Most of us will experience sunburn at some point in our lives - the moment you realise that the sun is stronger than you thought, or you should have applied more lotion, it's already too late. Though it rarely requires a trip to the doctor, sunburn can be painful, which is why some researchers are looking at the potential of CBD as a treatment.
Red, swollen, and painful skin is the body's inflammatory response to sun exposure.
If you spend too much time in the sun, its harmful UV rays (ultraviolet rays) can damage skin, causing mild sunburn, heat stroke, premature skin ageing, and even skin cancer.
- UVA rays have a longer wavelength and penetrate the skin more deeply contributing to ageing and skin cancer.
- UVB rays have a shorter wavelength and affect the skin superficially on its outermost layers causing sunburn.
Sunburn can be painful, but it usually heals on its own within seven days, and in the meantime, there are some things you can do to treat it at home.
How to treat sunburn
The first thing you should do if you have sunburn is to cool the skin. You can do this by taking a cool shower or bath, or using a damp towel. Never put an ice pack directly onto sunburned skin or you risk making it worse.
Apply a moisturiser or after-sun, that contains an essential oil, like aloe vera, to help soothe your sunburn and start to repair the damage caused. You should avoid using anything petroleum or oil-based, as it could dry out your skin.
It's also important to stay hydrated, so drink plenty of water to replenish your fluids, and while your sunburn is healing, stay out of the sun. Stick to the shade and cover-up with loose fitting clothes that don't irritate your skin.
To treat the pain and discomfort of sunburn, try using:
- Over-the-counter medicines like ibuprofen or paracetamol
- An anti-inflammatory cream with camphor or menthol
- CBD topicals - lotions, creams, and balms
CBD could be a powerful treatment for sunburn, and researchers are keen to uncover its effects on our skin - but what is it and how does it work?
What is CBD oil and how does it work?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of over a hundred organic chemicals found in the Cannabis Sativa plant. CBD and its close relation, tetrahydrocannabinol, have been extensively studied, and it continues to grow in popularity as a health supplement.
CBD works by interacting with a complex system of receptors in the body that keep our inner processes and systems carefully balanced. This plays a part in regulating our mood, appetite, fertility, memory, sleep, and immune system.
Research into the effects of CBD on the body suggests that it might be a powerful anti-inflammatory, with analgesic (pain relieving) and antioxidant properties - all of which could help treat sunburn and repair skin cells.
It is thought that antioxidants are able to protect against free radicals –unstable atoms in the body that contribute to the ageing process, which can affect the skin.
Can CBD oil help with sunburn?
The suggested health benefits of CBD are an ideal match for the effective treatment of sunburn. Cannabidiol may be able to:
- Relieve the pain associated with sunburn
- Reduce inflammation and soothe hot, red, skin
- Fight the free radicals that cause premature ageing
- Complement other skincare ingredients
While research into the effects of CBD on sunburn is still in the early stages, it’s clear it has a lot to offer. CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties alone could offer a natural alternative for people who don't like taking shop-bought medicines, like ibuprofen.
How to use CBD for sunburn
CBD products come in a variety of different forms and which one you pick usually depends on how you prefer to take cannabidiol. You can choose from oils, skin care, bath products, muscle rubs, vapes, and edibles - tea, coffee, chocolate, and gummies.
For sunburn, we recommend using a topical CBD product that can be applied directly to the skin. By targeting the skin's receptors at the site of the problem, the CBD oil may be able to get to work straight away for quick and effective results.
If you've never used cannabidiol before, test a small patch of cream on a healthy part of your skin first. Most people tolerate CBD well, and it’s considered to have a good safety profile by the World Health Organisation.
When you're choosing a CBD lotion or cream, look for something with broad-spectrum cannabidiol. Broad spectrum CBD contains a mix of organic compounds from the cannabis plant, which work together for maximum effect.
All CBD products sold in the UK have less than 0.2% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) so you can enjoy the health benefits of cannabidiol without experiencing the high sensation and addictive properties associated with marijuana.
The key takeaway
Sunburn is the body's response to harmful UVB rays from the sun. While the skin repairs itself, treating your sunburn at home can make the healing process more bearable.
With the possibility for reducing pain and repairing damaged skin, the suggested health benefits of CBD's skincare products make them ideally placed to treat sunburn.
Though research is still in its infancy, it’s clear there is potential and it seems likely that we could see CBD sunburn products on our shelves in the future.