While much of summer has already passed, the hot and sticky days of August still lay ahead as do the dog days of early fall with their hot days and cool nights. There are still many opportunities for afternoons and weekends at the pool before Labor Day arrives, chances for cookouts with friends and family, and many more days in the garden harvesting late summer zucchini and watermelon.
However, while all of this summer fun is still left to enjoy, the pending arrival of fall may have many forgetting to protect themselves from the sun’s strong rays, resulting in some surprising sunburns. Don’t worry though, I’m here today with a super simple DIY Sunburn Salve to calm your late summer sunburns so that you can get back to soaking up as much fun in the sun as you can.
When we experience the red painful rash of a sunburn much more is happening to our skin than meets the eye. A study done at the University of California, San Diego found that…
…the reddish, painful, protective immune response from ultraviolet (UV) radiation – is a consequence of RNA damage to skin cells…”
Cells exposed to UVB radiation…
…release altered RNA, provoking healthy neighboring cells to start a process that results in an inflammatory response intended to remove sun damaged cells”1
So, this means that the inflammatory response is not just painful and annoying, it is initiating healing by removing damaged cells before they become cancerous. Of course this is not a perfect process and the more we experience sunburns the higher our chance of developing skin cancer can become. Isn’t it kind of cool to know how our body is designed to work though? Like with fevers and some other bodily processes, the minor irritation we may be experiencing is actually an elaborate plan by our body to help heal us.
That being said, sunburns are still painful and annoying so we would like to help them heal as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, many over the counter after-sun products do not work by helping our skin heal. These products simply attempt to cover up the pain with a topical anesthetic called lidocaine, which can actually be quite harmful.
In 2009 the FDA released a report warning of serious risks associated with the use of topical anesthetic products containing lidocaine, tetracaine, benzocaine, and prilocaine. The warning states that when applied to the skin the products are absorbed into the blood stream and if used improperly, or when too much is absorbed into the blood stream, the resulting effects include…
- irregular heartbeat
- breathing difficulties
- possible death.
Their recommendations for these products state that among other things, consumers should not make heavy application of topical anesthetic products over large areas of skin, or apply these products to irritated or broken skin. Finally, the warning states that…
When skin temperature increases, the amount of anesthetic reaching the blood stream is unpredictable and the risk of life-threatening side effects increases with greater amounts of lidocaine in the blood.”2
When viewed in the context of fixing a sunburn this has the potential to be problematic as sunburns can often affect large portions of skin, the skin is always irritated, and if applying while outside or getting ready to go outside in the summer skin temperature is likely to increase. Granted, it is unlikely that you will see severe symptoms from treating a sunburn with lidocaine containing products, but I worry about the long term implications.
This DIY sunburn salve recipe uses lavender oil, coconut oil, and aloe. These are all ingredients that work naturally to soothe the skin and aid in healing. The primary compounds in lavender essential oil are linalool and linalyl acetate (learn more about lavender essential oils HERE). Both of these compounds contain local anesthetic properties and anti-inflammatory properties, making them ideal for sunburn care. In a study looking at the effects of isolated linalyl acetate and linalool on carageenan induced edema, an inflammatory response, in mice both compounds were found to significantly reduce inflammation.3
Coconut oil is anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial, which allows it to calm irritated skin and ward off any other potential irritants or infections allowing quicker healing (learn more about coconut oil HERE).
Finally, aloe gel works by causing your blood vessels to constrict which helps take away the redness and sting of the sunburn (learn more about aloe gel HERE).
This salve is super simple and easy to make, actually assists in the healing of your skin, works quickly, and removes any potential risks of using the lidocaine based blue goo found in your local pharmacy. So, step outside and enjoy the last few weeks of summer without the fear of sunburn slowing you down.
- 10 drops of Lavender Essential Oil (you can find my favorite quality oils HERE)
- 5-6 drops Vitamin E, optional (I really like this Vitamin E; make sure you know from where it is sourced (& non-GMO), especially if you have allergies)
- Combine all of your ingredients in a sealable container and mix well
- Store covered in a cool place or the refrigerator
To use, simply apply to the affected area with your clean fingertips or a cotton ball as needed.