What is sunburn anyway?
Sunburn happens when exposure to sun hits the skin and exceeds what that particular skin type can handle. A fair-skinned person will burn far more quickly than a dark-skinned person of course, and sunburn can vary from mild to severe.
The skin recognises DNA damage from the UV light, and starts defence measures, which include DNA repair, and the release of melanin to prevent future damage. Melanin transforms UV-photons quickly into harmless heat, which helps to neutralise free radical damage that would otherwise occur. Clever, isn’t it? Obviously, if we’re unfortunate enough to have a severe sunburn, then medical attention is needed, but in cases of mild sunburn, we can do a lot to reduce discomfort and boost our skin’s repair function too. Apart from natural ingredients you’ll have in your pantry, you can also call on the power of four important essential oils to bring relief from that hot, burning sunburn sensation.
The essential oil superstars for sunburn
Peppermint essential oil is a natural pain-reliever. It will soothe burnt skin by its cooling effect, and its menthol compounds will numb discomfort. It’s antiseptic too, so will help to protect your skin from infection if it blisters.
Lavender essential oil is a brilliant treatment for sunburn. It reduces stinging and redness, and has a cooling effect when applied topically. Thanks to its many therapeutic compounds, Lavender oil speeds up healing and helps to regenerate damaged skin cells.
Frankincense essential oil, one of the great gifts of nature, is another reach-for oil when trying to soothe sunburn. It’s a powerful skin cell regenerator, and can both reduce the pain of sunburn and speedily restore the health and lustre of the skin. If you have dry skin as well, Frankincense is your must-have oil, as it’s an excellent maintenance oil for dry, mature and damaged skin.
Carrot Seed essential oil may not be an oil you have in your current pharmacy, but its benefits for the skin are many and I’d not be without it. Most commonly used in natural skincare preparations, it’s also a great medicinal aid when tackling sunburn or other types of burns. It’s very rich in anti-oxidants, moisturizing and high in nourishing and healing carotenes. It contains antiseptic, soothing and skin cell regenerating properties, and can provide some everyday protection from anti-oxidant damage when used in facial serums. Added to this, it’s anti-inflammatory, and will calm redness and discolouration.
Raid your pantry
Cold milk can be very soothing to inflamed skin. Dip a clean cloth in a little cold milk, to which you’ve added a few drops of essential oil, and apply as a cooling compress to the affected skin area. In half a cup of milk, drop up to 5 drops of your chosen essential oil and stir well.
Live Yogurt’s probiotics are a boon when soothing damaged and burnt skin. Yogurt both cools and moisturizes the skin, whilst reducing pain. Choose a natural, live yogurt (lay off the added fruit and flavoured types!) and add a few drops of your chosen essential oil - up to 5 drops in 2 tablespoons of yogurt will be about right.
Applying essential oils via a carrier oil
You can also apply any of these essential oils, in combination or alone, by dispersing in a carrier oil such as olive oil, almond oil or sunflower oil (always use cold pressed versions of these oils). In 2 TBSPs of oil, place up to 5 drops of your chosen essential oil(s) and disperse well before applying to the skin.
- Never apply essential oils undiluted to the skin but always in very dilute form.
- Essential oils will disperse safely in an oil, or a fat such as milk, but not in water alone.
- Use caution when applying essential oils for the first time in case of any sensitivity. If you have any doubts, do a patch test first with your dispersed oil recipe on the inside of the elbow.
- Always check for any contraindications when using essential oils, by asking your supplier
- Buy essential oils from a reputable supplier such as we show below