June's Health Genie: Treating Sunburns
Note: This article is not meant as a substitute for proper medical advice. Please consult with your medical practitioner before using any type of remedy, herbal or otherwise.
Dear Health Genie,
I forgot to apply my sunblock before heading out on the lake this past weekend, and now I am sunburned! Can you give me any recommendations for taking the heat out of my skin and helping it to heal?
Thanks in advance,
Dear Badly Burnt,
From time to time, we all forget to apply or reapply sunblock. Fortunately, there are a few simple steps that you can take to expedite the healing of your skin. If you are experiencing symptoms of sunstroke (headache, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, nausea or vomiting, cramps, shallow breathing or loss of consciousness), or if your skin is severely burnt or blistered, please consult a medical practitioner.
Once, you realize that you have gotten too much sun, follow these tips. First, get out of the sun as soon as possible. Keep in mind that a sunburn may worsen over 24 hours following sun exposure. To cool the skin, take a cool shower or bath. Avoid body care products that contain alcohol, which will further dry out your skin.
Consider eating a cooling diet for a few days to cool your body from the inside. Consume fruits and veggies with high water content such as grapes, peaches, melon, cabbage, greens, tomato, and cucumber. Drink plenty of water and chilled tea such as mint, lemon balm or green tea.
Besides turning to the kitchen for cooling foods, you will find topical remedies in your fridge and cabinets as well. Yogurt and green tea may be used topically to ease sunburnt skin. Try blending yogurt and cucumber together and applying it to your skin for twenty minutes before rinsing it off. Additionally, you can make a compress by chilling some green tea and then dipping a cloth in the tea and applying it to your burned skin. You can also add green tea and soothing anti-inflammatory oats to a cool bath (see recipe).
Externally, use aloe, which is great for healing burns. You can simply cut a leaf from your plant and scoop out the gel from the inside. Another option for using aloe is to buy aloe vera juice (available in the Wellness department) and spray it on your skin. You might add lavender essential oil to the spray since it also speeds healing time (see recipe).
St Johns Wort Oil and Sea Buckthorn Oil are also great for healing the skin. St Johns Wort is healing to all types of burns; however, it increases photosensitivity, so avoid the sun when it is on your skin. Sea Buckthorn is high in antioxidants which will assist in the repair of your skin.
I’m sure that I don’t need to remind you to bring sunscreen on future outdoor excursions. Besides suffering a painful burn, exposure to UV radiation can age the skin and increase your risk of developing skin cancer. If you need advice on sunscreen, our Wellness staff will happily point you in the right direction.
Sun Burn Spray
Recipe from: Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art, by Kathi Keville and Mindy Green
50 drops (½ teaspoon) lavender essential oil
4 ounces aloe vera juice
1 teaspoon vitamin E oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
Combine ingredients and store in a spritzer bottle. Use as needed. Keep the bottle in the refrigerator for extra relief
Sunburn Soothing Oatmeal Bath
Recipe from: mountainroseherbs.com
2 cups oatmeal
¼ cup baking soda
½ cup chamomile flowers
½ cup lavender flowers
2-4 tablespoon green tea leaves
Blend oatmeal in a food processor or coffee grinder until it has a powdered consistency. Place all ingredients in a muslin bag or cheesecloth, tie under the faucet, and draw a lukewarm bath. Hot water will dry out and further irritate the skin. Soak for 10-15 minutes.
- Keville, Kathi and Mindy Green. Aromatherapy in a Day: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art. Freedom: The Crossing Press, 1995. Print.
- “Natural Sunburn Relief”, Mountainroseherbs.com newsletter, July, 2008. Web.