We all know the regret of waking up the morning after a fun-filled day in the sun and realizing you forgot to re-apply sunscreen — or even wear it at all. The pain, the drying skin, the mortifying red marks, the health risks, skin cancer—bad sunburn can be a nightmare!
While you can certainly find all manner of complicated, chemical-laden lotions and aloe vera gel creams in your drugstore meant to treat sunburn, natural remedies might be better. And while you may only think of essential oils when it comes to aromatherapy, they’re not just good for your diffuser and your mood.
Different oils have different anti-inflammatory properties that can also be used to benefit your physical health. You do need to take care to dilute essential oils with water or a carrier oil like coconut oil to avoid further damaging your irritated skin if you intend to apply them topically in a DIY mixture. But when used properly, a few drops of essential oil can be a great way to get sunburn relief.
If your burn is severe, however, you may still need to seek medical treatment, and essential oils should not be applied to any blisters or open wounds. While essential oils can have many health benefits, they aren’t a substitute for traditional medicine, and if you think you may have a complication from sunburn, it's worth it to see your dermatologist. You should also spot-test any essential oils you intend to apply topically, just to make sure you don’t have an allergic reaction.
If you don’t know where to start when it comes to incorporating essential oils into your post-beach day skincare routine, never fear. We’re happy to give you some guidance on which essential oil to choose.
While you may be familiar with geranium essential oil as an aromatherapy additive that eases stress, anxiety, and depression, it can also be beneficial when applied topically. Geranium essential oil is said to have properties that support the immune system in fighting off infection. So while it’s not an instant fix for your sunburn, it can promote healing and wellness as your burn improves and decrease the risk of additional complications with your skin, as it is said to have antifungal properties.
Geranium oil must be diluted with a carrier oil, such as grapeseed oil, and it’s pretty easy to find resources online that give you a convenient rundown on proportions.
If you’re a skincare maven, you surely have some experience with vitamin E oil. It’s a pretty common recommendation for anybody looking to improve the health and appearance of their skin, and for good reason!
Vitamin E has many qualities that make it great for promoting a youthful appearance in your complexion and is a common ingredient in many cosmetics designed to keep your skin looking fresh and bright. Vitamin E also encourages circulation, which can be good if you’re looking to reduce imperfections in your skin — some of which can be the result of sun damage.
Vitamin E can also work to stabilize your skin barrier, which protects against UV-induced skin damage… so if the light tan you were going for turned out to be a little more crispy, Vitamin E might help you reduce the risk of further health complications.
Vitamin E oil is also high in antioxidants. Antioxidants are great for your skin, especially if you’re looking to avoid long term damage as a result of sun exposure. Like most essential oils, Vitamin E oil will need to be diluted before being applied to your skin. You can also find all kinds of products that include Vitamin E that may help reduce any damage your sunburn could cause.
If you’re familiar with lavender essential oils, you probably know it for its most common uses: to reduce anxiety, ease sleeping difficulties, or even just for its pleasant scent. But lavender can also be really beneficial for your skin when applied properly.
Lavender has been said to have qualities that may ease discomfort — which may be a godsend if you’ve got a particularly painful sunburn. In order to get these benefits, you don’t even need to apply lavender essential oil to your skin — just inhaling its scent can have these positive effects. However, it can also be applied topically as long as it’s properly diluted.
Tea drinkers and those who use an essential oil diffuser to relax will definitely be familiar with chamomile! Chamomile comes in two different varieties: Roman chamomile and German chamomile. While both strains can be beneficial, the content of its most potent active ingredient is higher in German chamomile. So if you’re buying a new essential oil to help treat your sunburn, going German might be your best bet.
Chamomile is commonly used to treat painful or itchy skin conditions. Its calming properties make it a great option if you’re suffering from a really painful sunburn shortly after exposure or the annoying, more long term discomfort of tight, peeling skin.
Chamomile can also be used for pain relief when applied topically to the skin, as it may provide a cooling sensation. Of course, if your sunburn is so severe that it’s blistering or causing you serious pain you can’t ignore, you might still want to seek medical assistance. Essential oils can be great tools in your wellness arsenal, but they shouldn’t be the only ones!
Tea tree oil is a versatile essential oil. It’s used for anything from natural deodorant to a natural insect repellant. It’s also thought to boost healing, help skin absorb moisture, and it may have antiseptic and antimicrobial properties — so tea tree oil could potentially reduce any blistering or peeling you might experience as a result of a bad sunburn.
Tea tree essential oil is also recommended as a skin toner because it’s thought to help keep skin clean and germ-free. So using tea tree oil when you’re trying to decrease your likelihood of a bad sunburn getting worse can really be helpful when it comes to keeping your skin moist, nourished, and clean as it recovers!
Green Tea extract or oil is a really versatile essential oil to have in your arsenal. It helps you retain moisture and contains many powerful antioxidants, which have a laundry list of great benefits for your complexion — both of which can be incredibly helpful if you’re fighting a bad sunburn.
Studies also show that, although green tea essential oil is in no way a replacement for traditional sunscreen, it might help decrease your likelihood of suffering any long term effects from overexposure to UV rays.
So not only can green tea essential oil be nourishing when applied topically after you’ve been exposed to the sun, but it could also be a great natural boost alongside your go-to sunscreen. However, if you’re looking to combine your green tea essential oils with sunscreen, definitely take some time to look into the proper way to apply it, and ensure it doesn’t have any negative reactions with your sunscreen.
In addition to being one of our favorite mocha flavors, peppermint has a wide variety of benefits when it comes to easing the negative side effects of sunburn and promoting healing. One of the benefits Peppermint essential oils provide that you might not find in other essential oils is that it’s thought to help ease an upset stomach.
If you get a severe sunburn, it’s possible to feel nauseous as a result — and peppermint oil, when used properly, can help. However, if you do feel a range of flu-like symptoms, you should definitely contact your doctor or seek medical attention, as it could be a sign of sun poisoning, which can have potentially life-threatening complications.
Peppermint oil is also commonly used to reduce pain and to combat itchiness. If you’re looking at your sunburn and dreading the seemingly inevitable peeling-and-itching phase, the topical application of diluted peppermint oil can improve these symptoms.
In summary, while essential oils shouldn’t be used in place of actual medical treatment or clinically-tested products, they can have a wide range of benefits! If you’ve spent a little too much time in the sun or were just having too good of a time to remember to re-apply your sunscreen, it can be painful and stressful to live with the consequences.
But while your face may literally be red, there’s no reason to be embarrassed or to tough it out. Essential oils can provide everything from minor pain relief to help in keeping skin moisturized while your body heals.
If you’re going to apply essential oils to your skin, whether it’s any of the above or another essential oil, make sure you do your research. While essential oils can have a lot of exciting benefits, make sure you know how to dilute the oil with water or another less abrasive oil to prevent doing further damage to your already sunburned skin.
But with a little bit of research and a little bit of care, you can support your body’s healing mechanisms and your skin’s recovery in an easy, natural way. Although next time you’re going to be out in the sun, we humbly recommend maybe wearing a hat and using your SPF.