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How to treat sunburns without harsh chemicals

person with sunburn skin

Ah, summer… lying out on the beach, biking the nearest trail, or just spending the day at your local park…

It’s the time of year when we soak up more sun than all other seasons combined.

It’s also the season that reports the most sunburn cases in the US.

In fact, more than 33,000 sunburns result in ER visits in a given summer, and that’s only among people of color. And fair-skinned folks? The numbers are much higher and there’s no formal count available.

So, regardless of your skin’s color, you need to beware of excessive sun exposure.

Still, being active outside during the summer months is normal and healthy. After all, sunlight is your best source of Vitamin D.

But the issue is…

How much sun is too much sun?

Quick question: Have you ever heard of Ultraviolet or “UV” radiation?

It’s made up of invisible rays that come from the sun and other sources, like tanning beds.

Exposure to UV rays actually changes the color of your skin, giving your cheeks a rosy finish and the rest of your body a slightly darker, or redder, pigment.

But here’s the problem with exposure to UV rays…

Not only do they cause skin damage like sunburns, blisters, wrinkles, and other skin problems; they can actually damage the DNA in your skin cells and cause eye problems as well.

So why even spend time outside?

Yes, UV exposure can be pretty dangerous to our skin and eyes, but it’s all a matter of how much exposure you get.

The UV Index (UVI) measures the intensity of UV radiation in different locations. The higher the index, the more radiation you’ll likely be exposed to.

Any UVI number over 5 indicates the UV intensity is going to be high. This means you’ll need to take more caution when it comes to UV exposure.

Think sunscreen, floppy hats, beach umbrellas, or long sleeves and pants.

Another indicator that you’ll likely be exposed to UV radiation is the sun’s position throughout the day.

The higher in the sky the sun is, the more UV exposure you’ll get.

So what happens when you’ve spent a little too much time outside and now you’re paying the price with a sunburn?

First…

What is a sunburn?

A sunburn, also known as a “radiation burn”, is an inflammatory response to excessive exposure due to the sun’s UV rays.

The longer you spend out in the sunshine without protection, the higher chances you have of getting sunburn.

Typical symptoms of a sunburn include:

  • Tender and warm skin (usually sensitive to the touch)
  • Red, brown, and sometimes purple pigment
  • Blisters
  • Skin peeling

In severe cases, sun poisoning can occur, causing symptoms like:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Rash
  • Dehydration
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Excessive pain

While sunburn symptoms are sometimes annoying, painful, and uncomfortable, it’s your body’s natural way of responding to the damage of the sun’s UV rays and repairing the skin from within.

In other words, your body is working to right the wrongs of excessive sunlight exposure.

So how do you treat a sunburn?

Common sunburn treatments

Thankfully, most sunburns are usually temporary.

For the most part, doctors will recommend staying out of the sun and drinking a lot of water.

But depending on the severity of the sunburn, they may also recommend over-the-counter medications to reduce the pain, spray-on solutions to reduce irritation, and other topicals that may help soothe the skin.

In extreme situations, professional medical attention is needed.

While these recommendations can be helpful, especially for severe sunburn cases, there are some issues worth noting…

While over-the-counter medications help reduce pain, they can also cause unwanted side effects. And while some spray-on solutions and pharmacist-approved topicals do help, many of them are filled with potentially harmful ingredients.

That said, the best sunburn treatment usually requires natural remedies, and scientists agree.

Remedies for sunburns

If you do a quick Google search for “natural sunburn remedies” or “natural sunburn relief”, you’ll likely come across this list:

  • Cool water bath
  • Baking soda and oatmeal
  • Cold press
  • Aloe vera
  • Green and black tea
  • Loose clothing
  • Hydrate with water
  • Moisturize
  • Rest

It’s a great list!

In fact, Aloe Vera has been shown to reduce skin damage before, during, or even after sun exposure.

It’s also packed with amino acids, enzymes, vitamins, antioxidants, and other therapeutic nutrients that enhance its moisturizing and healing properties for the skin.

Other studies show that properties of black and green tea, which include protective antioxidants and amino acids, alleviate negative reactions from UV exposure. 

But there’s one remedy that many people don’t know about…

CBD oil for sunburns

Believe it or not, CBD is fantastic for your skin’s health, and in the event of sunburns, CBD could be the missing ingredient your skin is craving. And there are studies to prove it.

CBD skin care benefits for sunburns

While there are no studies specifically targeting CBD and sunburns, there are many studies that prove CBD is highly beneficial in repairing the skin.

