Sunburn is the effect of too much sun exposure or exposure to other forms of ultra-violet light. It is a common problem in summer when sunlight hours (and intensity of the sun) increase and people spend longer periods of time outdoors.
If you are planning on being in the sun, make sure you use a natural, organic non-toxic sunscreen and stay clear from chemical filled sunscreens as these can sometimes do more damage than good. Familiarize yourself on the best way to stay safe in the sun and avoid these common mistakes.
Mild sunburn can be soothed with the help of natural remedies such as aromatherapy. However, if sunburn is more severe, prolonged, or left untreated, it can lead to other skin diseases and long-term skin damage.
Use essential oils for sunburn in a dilution of lotion, gel, or carrier oil and apply topically to the skin for best results. A bath with Epsom salts and essential oils may also help (although keep the bath water on the cooler side).
Remember to use the correct dilution rates for children, seniors, and in pregnancy. This is usually half the recommended adult dilution rate but check with a certified aromatherapist for further information if you are unfamiliar with the use of essential oils.
Symptoms Of Sunburn
Symptoms of mild sunburn include:
- Red or pink skin
- Hot/warm, tender skin
- Itchy skin
- Swelling and slight pain.
The skin may develop blisters as it begins to heal itself.
More severe symptoms of sunburn include headache, nausea, fatigue, sweating, and fever. Consult a medical professional if these symptoms occur in conjunction with sunburn and are prolonged.
Note that the essential oils in this article are discussed for use with easing the effects of sunburn. It is not recommended to use essential oils for sunburn prevention and some essential oils are in fact photosensitive.
These essential oils should be avoided at all costs when going out in the sun.
Lavender Essential Oil For Sunburn
Do not apply an aromatherapy lotion, gel, or oil to an area of skin which shows signs of pus, infection, or other irregularities in the skin.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is a popular perennial herb that is indigenous to the Mediterranean region. You now find many cultivars and hybrids of this plant growing in similar climates around the world, in addition to the true variety.
Lavender is distinctive for its violet-blue flowers on stalks with narrow, linear leaves.
Lavender essential oil is extracted from the flowering tops of the plant. True lavender oil has a sweet, floral aroma with hints of wood.
Although lavender essential oil is used for many conditions, its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties make it ideal for soothing skin burned by the sun.
In a study conducted by Hiroko-Miyuki Mori, Hiroshi Kawanami, Hirohisa Kawahata, and Motokuni Aoki, Wound healing potential of lavender oil by acceleration of granulation and wound contraction through induction of TGF-β in a rat model, it was concluded that lavender oil applied to an area of a wound promoted collagen synthesis and differentiation of fibroblasts, and significantly decreased the area of the wound.
Wound healing is the body’s response to damaged tissue, through “blood clotting, inflammation, new tissue formation, and tissue remodeling.” It is a similar process to sunburn and thus it would be fair to assume that lavender essential oil would respond in a similar way when applied to the area of the sunburn.
Combine lavender essential oil with Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) and sandalwood (Santalum album) or helichrysum (Helichrysum angustifolia) essential oil in a base of unscented white lotion or aloe vera gel for relief from sunburn.
Benzoin Essential Oil For Sunburn
Benzoin (Styrax benzoin) is a large tropical tree which is indigenous to Indonesia. Although it has white flowers and citrus-like leaves, it is the crude resin from the tree which is used to make benzoin resin absolute (not a true essential oil).
Benzoin resin has a sweet, balsamic, chocolate-vanilla aroma. Its main chemical component of esters gives it anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and sedative properties suitable for addressing symptoms of sunburn.
Respected professionals in aromatherapy such as Julia Lawless in her book The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils and Len and Shirley Price in their book Aromatherapy for Healthcare Professionals state that benzoin is useful for inflamed skin and promotes healing for skin respectively.
Benzoin resin is vicious and thick which can make it difficult to blend well with mediums such as aloe vera gel and carrier oils. Blend it with lavender essential oil in an unscented white lotion base to create a soothing, skin care solution for sunburn.
Helichrysum Essential Oil For Sunburn
Helichrysum (Helichrysum angustifolium), also known as Immortelle or Everlasting, is a small aromatic herb that is indigenous to the Mediterranean region. Its bright yellow flowers are used to extract the essential oil from.
Helichrysum essential oil is known for its rich, honey-like aroma which can vary in color from pale yellow to red.
Helichrysum essential oil is excellent for healing the skin because of its anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and antiseptic properties due to the presence of alcohols and esters in its chemical make-up.
The anti-inflammatory effects of the Helichrysum spp. are discussed in a study, Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of Helichrysum italicum, by Araceli Sala, Rosa María Giner, Salvador Máñez, Horacio Tournier, Guillermo Schinella, and José‐Luis Ríos. It was concluded that extracts from the aerial part of the plant had both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, although it does not state specifically the type of extract obtained.
However, although chemical components (and quantities of each) can vary between plant and different types of extracts, it is usual to assume that therapeutic properties are similar.
Helichrysum essential oil blends well with lavender and geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) essential oils for an all-round, balancing and healing skincare blend. Add this essential oil blend to a base of aloe vera gel for a cooling application.
Sandalwood Essential Oil For Sunburn
Sandalwood (Santalum album) is a small, evergreen tree that is native to tropical Asia. It is slow growing, in terms of essential oil production, making it difficult to produce large quantities of quality essential oil consistently.
Alternative species of sandalwood, such as Australian sandalwood (Santalum spicta), New Caledonian sandalwood (Santalum austrocaledonicum), and Royal Hawaiian sandalwood (Santalum paniculatum), can be used interchangeably as an essential oil.
Just remember to check the difference in any chemical components as this may affect the therapeutic properties.
Sandalwood essential oil has a deep, balsamic-woody aroma. It contains the main chemical component of alcohols. This makes it ideal for use as an anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and skin soothing essential oil.
In a study entitled Comparative study on the antimicrobial activities of different sandalwood essential oils of various origin by Leopold Jirovetz, Gerhard Buchbauer, Albena Stoyanova, Ivan Murgov, Valerie Gearon, Steve Birkbeck, Erich Schmidt and Margit Geissler it was found that the chemical component of santanol demonstrated antimicrobial activity against various bacteria.
Another study demonstrated the anti-inflammatory effects of sandalwood oil: Suppression of Lipopolysaccharide‐stimulated Cytokine/Chemokine Production in Skin Cells by Sandalwood Oils and Purified α‐santalol and β‐santalol, by M. Sharma, C. Levenson, R. H. Bell, S. A. Anderson, C. C. Collins and M. E. Cox. The results showed that there was a rationale for using sandalwood essential oil in anti-inflammatory products.
Combine sandalwood essential oil with lavender and rose (Rosa x damascena), for a luxurious, yet effective, blend for sunburn. Add the essential oil blend to a carrier oil such as apricot kernel (Prunus armeniaca) oil or tamanu (Calophyllum inophyllum) oil for a topical skincare application for sunburn relief.
Massage over the affected area after bathing.
How To Use Essential Oils For Sunburn
Dilute essential oils in a base of carrier oil, aloe vera gel, or unscented white lotion at 2% for regular use. For seniors (over 65 years of age), use only a 1% dilution. For use in pregnancy, or with the use of babies and young children, consult a certified aromatherapist before using any essential oil blend.
If you experience any adverse reactions to the essential oil blend (such as nausea, rash, headache or other), stop using immediately and consult a health care practitioner immediately .