While we enjoy the last few weeks of summer, the pink/red pain of sunburn still catches many of us as we soak up the sun. The sun's warming rays continue to penetrate the world at high intensity, particularly here in Australia thanks to the depletion of the ozone layer above us. So caution for our largest organ -- the skin -- is at paramount importance. As we move from summer light toward autumn days, the concern of keeping our skin safe continues even though the heat of day fades into cooler months.
We all know that excess sun exposure can change the skin's tone and condition to red and inflamed real fast. It doesn't require a beach trip, either, which is why so many end up with pink cheeks and coloured shoulders even in the autumn.
Sunburn is possible at any time of year, when direct sunlight has a chance to toast unprotected skin for multiple hours at a time. Think: gardening, or even just getting "back out there" for exercise as the cooler days approach, etc. It happens as UV light overwhelms the immune system, and the skin responds with an inflammation response.
We can and should take precautions, because the reality is that some of us live with less melanin, so we are naturally less able to absorb the harsh heat and be protected by design. The result? We've probably experienced the pain of a sunburn.
Instead of using over the counter medication and toxic mainstream moisturisers that yield unproven results, there is a natural and very simple, time tested regimen for both pre-protection and an emergency plan remedy: Natural plant oils.
Natural plant "oils" come in two categories... Carrier oils, which are what many people think of when you mention vegetable oils. Carrier oils are the fatty acid liquid pressed or squashed from the seeds, nuts or fruits of a plant - think olive, coconut, avocado, etc. In a way this process is similar to cold pressed juicing where the plant is pressed to release a certain compounds.
Essential oils are produced using a different process. Instead of being pressed, the plants stems, leaves or flowers are distilled gently using steam to capture the oil or essence. This is done to retain a higher concentration of the naturally occurring incredible properties of the plant. Common essential oils include lavender, frankincense, or peppermint essential oil.
Which Oils Work Best For Sunburn?
Both carrier and essential plant oils are highly powerful remedies for sunburn, particularly the following superstar botanicals:
Within the linoleic and oleic essential fatty acids of this amazing oil, high levels of vitamin A and vitamin E come perfectly packaged to deliver moisture and essential nutrients to dry and inflamed skin. In addition, potassium, and lecithin deeply nourish skin cells at a more efficient rate than other oils. The skin is able to absorb and use these particular nutrients to make new skin cells. This is especially important with sunburned skin, as the outer layer has burned and the speed of recovery also depends on the skin's speed of creating a healthy new outer layer where many cells have been toasted.
LAVENDER ESSENTIAL OIL
This floral essential oil is commonly associated with calmness and relaxation. In the same way that the oil works with our mind and emotions to relax overheating nerves, the constituents of lavender are front-runners for anti-inflammation. The make-up of this oil also contains high levels of pain-reducing elements, making it a double-hit helper for the win!
Beyond these two, miraculous additions that can also speed recovery include:
APRICOT KERNEL OIL
Similarly to avocado oil, this linoleic and oleic rich oil transmits high levels of moisturizing vitamins A and E. These nutrients also help to plump skin cells and prevent moisture loss.
BLACK SEED OIL
This is one of the two highest antimicrobial (think: antivirus, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-parasitic) oils in the world. This is due to certain constituents, particularly thymol, thymoquinone, and thymohydroquinone. Yes, it's a mouthful, but these are incredibly important compounds and they help give my hero ingredient its most beneficial properties. These compounds are also associated with decreasing inflammation, which is ever so important for sunburnt skin.
However, the antimicrobial nature is additionally important to ward off potential skin infections as the skin is weaker and, as your largest organ, that weakens the entire body system.
FRANKINCENSE ESSENTIAL OIL
This essential oil is one of nature's ultimate skin tonics. Not only is it a strong anti-inflammatory, but this also possesses the ability support your body's innate programming to restore, heal and increases skin regeneration.
Using any one (or a combination of an essential and carrier oils) can be highly beneficial to remedy the painful sunburn experience. These methods work with the body’s healing mechanisms rather than surface level “band-aids” such as over the counter medications or lotions. This is exactly why I have included these oils, and others, in my Face & Body Elixir.