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What are the best essential oils for sunburn?

Too much UV radiation exposure will overpower the body’s immune system, leading to a sunburn. Some essential oils contain compounds which reduce the sunburn symptoms and promote healing.

Most active ingredients present in essential oils have more than one beneficial effect on regeneration or on safety. Since most essential oils contain more than one active ingredient, many have a long list of potential health benefits associated with this.

Here we’ll look at eight of the best sunburn essential oils and what the science is saying about them, along with more detail.

What does the scientific evidence say?

Essential oil for sunburn
The risk of sunburn might be reduced by using vitamin E essential oil, as it may absorb UV rays.

To date, no large-scale human studies have been performed that investigate the relationship between essential oil use and sunburn healing.

Nevertheless, several smaller studies have shown positive results.

Case study from the Journal of Pediatric Nursing

A research in 2017 looked at two young girls with equally severe burns, medical history and diagnosis, but one girl also received an essential oil mix.

Compared with the other girl who developed two infections in her bloodstream and four hospital-acquired infections, the girl who received the oil treatment developed only one infection.

The girl undergoing oil treatment also remained for 1 day less in the intensive care unit, and a total of 4 days less in the hospital than the other girl. This is a small study, and more comprehensive research are needed, but this does provide some evidence for the use of essential oils in burn treatment.

Eight best essential oils for sunburn

Of the few studies investigating the effects of essential oils for sunburn recovery, most have concluded that oils need to be applied after sunburn as soon as possible to get the effects.

Most studies also support the suggestion that essential oils, such as genitals, eyelids, teeth, and breasts, should not be applied to places where the skin is very thin or near to highly hormone-regulated tissue.

1. Vitamin E essential oil

Some studies have suggested that vitamin E may reduce the risk of sunburn by:

  • acting as an antioxidant
  • absorbing UV rays
  • helping thicken the outermost layer of the skin

Effective vitamin E oil has also been shown to help enhance skin’s ability to retain moisture and decrease inflammation.

The only reported side effect associated with use of essential oil on vitamin E is mild irritation of the skin. Dilute essential oils forever.

  • protecting against UVA and UVB rays
  • improving inflammatory skin symptoms and conditions
  • improving collagen production, the compound that gives skin its elasticity
  • correcting pigmentation problems to improve the skin’s natural protection against UV rays

The only reported complication related to topically used vitamin C oil is skin flushing, or redness and warmth.

3. Peppermint essential oil

While peppermint (Mentha piperita) contains several active ingredients that have known health benefits, menthol is by far the most strong.

Studied health benefits of menthol include:

  • anti-inflammatory
  • antibacterial
  • antifungal
  • antiseptic (able to kill or discourage the growth of infectious agents)
  • vasoconstrictor, narrowing inflamed blood vessels

Quality peppermint oil will contain menthol free of at least 44 percent.

The only known menthol-related side-effect is mild skin irritation and redness.

4. Lavender essential oil

Lavender essential oil
Lavender essential oil may have properties that are anti-inflammatory, which may reduce redness and swelling.

Lavender plant extracts (Lavandula officinalis) have at least seven active ingredients noted for promoting skin regeneration and improving immune function.

Essential lavender oil is also known to have properties of:

  • antibacterial
  • anti-inflammatory
  • antifungal

This helps to reduce discomfort, redness and swelling symptoms, while also reducing the risk of infection.

In very young or pubescent boys Lavender has been associated with breast development. Symptoms however disappeared within a few months after people stopped using the oil.

Possible Lavender Allergy signs include:

  • skin rash
  • nausea and vomiting
  • chills
  • fever
  • headache
  • substantial inflammation or swelling of the skin

In rare cases, lavender has also been known to cause an allergic response.

5. Tea tree essential oil

Extract from the needle-like tea tree leaves (Melaleuca alternifolia) plant has been used as a herbal treatment for a variety of health problems including most skin conditions.

The active ingredients in tea tree oil give it characteristics of:

  • anti-inflammatory
  • immune boosting
  • antibacterial
  • antifungal
  • antiviral

In rare cases the tea tree oil was associated with serious complications. Established side effects of using tea tree oil include:

  • red, itching, burning skin
  • eczema
  • very dry skin
  • scaling skin
  • fluid build up in or under the skin
  • weakness
  • stomach pain
  • unexplained weakness
  • slow or unsteady movements
  • in some individuals, tea tree oil can cause a blistering disorder
  • counteract other medications
  • unusual blood changes

6. Geranium essential oil

Shrub geranium extracts (Pelargonium graveolens) contain at least 12 active ingredients which have the following properties:

  • antibacterial
  • anti-microbial
  • anti-cancer
  • anti-inflammatory

Geranium oil has also been shown to be effective as a sedative and nerve tonic and sunburn can provide even more strong pain relief.

Skin irritation is the only known side effect related to use of geranium oil.

7. Chamomile essential oil

For centuries, possibly even thousands of years, roman chamomile (Anthemis nobilis) has been used as a multipurpose herbal remedy because of its relaxing and calming properties.

The chamomile oil has developed anti-inflammatory properties with more than 10 active ingredients that have proven health benefits. This has also been demonstrated to facilitate or improve wound healing.

Chamomile essential oil is considered a popular herbal remedy and is used for a wide variety of skin conditions including burns, sunburn and psoriasis.

Chamomile, while rare, has been known to induce an allergic reaction to the whole body.

8. Eucalyptus essential oil

Eucalyptus essential oil
Eucalyptus essential oil may help with sunburn recovery.

Extracts from the evergreen eucalyptus plant (Eucalyptus globulus) are known to contain compounds which have proven to be:

  • antioxidant
  • anti-inflammatory
  • antibacterial

They have also been shown to function anti-proliferative, or anti-cancer, by stopping cancer cells from spreading. Do not orally take the eucalyptus oil.

Eucalyptus oil, while rarely occurring, has been linked to many side effects including:

  • allergic rash
  • drowsiness
  • difficulty breathing, especially in children
  • drug interactions

Are there any side effects

Always drink essential oils, as toxic to others.

Never should essential oils be added directly to the skin, or combined with water. People must dilute the oils in a carrier oil before applying essential oils to their skin. The typical formula is three to five drops of essential oil up to one ounce of carrier oil.

Carrier oils are mostly mineral oil, coconut oil, or almond sweet oil. Essential oils can also be sprayed into the air as an aromatherapy for inhalation.

Complications related to the use of essential oils include:

The United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) does not monitor herbs and essential oils, so examining products for quality, purity, and a good reputation is always best before buying.

Who should not use essential oils?

Individuals that are more at risk of experiencing side effects, or may avoid the use of essential oil, include:

  • pregnant or breast-feeding women
  • people with immune or inflammatory conditions, especially involving the skin
  • people with pigment or photosensitive disorders
  • people with allergies to common essential oil compounds, such as alcohols and aldehydes
  • infants and young boys
  • essential oils should not be taken orally

More at-home remedies for sunburn

Natural ingredients may be applied to mixtures or used to reduce sunburn symptoms and healing time alongside essential oils.

Popular additives used in sunburn remedies at home include:

  • aloe vera
  • apple cider vinegar
  • coconut oil
  • milk
  • black tea
  • oatmeal
  • baking soda
  • yogurt

Chukwuebuka Martins

Chukwuebuka Martins is a writer, researcher, and health enthusiast who specializes in human physiology. He takes great pleasure in penning informative articles on many aspects of physical wellness, which he then thoroughly enjoys sharing to the general public.