Keep Your Skin Protected After Sun Exposure With Essential Oils

Posted on Monday 26 July 2010

We all do our best at keeping ourselves and our kids saturated with sunscreen. But even mothers with the best of intentions may sometimes miss an application for themselves or their children. Sun damage is cumulative; it creeps up on us bought through years and years of exposure to the sun’s rays. UV light is well known to cause a cascade of oxidative radical formation within our skin’s tissues, thus leading to long-term degradation of collagen and other proteins. Damage does not only occur while we are in the sun — much of it actually happens in the hours after sun exposure. Free radicals form upon first interaction with the sun’s rays, and “cascade” into various different forms until they’ve been quenched by our own natural antioxidant defenses. Fortunately, simple home-made aromatherapy formulas can effectively do the job as well, and really help everyone’s skin stay younger.

Some essential oils are among the most potent natural antioxidants known, with ORAC values of over 100,000. All essential oils have some level of antioxidant activity, and each used in skin care is selected for its unique skin care properties. For example, a study just released by French scientists note that Myrrh essential oil has a profound oxygen quenching effect on free radicals produced by the interaction of UV rays and the skin’s sebum. Myrrh is one of many oils found in recipes for “mature” skin.

Making your own formula can be fun, and it’s really easy to do. You only need to select a few essential oils and blend them into a natural “carrier oil” base. All these oils absorb particularly well into the skin in a few minutes, without any “oily” feeling. The essential oils are easy to choose: Lavender essential oil, particularly Lavendula angustifolia, may be your first choice. Lavender has a great many healing properties for the skin; it is syngergistically anti-inflammatory, regenerative, and soothing at the same time. It is perfect for general skincare and after-sun use, and is called for by many aromatherapists in cases of sunburn.

Blue tansy and German chamomile are somewhat more rare essential oils with profound anti-inflammatory action. Choose one or the other to include at a very dilute amount — only 1 or 2%. Their deep blue colors indicate high levels of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory components which make them an excellent choice for after-sun skin care.

Everlasting essential oil, better known as Helichrysum Italicum, is a wonderful and profoundly healing oil called for when the most potent anti-inflammatory and regenerative effects are needed. If you’re looking for one of the secret ingredients in natural skincare, Helichrysum is it. You’ll find Helichrysum in blends for scar reduction, wound healing, hair growth, and maintenance of mature skin.

Two exceptionally wonderful essential oils for after-sun protection for mature skin are frankincense and sandalwood. These two specialty oils have remarkable protective actions — both have been researched for their anticancer activities, sandalwood particularly for skin cancer. Frankincense has been researched for therapeutic benefits for mature skin, actually resulting in diminishing the appearance of fine lines and smoothing skin texture. They do their work in completely different ways, so including them both in your recipe isn’t a bad idea.

A relative newcomer on the block is sea buckthorn; the oil is cold-distilled from the berries of a bush found in Eastern Europe. Sea Buckthorn “CO2 extract” is now found in many of the world’s most exclusive skincare products, and is very cost-effective when added to your own creations. Its sweet, fruity aroma is very appealing, and its deep red color indicates the many beta-carotene compounds naturally occurring in this oil. Sea buckthorn is highly-recommended for addition to all daily-use aromatherapy skin care blends, and is particularly suited for an after-sun formulation.

If you feel like getting creative, you can include other ingredients that are readily available at health food stores or on the Internet. You can squeeze a couple vitamin E capsules into your blend, or add Ester-C, a non-acidic form of vitamin C, both of which are excellent antioxidants when topically applied to the skin.

All these ingredients will be based in natural “carrier oils”. Carrier oils are common seed and nut oils like avocado, apricot kernel, evening primrose, jojoba, hemp, tamanu and rosehip seed. Any of these oils alone will work wonderfully, though you can use two or more together to provide a synergy of healthy action for your skin. A general-purpose formula may include avocado and jojoba; a potent formula for extra skin health support might include evening primrose, tamanu, and rosehip seed.

The recipes are really flexible and easy to make. You can easily tailor them to your own needs, or to those of your children and other loved ones. Simply choose one or more essential oils and add them to your carrier oil mixture at the rate of between 14 and 35 total drops per ounce. The idea is that you want to have a total essential oil concentration of somewhere between 2 and 5%. Seven drops of essential oil in one once of carrier oil equals a one-percent concentration.

For example, for an excellent one ounce blend, begin with a carrier base of one-third Rosehip seed, one-third tamanu oil and one-third avocado. To this you could add 14 drops each of lavender and sea buckthorn, and 7 drops blue tansy. This blend will smell so wonderful; you’ll want to use it all the time! It will be gentle enough for everyone who has had a happy day in the sun. For after-sun protection and care of mature skin, use a base of one-third each apricot kernel, tamanu and rosehip seed. To this add equal parts each of helichrysum, sea buckthorn, lavender, and myrrh. This blend should be used after any long-term sun exposure to really protect your skin, and give it a long-lasting healthy glow. Now you get the idea, you can easily mix and match the oils in any combination that suits you best.

The author is proponent of the varied and potent healing actions of aromatherapy essential oils. For more, see www.anandaapothecary.com.

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