavender, geranium essential oil, and aloe vera had substantially superior results to that of traditional topical antibiotic, silver sulfadiazine when treating burns.7 This gives promise to the future research on using lavender essential oil for sunburn remedies.
You can create your own enhanced aloe vera and lavender oil sunburn relief by adding ½ cup of liquid aloe juice, ¼ cup of carrier oil, such as apricot kernel oil, ¼ cup of distilled water, and 20 drops of lavender essential oil to a clean spray bottle. Shake well, squirt onto your sunburn, and enjoy the cooling relief of your all-natural sunburn spray.
If you experience an intense sunburn, where blistering or bleeding occurs, consult a medical professional as soon as possible. Never apply essential oils as sunburn remedies directly to your skin without first diluting with water or a carrier oil. Avoid areas with cracked skin or open wounds, as some essential oils could irritate the injury.
Scientific Research Referenced in this Article
- Parrish J. A., Jaenicke K. F. & Anderson R. R. (1982) Erythema and melanogenesis action spectra of normal human skin. Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology 36, 187-191. DOI: 1111/j.1751-1097.1982.tb04362.x
- Hidaka H., Horikoshi S., Serpone N. & Knowland J. (1997) In vitro photochemical damage to DNA, RNA and their bases by an inorganic sunscreen agent on exposure to UVA and UVB radiation. Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology A: Chemistry 111(1-3), 205-213. org/10.1016/S1010-6030(97)00229-3
- Merfort I., Heilmann J., Hagedorn-Leweke U. & Lipold. B. C. (1994) In vivo skin penetration studies of camomile flavones. Pharmazie 49(7), 509-511. Retrieved April 21, 2017 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8073060
- Lin R. F., Feng X. X., Li C. W., Zhang X. J., Yu X. T., Zhou J. & Su Z. R. (2014) Prevention of UV radiation-induced cutaneous photoaging in mice by topical administration of patchouli oil. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 154(2), 408-418. org/10.1016/j.jep.2014.04.020
- Pazyar N., Yaghoobi R., Bagherani N. & Kazerouni A. (2013) A review of applications of tea tree oil in dermatology. International Journal of Dermatology, 52(7), 784-790. DOI: 1111/j.1365-4632.2012.05654.x
- Jandera V., Hudson D. A., De Wet P. M., Innes P. M. & Rode H. (2000) Cooling the burn wound: evaluation of different modalities. Burns 26(3), 265-270. Retrieved April 21, 2017 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10741593
- Panahi Y., Beiraghdar F., Akbari H., Bekhradi H., Taghizadeh M. & Sahebkar A. (2012) A herbal cream consisting of aloe vera, lavandula stoechas, and pelargonium roseum as an alternative for silver sulfadiazine in burn management. Asian Biomedicine 6(2), 273-278. DOI: 10.5372/1905-7415.0602.053