I’ll admit it. I wear sunscreen, but it’s more for vanity (anti-aging) than fear of getting burned. No matter your reasons for blocking the sun, the sunscreen market is one of the fastest growing skin care categories – generating billions of dollars each year in the U.S. alone.
And yet, many people still burn from time to time.
The redness, the sting, the discomfort, the itch. Not fun. And if all that’s not bad enough, you then have to deal with the peel a few days later! So what can you do about it? Essential oils for sunburn relief are real lifesavers.
Not only do they deal with the symptoms and help prevent any future peeling (or at least minimize it!), but they can also help keep your skin safe from potential infection and encourage healing.
Remember: Sunburn is actually a form of radiation burn on your body’s largest organ. It’s a big deal. So beyond just dealing with the momentary symptoms, you also want to be actively supporting your body’s repairing process.
What essential oils are good for sunburn? Read on for the full list. I also have a few great DIY recipes.
And since your active kids may be the ones getting burned most frequently, I’ll wrap it all up with a section on the best essential oil for sunburn when it comes to little ones.
Why You Should Naturally Treat a Sunburn
First up – let’s talk about why you should care about natural sunburn treatment or what essential oil is good for sunburn. The normal sunburn treatment plan is often a combo of home remedies (cool baths, extra water, etc.) and medication (hydrocortisone, ibuprofen, etc.).
While there’s nothing wrong with utilizing modern medicine when you need to, we should always turn to the natural alternatives when they work just as well (often better!) than chemical-filled medications with potential side effects.
Essential oils have the capability of lowering your swelling and discomfort (vs. ibuprofen) and they have the ability to relieve the pain and soothe the area (vs. hydrocortisone).
Plus, as the American Academy of Dermatology points out, any sort of “-caine” product (like benzocaine, the common over-the-counter anesthetic) should not be used on any burn. They do way more harm than good (1).
A small recent study looked at the ability of essential oils to heal severe burns. There were two young girls who had similar burns and similar backgrounds. Both were treated identically with one big exception: girl #2 got an added treatment of essential oils.
The difference? The girl with the essential oils got 1 “hospital-acquired infection.” The first girl with zero essential oils got 4 “hospital-acquired infections” … and 2 infections in her bloodstream.
Though this is an extremely small study that looked at girls suffering from severe burns, not sunburns, it is still very important and encouraging for the treatment of our minor sunburns (2,3).
Let me clear up something before we go on. Sometimes sunburns can happen at a level where home treatment is not the best option. Hopefully you’ll have removed yourself from the sun before it had the chance to give you third-degree burns, but sometimes that doesn’t happen.
Using essential oils for sunburn is great, but if you notice any of the following symptoms you most likely need additional support or even medical intervention (4):
- If you have blisters over a large part of your body
- If you have a fever or flu-like symptoms (nausea, chills, confusion)
- If you see any sign of infection
- If it does not get any better in 48 hours.
If none of these apply to you, move straight on to these 7 amazing essential oils for sunburn.
What Essential Oils Are Good for Sunburn?
So what essential oil is good for sunburn? There are actually quite a few, and in all honesty, the best essential oil for sunburn is always going to be a nice combo of a few different oils that have various strengths.
Below I’m going to go through each essential oil for sunburn relief, so you can understand why it’s a great choice for you. In the next section, I’ll show you how to combine them.
Lavender is the ultimate essential oil for sunburn relief, so I want to start there. If you don’t have any other essential oil, you can still get by with this one. Why?
Lavender is the perfect skin soother. No more sting. No more redness. No more swelling. All thanks to its impressive anti-inflammatory behavior (3).
But it doesn’t stop there. Lavender also has antimicrobial properties – this is important for healing your burned skin and for preventing any sort of infection from developing.
Bonus: If you diffuse lavender in your bedroom, it can help you sleep better through the pain of a sunburn.
Here’s another fabulous soother on our list of essential oils for sunburn. The Roman chamomile essential oil is just as soothing for your skin as a warm mug of chamomile tea is soothing for your mind.
For hundreds of years, Roman chamomile has been used for lots of different skin problems from boils to psoriasis. Sunburn is right up there on its list of effective uses.
How does it work? It’s very anti-inflammatory in nature. I love its wonderful blend of gentleness and effectiveness (3).
The strength of peppermint when it comes to essential oils for sunburn is its analgesic properties (AKA: it kills pain). Think about it. When you drink peppermint tea or suck on a peppermint lozenge, it can really tame a sore throat.