In fact, one study suggests that combining vitamins C and E may help reduce sunburn reaction. And as luck would have it, research indicates that CBD is far more effective than Vitamin C and E, especially when targeting inflammatory acne. 

It’s also been shown that applying topical CBD to the skin can help reduce pain in mice.

But perhaps the most compelling research is that CBD, along with other cannabinoids like CBG and CBC, contain powerful therapeutic nutrients like:

  • Essential fatty acids – which help hydrate the skin
  • Vitamins – which can help reduce skin irritations

Most, if not all, studies regarding these cannabinoids suggest that they are potent antioxidants and help to reduce inflammation.

Now, while we’re on the subject of cannabinoids, there’s something you need to know…

Cannabinoids for sunburn pain relief

In 2013, a group of scientists from Duke University discovered a particular molecule, or gene,  found in our skin cells that is responsible for regulating the pain associated with sunburns. It’s called TRPV4.

By blocking the activity of TRPV4, sunburn pain can be greatly reduced. But finding a way to block the activity of TRPV4 is the challenge.

Sure, there are chemicals that might block TRPV4, but do we really want to risk absorbing potentially harmful chemicals that block our body’s natural response to the sun’s UV rays?

NO!

Well, as it turns out… 

Researchers recently discovered that cannabinoids like CBD, CBG, CBN, CBC, and THCV can actually modulate the activation and expression of TRPV4.

In fact, both CBG and CBC had the greatest effect on reducing TRPV4 in mice. Pretty amazing, right?

And that’s not all…

Other studies found that certain cannabinoids can actually bind to our cannabinoid receptors responsible for reducing itching and inflammation.

It’s even been shown that the therapeutic properties of CBD can actually regulate our zinc levels, which scientists believe is crucial for our skin’s health.

We can go on and on about the studies, but we think you get the picture.

So the real question is…

How do you relieve sunburns with CBD?

Applying full-spectrum CBD oil, or a CBD topical cream, directly to your skin is one option to address your sunburn.

But if you’ve ever had a sunburn, then you’ll agree that showers are your worst enemy.

The pressure from the water can be very irritating, making you feel like you’re being stabbed by a thousand tiny needles.

Thankfully, a nice cooling bath can help soothe your skin, especially if a CBD bath bomb is involved.

CBD bath bombs are designed to treat your skin while you relax in the tub.

They help melt your stress and pain away, leave you feeling viscerally calm, and help gently nourish and moisturize your skin back to health.

High quality CBD bath bombs are truly the best remedy for sunburn.

Sunburns and CBD takeaways

Obviously, the best remedy for sunburns is prevention.

But we get it… the sunshine is calling, and you must go.

For the times you forget to apply enough sunscreen if any at all, and you do get burned, give CBD bath bombs or other CBD products a try.

It may be even more effective than you expect.

To learn more about CBD, check out our article: CBD Skin Care Explained.

For all other questions or concerns, feel free to reach out to our Alki team, we’d love to hear from you.

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Ingredient Information

Sodium Bicarbonate & Citric Acid: Otherwise known as baking soda and Vitamin C. These two ingredients combined create the “fizzy” effect of a bath bomb.

Epsom Salt: Epsom salt baths can help soften rough or dry skin and can exfoliate dead skin cells. It also aids in reducing soreness & pain.

Corn Starch: Corn starch manages the fizzing reaction of the ingredients; so if you drop your bath bomb in the water, it will not “explode”!

Sunflower Oil: Sunflower oil is a non-comedogenic carrier oil which is highly absorbent. In short: sunflower oil won’t clog your pores. Additionally, it is non-irritating for most people and can be used on all skin types.

Water: What scientists refer to as H20.

Organic Hemp-Derived Cannabidiol (CBD): CBD is a naturally occurring & non-intoxicating cannabinoid (chemical compound) found in both hemp and cannabis plants.

Aromatherapy Oils: Aromatherapy is simply the combination of essential oils for therapeutic benefit. When inhaled, the molecules in essential oils work their way from the olfactory nerves directly to the brain and can positively impact the amygdala, which is the emotional center of the brain.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate (SLSA): SLSa is derived from coconut and palm oils. SLSa is safe and skin-friendly.

Mica Powder: The biggest benefit of mica is its ability to create a natural shimmery finish, since it can be milled to a fine powder. It is naturally produced and safe to use on almost all skin types.