This Is How You Can Use Essential Oils to Treat a Sunburn

Updated: Mar. 25, 2021

A sunburn can range from a pinky glow to a blistering burn. To treat everything in between, check out which essential oils dermatologists recommend.

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How to treat sunburn

Sunburn isn’t fun for anyone, especially if you’re on vacation and need to get relief quickly. While there are plenty of natural ways to treat sunburn, what role can essential oils play?

“The goal of treatment after sunburn is multifactorial—your skin needs intensive rehydration and a calming agent to help with the inflammation,” says Mara Weinstein Velez, MD, a dermatologist the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, New York. “We also need an antioxidant to scavenge the free radicals and help repair sunburned cells,” she says.

mint leaves with essential oil bottle on its side

Essential oils you should look for

There are certain essential oils that are healthy for skin. “Tea tree oil, lavender, geranium, peppermint, coconut, and chamomile are all soothing, especially with sunburns,” says Michele Green, MD, clinical instructor of dermatology at the Ichan School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. “I like chamomile the best. It can be applied immediately after a burn. Coconut oil also is really soothing, much like aloe vera gel.” Make sure to follow the instructions for using or diluting essential oils before applying them to the skin (or purchase them in the proper dilution); some can be sold in a highly concentrated form.  (Here are some other essential oils that may help your skin.)

avocado halves with jar
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Extra ingredients to soothe sunburn

If you don’t want to use essential oils, look for products that contain those ingredients, as well as ingredients such as avocado oil, vitamin E, and vitamin C.

Vitamins C and E work well together to repair damaged skin, says Dr. Weinstein. “These are key antioxidants and help with wound healing after insult, whether it be sunburn or a laser procedure which is essentially a controlled sunburn (without the UV damage).”

cut aloe vera fronds

How to apply products

Oils, vitamins, and gels can be layered and rubbed into the skin, dermatologists say. Dr. Green recommends using a cool cloth for extra relief, while Dr. Weinstein suggests refrigerating aloe vera for an added cooling effect. The American Academy of Dermatology says that aloe vera soothes sun ravaged skin.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests seeking medical attention for sunburn covering 15% of your body, high fever, or severe pain. Make sure you know what else you should not do after getting a sunburn.

woman at the beach in a colorful sun hat

When will the pain stop?!

Along with beach party essentials, you should always have a hat, long sleeves to cover your skin, and sunscreen when at the shore or next to the pool. This becomes double important after a sunburn. Stay out of the sun while your sunburn is healing–and be sure to be more vigilant about regular application of SPF and protective clothing next time you’re out in the sun.

woman applying lotion to her arm

Products that are worth it

If you prefer a thicker spread than pure oil or gel, look for after-sun lotions that have natural ingredients.

Try: COOLA ER+ Radical Recovery After-Sun Lotion contains agave, aloe vera, lavender oil, rosemary extract, and sunflower oil to provide sunburn relief and diminish redness and dryness.

Another option: MAKE Succulent Skin Gel, designed to soothe, calm and comfort skin after exposure to any extreme conditions like high wind and heat. The formula includes aloe vera, prickly pear, chamomile, calendula, and comfrey, which delivers intense hydration to sunburned skin.