Thanks to its unique menthol, peppermint brings that cooling sensation that takes the burn out of your burn!
Then just like many of the other essential oils for sunburn on this list, peppermint is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiseptic (3).
Tea tree oil is one of the best oils for all sorts of skin problems. It’s honestly one of my favorites. I love to use it to zap any blemish that pops up. Interestingly enough, the same factors that make pimples disappear help make your sunburn disappear, making it one of my all-time favorite essential oils for sunburn.
That’s because tea tree oil is both anti-inflammatory and antibacterial – while also being quite gentle (3).
It’s a great oil to use if your burn is bad enough that you’re concerned about infection. But it’s also good for helping the burn to feel better.
The next three essential oils for sunburn I’m going to mention are actually personal favorites of my family. Let’s start with frankincense – one of the most powerful healers around.
Frankincense is the best essential oil for sunburn when it comes to healing the burn. It’s a potent oil that can actually heal the body at the cellular level. It will help regenerate and rejuvenate the skin.
Plus, frankincense also reduces inflammation, so it will make you feel good as it heals you up.
I’m going to jump into myrrh next because it has synergistic effects when combined with the frankincense (we actually have a whole article dedicated to the power pair!) There are impressive healing properties in myrrh – particularly for the skin.
Myrrh has just about all the uses you’d want in the best essential oil for sunburn. It has anesthetic and antibacterial properties. It helps lower inflammation. Plus, it’s a powerful antioxidant.
That anesthetic aspect of myrrh makes it a great swap for the “-caine” creams you need to avoid while your burn heals up!
Now we get to the last essential oil for sunburn relief on our list.
I love sandalwood oil because it’s so hydrating to dry skin – which is quite common when you’ve been exposed to the sun for too long. This hydration helps when you get to the itching and/or pealing phases of your sunburn.
Sandalwood is known as a fabulous oil for lots of different skin ailments and imperfections. It was actually used in traditional ayurvedic medicine to cool and soothe the skin (5).
How to Use Essential Oils for Sunburn
So we’ve answered the first question: what essential oils are good for sunburn?
Now let’s dive into question #2: how do we use these essential oils for sunburn?
First of all, you don’t just plop them right on top of your seriously inflamed skin. You are always going to want to dilute the oils and make them very gentle for your tender burns.
This is true even for oils that are said to be otherwise fine without dilution (like lavender). When your skin is inflamed like it is during a burn, err on the safe side and dilute away!
If you don’t follow one of the recipes below, at least dilute the oil with some coconut oil or olive oil. Creating a ratio of about 2% to 3% should be safe (it will be an even lower percentage for kiddos – more on that later!)
Here are a few of my favorite ways to use our 7 essential oils for sunburn.
Sunburn Salve DIY
One of the best ways to incorporate each essential oil for sunburn relief is to use our very own sunburn salve recipe as your base. Check out our post right HERE for a detailed list of ingredient measurements and instructions. Here’s all the wonderful stuff you will be using to heal your skin:
- Shea butter: Soothing to your burnt skin
- Coconut oil: Helps lower skin inflammation
- Almond oil: Filled with vitamin E to help you soothe your skin
- Essential oils (Choose 3 or 4 of the essential oils for sunburn)
You see, the type of carrier oils you use are almost just as important as the essential oils you choose. You want natural, safe, nourishing oils that will actively contribute to the healing and relief.
With this salve, you get the best of both worlds.
After Sun Spray DIY
This is one of my favorite recipes from doTERRA. It’s full of our essential oils for sunburn, but it also comes with an extra helpful ingredient: aloe vera.
The soothing and healing aloe vera has been a go-to ingredient for after-sun support for a long time. If you have an aloe plant at home, plucking a leaf and rubbing it on your burn is a great remedy.
This recipe includes the juice of an aloe vera plant which will provide you relief immediately after the sun and if you’re feeling the sting a few hours later – and it’s easy to spray.
Make up a batch before summer and use it after each sunshine time (6).
- 1 cup aloe vera juice
- ¼ cup fractionated coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon vitamin E
- 8 drops Lavender oil
- 8 drops Melaleuca oil
- 8 drops Peppermint oil
Add everything to a glass spray bottle. Shake and then spray. Super easy.
A nice cool bath can be so incredibly relieving for the skin. It doesn’t need to be cold, but it certainly shouldn’t be hot. Add a few drops of the most calming oils (lavender, chamomile, and tea tree are great) and soak for as long as you’re comfortable.
