As you increase your outdoor time this summer, remember to protect your skin. Sunburns can happen even when there are clouds, because they are caused by the sun’s UV rays, which you can’t see or feel. If your skin begins to turn pink, it has been damaged by these rays, which can actually cause DNA damage. This damage can cause discoloration, blotchiness, and other skin issues—including skin cancer.
Freckles and tans are the skin’s way of blocking UV rays and protecting the DNA. Those with darker skin have more melanin, which helps resist the harmful rays of the sun. People with fair skin have less melanin, and those who live at higher altitudes are more at risk of severe sunburn because they’re closer to the sun.
In the case of severe sunburn, the damage to the skin leads to engorgement of the blood vessels from the dermis. Liquid in this second layer of skin is released, and it bubbles up, creating blisters on the surface of the skin. Sunburns can be uncomfortable or extremely painful and are often accompanied by severe itching as they heal.
Obviously, prevention is the best remedy for sunburn. Always use sunblock and wear clothes that leave less skin exposed when engaged in outdoor activities. But there are times when a burn can happen that we do not anticipate the effects of the sun, such as on a cloudy day. Once the skin has been damaged, there are some ways to help treat it and lessen the discomfort.
- Cool down the skin as quickly as possible. Get out of the sun, and apply cold compresses or get into cold water.
- Keep the skin moist. Apply quality, gentle lotions to wet skin often. Avoid moisturizers with a petroleum base, which traps the heat.
- Decrease inflammation by taking an anti-inflammatory pain killer or using cortisone cream. Wear loose, light clothing.
- Stay hydrated! The burn will actually cause your body to use more fluid. Drink plenty of water throughout the first few days.
- If the burn is serious, see a doctor. If blistering is severe and you are experiencing nausea, confusion, or wooziness, this can be an indication of heatstroke or shock. If the burn is seeping or there is pus, you may have an infection.
Another way to encourage your skin to heal quickly is the use of essential oils. In particular, try the following:
- Tea tree
- Tamanu with helichrysum
- Roman chamomile
A combination of lavender and chamomile added to bathwater will help reduce the burning sensation. Application of lavender and peppermint to a sunburn has been known to decrease healing time. Tamanu and lavender added to a quality moisturizer is soothing and healing. These oils may also be added to water in a spray bottle and regularly misted over the affected area.
See the Reference Guide for Essential Oils to learn more about how essential oils can help treat sunburn.
Source: Reference Guide for Essential Oils, 2017 Edition, p. 575.