It’s all too easy to underestimate the power of the sun this time of year, especially when out at the beach, swimming, gardening, hiking, or just enjoying the outdoors while the hot summer days last. Unfortunately, despite some of our best efforts, we can still suffer from sunburns and the discomfort of healing.
It’s for days like this that essential oils can greatly lessen the pain associated with sunburn, pull out the heat, and speed up the healing process.
Healing Essential Oils for Sunburn Relief
While it’s true we need a certain amount of sun exposure in order to produce vitamin D, getting a sunburn can pose a definite health risk. Of course, the best way to prevent a sunburn is by limiting your sun exposure to about 15 minutes without an spf. otherwise, you need a good natural sunscreen and frequent application to keep your skin safe from the sun.
In the event of a sunburn, certain essential oils can be used to relieve pain, keep severe burns clean, and offer speedy healing.
The Types of Burns
Just really quick, let’s go over the three levels of burns you may come across, including the one from extreme sun exposure.
A first-degree burn only damages the outer layer of the skin. Sunburns are typically first-degree burns. The skin will look red and be sensitive to the touch.
A second-degree burn damages the out layer of skin as well as the underlying layer known as the dermis. This type of burn is characterized by redness, blistering, and acute pain.
A third degree burn actually destroys the underlying tissues beneath the skin destroying hair shafts, sebaceous glands, sweat glands, and nerve endings. The skin may be red, white, or yellowish in color, leathery and/or black. There is very little pain as the nerve endings are destroyed. And yes, you CAN get a third-degree burn from extreme exposure to the sun, especially if you are fair.
Please note that essential oils are not recommended for third degree burns as immediate medical attention is required. You can however, use essential oils (along with some basic first aid) for first and second-degree sunburns with great results.
How to Treat Sunburn at Home
For first and second-degree sunburns, the first order of business is to pull out the heat as soon as possible in order to reduce pain, swelling, redness, and even dehydration (make sure to drink enough water if you get sunburned!).
You can cool a sunburn by immersing the area in cool water for up to 10 minutes or applying a cool cloth to the area and switching it out with a new one once the cloth gets warm. I find that mixing a bit of raw apple cider vinegar does wonders for reducing pain during the cooling process. Add 1 cup to a cool bath or a few tablespoons to a bowl of water if you’re using the cloth method.
Once the burn is no longer radiating heat, you can then apply a good aloe vera gel as often as needed. Do not apply anything oily or greasy at this stage until the skin begins to dry out and peel. A good oil to go with is rosehip seed oil or coconut oil.
If you suspect a third-degree burn, seek medical attention immediately. Don’t even attempt to treat the area yourself as infection is a serious threat!
Now, on to the Oils! – The Best Essential Oils for Sunburn
Some of the best essential oils for treating sunburn include:
• Balsam fir – pain relieving
• Bergamot (FCF free, read more about phototoxic essential oils HERE)
• Carrot seed – restorative and regenerating
• Cypress – cooling and pain relieving
• Eucalyptus – cooling and pulls away heat
• Frankincense – regenerative and pain relieving
• Geranium – skin restorative
• German chamomile – pain relieving and restorative
• Helichrysum – incredible for pain relief and overall healing
• Lavender – one of the best essential oils for all types of burns
• Lemon (steam distilled is sun safe) – speeds up healing
• Manuka – excellent for healing the skin
• Melissa – restorative and regenerative
• Neroli – regenerative
• Niaouli – cooling and relieves pain
• Peppermint – cooling and relieves pain, excellent for sunburn
• Ravensara – cooling and pulls away heat
• Roman chamomile – relieves pain and heals the skin
• Rose – pulls away heat and heals the skin
• Spikenard – cooling and pain relieving
• Tea tree – cooling and pain relieving
Lavender has a long reputation for the treatment of all types of burns. You may recall the story about Gattefosse treating an accidental burn with lavender and discovering it’s amazing healing benefits.
The external application of small quantities of essences rapidly stops the spread of gangrenous sores. In my personal experience, after a laboratory explosion covered me with burning substances which I extinguished by rolling on a grassy lawn, both of my hands were covered with a rapidly developing gas gangrene. Just one rinse with lavender essence stopped “the gasification of the tissue”. This treatment was followed by profuse sweating and healing began the next day.
Peppermint is also excellent for pulling heat out of a fresh sunburn and can bring quick pain relief. Feel free to swap out any essential oil in the recipes below for an extra cooling affect.
Essential Oil Blends for Sunburn
Sunburn Blend #1
Apply an even layer to the entire sunburn to reduce pain and swelling.
Sunburn Blend #2
Mix a 50-50 blend of the following:
Apply in an even layer over sunburn to help reduce pain, redness, and inflammation.
Lavender Sunburn Spray
Add all ingredients to the spray bottle and shake well before use. Spray evenly over the sunburn as needed.
This blend is especially good for treating second-degree burns as it will help keep infection at bay if the blisters should be popped on accident.
Here’s what you will need:
• 1 empty 5ml essential oil bottle
• 40 drops tea tree – antiseptic, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory
• 20 drops citronella – antiseptic, antibacterial, and soothing to the tissues
• 17 drops lavender – tissue regenerator, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory
• 15 drops rosemary – antiseptic and antimicrobial
Add all of the essential oils to the empty bottle, cap closed, and roll between your palms to mix.
For use on sunburn, simply dilute 50-50 with aloe gel to pull heat, reduce inflammation, help prevent infection, and relieve pain.
This blend is great for use after the skin has begun healing, especially for second-degree or well healed third-degree burns to help reduce scarring.
Apply to areas of potential scarring twice daily to help regenerate tissues.
Essential Oils Desk Reference 2nd Edition
Essential Oils Integrative Medical Guide
Reference Guide for Essential Oils
The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy
The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy
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