We all love the sun. Its rays make us feel lovely and warm and it makes us think of holidays without mentioning the golden glow it gives our skin! It plays a key role in our mood: it acts, among other things, on the production of melatonin and on our sleep-wake cycle. The sun also takes part in the production of vitamin D that sets calcium in our bones. In order not to be vitamin D deficient, it is necessary for us to be exposed to moderate sunlight for about 20 minutes a day. But the sun also causes damage: sunburn, burns, allergies or worse, skin cancer. Sunburn is a superficial skin burn due to an extended exposure to direct sun rays and this can be more or less important depending on our type of skin. Aromatherapy can help soothing the effect of sunburn.
The mechanism of sunburn?
When you expose your skin to sun rays it produces melanin automatically. The more you are exposed to it, the more your skin will produce melanin. It is this pigment that gives you this lovely suntan and it protects you from sunburn (the production of melanin is much faster in dark skin than in fair skin).
You get sunburnt because you haven’t given your skin enough time to produce melanin. The wisest solution is to allow your skin to be receptive by exposing it little by little to a dose of sunshine. That way, your skin will generate enough melanin and will be protected from the sun gradually.
UVA are responsible for tanning but they encourage ageing of the skin and the apparition of wrinkles. They are the cause of elastin and collagen degradation. Exposure to UVB drives tanning but also delayed burns (sunburn). They encourage skin ageing and skin cancers.
Protecting the skin when exposed to the sun using mineral filters that protect against UV A and B. This is a must for those who live under the sun most of the year!
The 4 stages of sunburn on the skin
UV B rays trigger an inflammatory reaction that explains the redness and feeling of heat after being exposed too long to sun rays.
- An inflammation appears within 12 to 24 h after being exposed to sun rays
- Vasodilation of the blood vessels allows the skin to be in maximum contact with the outside and thus cools the sunburn more quickly. This explains the redness and the feeling of heat on the skin.
- A feeling of pain: the vasodilation makes the skin swell and this, in turn, causes a painful stretching that will be sensitive to the touch for several days. It is therefore advisable to take care of sunburn as quickly as possible by nourishing and rehydrating the skin.
- Peeling of the stratum corneum: the burnt cells retract because your skin will produce new cells.
What natural solutions can help you in the case of sunburn?
The objective is to put a stop to the inflammatory process, appease the burning sensation and repair the skin. You can use hydrolats and vegetable butters as well as essential oils.
1- The Vegetable Oils
Here is a list of a few VO that can replace a classical post-sun lotion:
- Apricot kernel VO: nourishing, regenerating and soothing
- Almond VO: anti-dehydration, revitalizing, tonic and calming
- Argan VO: regenerating, protective, soothing… This oil will be your ally if your skin is dehydrated.
- Avocado VO: very nourishing it regenerates and revitalizes the skin. It penetrates the skin quickly and has a slight UV filter.
- Calendula oily macerate: appeasing, regenerating, soothing. It is ideal after sunbaking.
- Coconut VO: ultra-nourishing it soothes, softens and calms feelings of heat after sun exposure. It is also very effective on parched hair.
- Shea butter: anti-inflammatory it appeases and calms irritation, nourishes the skin in-depth, regenerates skin and prolongs your tan.
Aloe Vera juice:
Excellent hydrating properties, appeasing and regenerating. It also reduces brown spots. Purifying and astringent, you can use it on oily skins. It will act as a healing agent on burns or open sores.
2- The Essential Oils
If prevention has not been enough, here is a small list of EO that are to be used in the case of sunburn, burns or skin heated up by the sun…
Spike Lavender EO: the best one against sunburn!
A powerful healer, it treats all burns in an emergency (beware it can be a cause of allergy too), anti-inflammatory, pain relief (it contains camphor that soothes pain), antiseptic: it does it all!
How to use it?
For small areas (knees, ears, hands, feet): after having rinsed the burnt area under cold water for at least 5 minutes so as to appease.
Apply 1-2 drops, pure on the burn. Repeat every 30 minutes, up to 5 times.
For larger areas: mix 30 drops of Aspic Lavender EO in 10 ml of St John’s Wort macerate
dilute 10 drops of Aspic Lavender EO + 5 drops of Ho Wood in one tablespoon of VO and massage the affected area for a few minutes 3 times a day.
Pregnant women (during the whole of pregnancy), breastfeeding women and children under 7.
True Lavender EO:
It is very, very soothing, regenerating and healing. As such it can be called a choice EO for all after-sun creams and oils.
Usage: add it to your after-sun cream
Tea Tree EO:
Powerful regenerator, healing and anti-spots (red or brown), it will give a shine to your tanned skin while allowing it to heal from sunburn. Powerful anti-wrinkle too, it will combat skin ageing and sun damage.
Usage: dull skin and stained by the sun. Dilute in a VO or in a cream.
Renowned for its exceptional soothing properties, it eases itchiness due to allergies or sunburn.
Usage: For solar allergy mainly. Dilute in a VO or in a cream.
To be used purely as a spray or diluted, perfect for those who cannot use EO – babies, children and people who cannot resort to EO, use the True Lavender Hydrosol to soothe sunburn, and also
Orange blossom hydrosol:
Skin regenerator, it can be used by the whole family even children and people with very sensitive skin!
A good idea to refresh yourself: make hydrosol ice-cubes!
These ice cubes will reduce skin inflammation and bring back its radiance and tone.
Rose hydrosol (all types of skin) – an excellent asset to cleanse the face and protect it against bacterial infections. It is also very appreciated for calming and refreshing the sunburnt skin.
Lavender hydrosol (normal and oily skins) – Apply directly on the skin after sun exposure. It will soothe redness, sunburn, irritations and itchiness.
To quickly soothe sunburn
- 10 ml True Lavender EO
- 10 ml Musk Rose VO
A little reminder regarding the most common photo-sensitive EO:
Bergamot – Lemon – Sweet Orange – Red Mandarin – Grapefruit – Verbena: Do not sunbake after an application diluted or not – Wait at least 8 hours (even if applied on a small skin area or if taken internally). See the full article HERE
Advice for sun protection: it’s well-known but it works!
-Beware of the hottest time of day: between midday and 4 pm: no prolonged time in the sun
-In the case of a severe sunburn (burns): cooldown thoroughly under a very cold tap for at least 10 real minutes (it will reduce the burn markedly).
-Children = thick layer of sunscreen a hat and shade… (we are the most vulnerable to sun damage before the age of 18)
– Reapply sunscreen regularly (every two hours is ideal, if not at least 3 times a day + reapply after swimming).
-Avoid “drying” in the sun: when you swim, the sunscreen is gone, then you come out of the water and wait to be dry before reapplying some = that’s when you will get sunburnt!
-Think of large straw hats and long tunics: it is pretty and you will be protected.