Some people swear by a nice chug of whole milk in the bath as an extra level of soothing. Definitely give it a try if you have some around.
When you get out, be sure that you pat yourself dry – don’t rub. Then add some of the DIY sunburn salve as your moisturizer over the burned areas.
This last one’s easy. Just take a cold washcloth, add a few drops of essential oils for sunburn, and let the cool cloth relieve the sting. Repeat this process as much as you need to for the first couple days.
What’s the best essential oil for sunburn for this recipe? Any of the really soothing essential oils for sunburn like lavender or chamomile are perfect. Feel free to experiment (7).
What About the Kids?
Kids love to play in the sun…they need to play in the sun. So sometimes, they just get a bit too much. What essential oils are good for sunburn when it comes to little ones? You have plenty of options. But first – prevention. I love this brand of sunscreen my little ones. It’s made with pure ingredients which can be hard to find when shopping for sunscreens.
I personally will only use essential oils on a child that’s at least 2 months (and then heavily diluted. And I usually only use Roman Chamomile and Lavender because they’re super mild). After 2 months I’m open to using a wider variety of oils including the ones below:
- The safest and gentlest essential oils for sunburn that you can use on your very little ones are going to be Roman chamomile and lavender. They’re so gentle and so effective.
- Sandalwood comes next – normally considered good for those over 6 months old.
- Frankincense and tea tree are also helpful for reducing the itch.
- Peppermint can be soothing as well, but some people recommend using it when kids are 6 or older.
The #1 most important thing to remember when it comes to your kids is the best essential oil for sunburn is a heavily diluted oil.
Their young skin is already sensitive – add the fact that it’s burned means you have even higher sensitivity. The Hippy Homemaker has some good general child dilution amounts, which I’ll share with you here. Just keep in mind you may want to stay on the side of caution while their burn is really inflamed (8).
- Babies 3 months and over: 1 to 2 drops per ounce
- Babies 6 months and over: 3 to 5 drops per ounce
- Children 2 years and over: 20 drops per ounce
- Children 6 years and over: 30 drops per ounce
Even with dilution, do a small test on a small non-sunburned area of their body first if they have never used that oil topically before.
No More Sunburn!
Your skin is important, and using these essential oils for sunburn is just one way to treat it well. You’ll feel better and heal better. Win. Win.
If your sunburn is uncomfortable, these essential oils for sunburn will help ease your pain. But even if its mild and not really bothering you, still give your skin some extra TLC for a couple days with something simple like our sunburn salve.
Be sure to add each essential oil for sunburn relief to your list of other important home remedy steps like (1):
- Fill up on water: Your sunburn is actually drawing fluids to your skin and away from everywhere else. To stay really hydrated, you need to drink up.
- Never pop a blister: That’s just asking for an infection!
- Wear loose clothing: Constantly rubbing a healing burn with tight clothing will extend the healing process and even potentially lead to infection
I’d love to hear your thoughts on treating these pesky sunburns naturally. What essential oils are good for sunburn at your house? Do you have the best essential oil for sunburn DIY recipe you’d like to share? Just leave a comment below to share with me and our community!
- American Academy of Dermatology (2018) How to treat sunburn. Retrieved from: https://www.aad.org/public/skin-hair-nails/injured-skin/treating-sunburn
- Jopke, K., Sanders, H., & White-Traut, R. (2017). Use of essential oils following traumatic burn injury: a case study. Journal of Pediatric Nursing: Nursing Care of Children and Families, 34, 72-77.
- Medical News Today, (2017). What are the best essential oils for sunburn? Retrieved from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319745.php
- Today (2016). Sunburn blues: Relief, remedies and when to rush to the doctor. Retrieved from: https://www.today.com/health/sunburn-blues-relief-remedies-when-rush-doctor-1D79872081
- Group, Edward (2016) 11 Remedies for sunburn. Global Healing Center. Retrieved from: https://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/remedies-for-sunburn/
- doTERRA, (2018). After Sun Soothing Spray. Retrieved from: https://www.doterra.com/US/en/blog/diy-after-sun-soothing-spray
- Essential Oil Sanctuary (2015) Relief! 7 Essential Oil Based Remedies for Sunburns. Retrieved from: http://essentialoilsanctuary.com/7-diy-essential-oil-based-remedies-for-sunburns/
- The Hippy Homemaker (2014). Safe Essential Oil Use With Babies & Children. Retrieved from: http://www.thehippyhomemaker.com/essential-oil-safety-babies-children/