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6 Essential Oils That Will Soothe Your Painful Sunburn, According to Dermatologists

Plus, the best way to use them to ease the pain fast.

essential oils for sunburn
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When warmer, sunnier weather finally hits, that can only mean one thing: It’s time to break out the sunscreen and slather it all over your body before heading outside for the day. But even the most diligent SPF users among us can miss a spot or forget to reapply every two hours leading to—you guessed it—sunburn!

In addition to being incredibly painful (and not particularly attractive), every blistering sunburn increases your risk of skin cancer, and when a bad one appears, you’ll experience pain, dryness, and redness.

The reason: The sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays actually damage the DNA of your skin cells, just as rust accumulates on metal, explains Will Richardson, MD, board-certified dermatologist in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “Some of these cells get so damaged that they are appropriately called ‘sunburn cells,’” he says.

The best way to relieve those symptoms is to reduce the inflammation ASAP, notes Dr. Richardson. If you prefer to soothe your sunburn with more natural remedies, turn your attention to essential oils. “They provide anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial treatment to the skin,” says Ava Shamban, MD, board-certified dermatologist in Beverly Hills.

How to use essential oils for sunburn

Pair with healing ingredients: Mixing your essential oils with other popular sunburn soothers, like aloe vera gel, coconut oil, and oatmeal will help supply your skin with much-need moisture.

Don’t overdo it: You should only add one to three drops of essential oil to your base of choice, since they are potent and can cause irritation when used alone, says Dr. Shamban.

Do a patch test: If you have ultra-sensitive skin, apply the diluted essential oil to a small patch of your skin first to make sure you don’t experience any allergic reaction, irritation, or other side effects.

Ready to heal your skin? Here are the six best essential oils for sunburn relief—plus, three DIY treatments you can make at home to ease the pain fast.

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Chamomile Oil

Chamomile has been used as a medicinal herb for thousands of years to treat everything from burns to bruises to canker sources to hemorrhoids. Thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, it also helps restore inflamed and irritated skin while reducing redness, says Howard Sobel, MD, board-certified dermatologist in New York City. He recommends blending chamomile oil with cooling aloe vera to ease sunburn pain. DIY the mix yourself or go for the DDF Aloe Toning Complex, which features both ingredients in a refreshing spray.

Lavender Oil
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Just like chamomile, lavender oil also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties to treat sunburn, says Dr. Sobel. A 2004 study refers to lavender as “one of the mildest of known plant essential oils,” making it a safer pick if you have sensitive skin. In fact, lavender has been used for years to heal wounds, with the benefits most likely coming from its antimicrobial effect. Try NOW Solutions Lavender Essential Oil, which soothes skin when applied topically.

Peppermint Oil

When you’re burnt to a crisp, cooling your skin down feels ridiculously good. Enter peppermint, which has a cooling and numbing effect. Bonus: It’s also known to alleviate headaches caused by too much exposure to the sun, says Dr. Sobel. A study published in Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research explains that peppermint oil creates a pain-relieving effect by stimulating cold receptors on your skin and dilating blood vessels. You don’t have to shell out to try essential oils, says Dr. Richardson: Edens Garden Peppermint 100% Pure Essential Oil is an inexpensive yet effective product.

Eve Hansen Organic Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil, which is also known for its acne-fighting benefits, is protective and soothing due to its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, says Dr. Sobel. Research published in the International Journal of Dermatology also notes that tea tree speeds up wound healing and may even help protect against skin cancer. You can dilute the pure oil, or find it in the Ocean Potion After-Sun Lotion With Aloe, which moisturizes skin, repairs sun damage, and prevents peeling.

Helichrysum Oil

Heli-what? “Helichrysum repairs wounded skin like no other essential oil we have on the planet,” says Sara-Chana Silverstein, master herbalist in New York City. Helichrysum is a shrub commonly found in the Mediterranean that has anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, and antimicrobial properties, per a study published in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents. Try this one from First Botany Cosmeceuticals, which has a “rich yet sweet smell.”

Geranium Oil

Michele Green, MD, board-certified dermatologist in New York City, recommends geranium oil for sunburn relief. Research suggests that geranium oil may speed up wound healing, has some antibacterial benefits, and is often used to treat dermatitis, eczema, and aging skin—meaning it is ideal if your skin is already on the sensitive side. Try Edens Garden Geranium 100% Pure Therapeutic Grade Essential Oil.

The best DIY essential oil sunburn treatments

Once you’ve chosen your essential oil, DIY a sunburn-soothing concoction. Here are three ideas from Dr. Shamban:

  • Mix 1 to 3 drops essential oil with 1 teaspoon aloe gel and 1 cup water. Toss it into a spray bottle.
  • Combine 1 to 2 drops essential oil into 2 tablespoons coconut oil to make an ointment. (We like Shea Moisture’s 100% Extra Virgin Coconut Oil.)
  • Add 2 to 3 drops essential oil and 2 teaspoons aloe into 1 cup of oatmeal, then throw it into a warm bath.
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