Treat Sunburn with Tea Tree Essential Oil

By Joshua Davis •  Updated: 01/10/23 •  9 min read

Tea tree oil is like duct tape. Seriously, the stuff is amazing and can be used to remedy a wide variety of problems, from acne and athlete’s foot to insect bites and poison ivy.

It is hailed as one of the most famous essential oils when it comes to skincare and repair possessing anti-inflammatory, antiviral, anti-fungal, antibacterial properties.

Yeah, it’s that flippin’ awesome.

After publishing our post The Best Essential Oils for Poison Ivy Relief (and a rather scorching camping trip to Galveston Island during which my son and I neglected to reapply sunscreen as needed), I became curious: is tea tree oil good for sunburn relief?

Yes. Yes it is.

How to Treat Sunburn with Tea Tree Essential Oil

First, if you’re thinking that you’ll beat those UV rays to the punch by applying a smattering of tea tree oil before heading out, DON’T!

Pure tea tree oil should never be used as a sunscreen even if diluted; in fact, like any pure essential oil you apply before stepping into the sun, it can increase your chances of getting sunburned.

Okay, so no tea tree oil for breakfast. Got it.

What if you do get a sunburn? What then?

After cooling your burn with cold water for several minutes (or soaking a towel and pressing it gently to the affected area), prepare your tea tree essential oil as follows:

1.) Mix 1 drop of tea tree oil with 10 parts carrier oil.

Always dilute essential oils with a carrier oil before applying to your skin.

If you wish to increase the potency, gradually add additional drops of tea tree oil to the dilution, performing a patch test to ensure your skin does not have an adverse reaction.

2.) For an added cooling effect, you can dilute tea tree oil and its carrier with aloe vera gel or a few drops of lavender essential oil (or both!).

3.) Smoothly and lightly, massage the sunburned area with the oil blend and allow it to dry.

4.) Repeat 2-3 times a day until your sunburn heals completely.

And that’s it! Now, not only have you learned a valuable lesson about treating your body like a stuck pig in a Hawaiian lūʻau, but, the healing is underway . . .

. . . and you smell fantastic! (Well, as fantastic as a sunburn can smell!)

What Is a Sunburn . . . Aside From a Sucky Buzzkill?

Sunburn is an inflammatory response to ultraviolet (UV) radiation that your skin experiences when you spend time in the sun. It’s caused by overexposure to UV rays, and it can be very serious.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, when you get even mildly sunburned (1st degree), you have essentially cooked your outermost layer of skin cells, overwhelming your frontline defenses with UV radiation.

In turn, your body literally sounds a “Red Alert,” triggering the uncomfortable symptoms of sunburn we all know so well. As the damaged and dying cells send an SOS message to your brain’s pain center, a burning sensation is ignited in the affected area.

Convincing a tween to keep a layer of sunscreen on isn’t easy. My son is no exception.

As if your body might be trying to say something to you . . . hm.

In turn, the brain increases blood flow to the burned skin’s surface, giving it its red color and warm-to-the-touch feel. In the case of a severe sunburn (2nd degree), swelling and blistering can occur.

The blood carries with it immune cells as a kind of disaster response effort to clean up the mess.

Over the next few days, the “clean-up process” continues until the dead and dying skin cells are cleared off the battlefield like defeated soldiers, and new skin cells relieve them of duty, being darkened (tanned) by an increase in melanin to provide more protection next time you decide to roast yourself.

Serious Sun Fact: Even the darkest tan provides no more sun protection than 2 SPF. Darker does not mean better. It, in fact, means”damaged.”

In addition to the immediate discomfort of inflamed, hot, and tender skin, excessive sun exposure leads to long-term skin damage, increasing the risk of skin cancer.

Suddenly, being a tanned beach stud or babe ain’t so sexy. Sorry, Mr. Hasslehoff.

How Tea Tree Oil Treats A Sunburn

Diluted tea tree oil is effective in treating sunburn because it has natural antibiotic, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory properties. It also possesses an menthol-like cooling agent that acts as a balm to sunburnt skin.

The oil helps to sooth itchy skin and burning sensations while sending healing agents into the skin cells to repair them at a deeper level reducing blistering. It also acts as an analgesic by numbing the nerves that are sending pain signals to the brain.

Serious Sun Tip: If blistering is severe and widespread and accompanied by fever and chills, seek immediate medical attention!

Furthermore, its antimicrobial and antioxidant properties fight off infection should the skin become broken from ruptured blisters.

Diluting essential oils with a carrier oil reduces their potency and prevents adverse skin reactions.

As always, it is important to dilute essential oils with a carrier oil, such as sweet almond oil, olive oil, coconut oil, or jojoba oil. This will decrease the risk of skin irritation, especially if your skin is sensitive in general or if you are applying it to children.

Continue to the next section to learn how to dilute tea tree essential oil.

Other Essential Oils for Treating Sunburns

A few folks among us may have sensitive skin or an all-out allergy to tea tree oil, and since dermatitis is every bit as sucky as a sunburn, Mother Nature has provided a few other options for treating sunburns.

The following essential oils are also effective in treating sunburn. These, too, should be blended with a carrier oil or aloe vera gel:

Lavender Essential Oil

Lavender oil not only has anti-inflammatory properties, but it also helps to soothe the skin and reduce pain.

Chamomile Essential Oil

Chamomile oil exhibits anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, as well as a touch of sedative action to help you drift off into a burn-free sleep.

Peppermint Essential Oil

Peppermint oil is refreshing and cooling, providing relief from the heat of your sunburn. It also has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties that help to reduce pain and swelling.

Spearmint Essential Oil

Like Peppermint oil, spearmint oil is cooling and refreshing, helping to reduce the heat of a sunburn. It also has anti-inflammatory properties that help to reduce inflammation and redness.

Eucalyptus Essential Oil

Eucalyptus oil is a potent antiseptic that soothes and cools the skin. It has anti-inflammatory properties that help to reduce inflammation, redness, and swelling.

Rosemary Essential Oil

Rosemary oil is a powerful analgesic and antiseptic that helps to diminish pain and inflammation, while promoting faster healing.

Marigold Essential Oil

Marigold oil’s effects on sunburn are two-fold. It has antiseptic and analgesic properties that help to reduce pain and inflammation, as well as skin regenerative properties that help the skin heal faster.

Geranium Essential Oil

Geranium oil’s magic lies in its skin regenerative properties. Soothe and heal your sunburned skin quickly with this natural remedy. It reduces inflammation, pain, and speeds up the healing process so you can get back out in the sunshine!

Yarrow Essential Oil

While not as well-known as others, Yarrow essential oil is a fantastic aid for sunburns. Boasting anti-inflammatory, analgesic and regenerative capabilities, this product works to reduce pain and inflammation whilst accelerating the skin healing process.

Patchouli Essential Oil

More than just a cover for hippie pastimes, patchouli essential oil has antiseptic and skin-healing properties. Aloe vera is renowned for its ability to reduce the discomfort and inflammation of sunburns, while simultaneously accelerating the recovery process.

Helichrysum Essential Oil

A pricier go-to, it is also probably the most effective. Helichrysum essential oil is known to reduce inflammation, redness and swelling soothe the skin, and speed up the healing process. It’s an excellent choice for those looking for a top-tier sunburn remedy.

Green Tea Essential Oil

Green tea essential oil is rich in antioxidants that help to moisturize, protect, and heal sunburned skin. It also has anti-inflammatory properties that help to reduce inflammation, redness, and swelling.

Sandalwood Essential Oil

Typically a close companion with patchouli, sandalwood essential oil also has antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and skin regenerative properties. It helps to reduce the pain and inflammation of sunburns while speeding up the healing process.

Frankincense Essential Oil

Frankincense oil has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties that help to reduce pain, swelling, and redness. It can also help to promote the growth of healthy skin cells for faster healing.

And it makes me want to deck the halls . . .

Rose Essential Oil

For those preferring floral scents, rose essential oil is a great way to get relief from sunburns. It has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties that help to reduce pain and swelling while also promoting healing.

And, it smells like Grandma.

Sun Smarts: Preventing Sunburns Before They Happen

Ultimately, the goal is to avoid sunburn in the first place; however, sometimes we forget or get caught up in the moment.

Playing outdoors after the heat of the day has passed (4:00 PM) is one of the best ways to prevent excessive UV exposure.

Or, it’s just impossible to get the 6-year-old to sit still long enough to apply an adequate smattering of sunblock.

To prevent sunburns, follow these simple tips:

• Wear protective clothing such as a hat and long-sleeved shirt when outdoors.

• Avoid direct exposure to the sun during peak hours (10 am – 4 pm).

• Use broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 (at the very minimum).

• Reapply sunscreen every two hours when in direct sunlight, or after swimming and sweating.

• Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated during hot days.

• Check the UV index before venturing outdoors. Anything over 3 presents a sunburn threat.

By following these simple tips, you can help protect yourself against painful sunburns and avoid the need for essential oils and other natural remedies. More beachin’, less burnin’!

May You Enjoy More Sun and Burn Less!

The good news is that most sunburns can be easily managed and treated with the right natural remedies. Essential oils are a great way to give your skin the relief it needs and help it heal faster.

These essential oils are just some of the options you can use to soothe and treat your sunburns.

Be sure to always dilute them before applying them directly on the skin and take necessary measures to avoid further exposure to speed up the healing process.

Now, get out there!

Joshua Davis

Being outdoors is freedom! Being outdoors with my wife and two boys is LIVING! Whether in my backyard or getting lost in a National Park, there’s nothing I’d rather do than explore, discover, and experience the paradise that surrounds us. Give me my family, a backpack, and a trail and my life is full!