Can CBD Treat Sunburn?

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The summer is finally here—but there’s a catch

It may be age-old advice—but packing sun cream for your holidays is something we sometimes forget. Before you know it, what started as a well-deserved break in the sun becomes restless nights and inflamed skin. While sun cream gives the skin protection against UV rays, it isn’t always enough. Sometimes we might need a higher factor, or we forget to re-apply it after a dip in the pool. Either way, the outcome is the same—sunburn.

Sunburn is the skin’s way of trying to repair the damage caused by prolonged exposure to UVA and UVB rays. The good news, however, is you don’t have to suffer in silence! Instead, there are numerous remedies you can use to alleviate the discomfort caused by sunburn.

One substance which has caught the attention of sun-worshippers and researchers alike is CBD. Although it may seem an unlikely candidate for treating sunburn, it already has several of the characteristics needed to reduce the severity of its symptoms. Before we find out what those are, it helps to take a closer look at the mechanisms of sunburn.

What is sunburn?

As we mentioned, sunburn is the skin’s way of repairing itself after long periods of exposure to the sun. However, it isn’t the heat of the sun that burns skin, but UVB and UVA rays. Invisible to the naked eye, the former is what causes sunburn and most skin cancers, while the latter triggers mutations that age skin cells prematurely and contribute to forms of cancer. What we experience as sunburn is actually a delayed inflammatory response when the body attempts to repair the damage these ultraviolet rays do to the skin.

While the impact of ultraviolet rays is felt immediately at a cellular level, it can take up to 24 hours for symptoms to manifest. At its peak, sunburn causes redness, pain and inflamed, peeling skin. If exposure is extensive, sunburn can cause nausea, headaches and chills. Should these symptoms persist, or you experience fainting, then it's time to see a doctor. For most of us, the symptoms of sunburn will be on the milder side, but that doesn't stop them from being incredibly uncomfortable.

How can CBD help treat sunburn?

Although specific research into the effects of CBD on sunburn is lacking, there are still a lot of ways the compound may be able to support the symptoms. To start with, there are CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties—in order to reduce the redness and sensitivity of sunburnt skin, we need to reduce the body’s inflammatory response. Published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, a study found that CBD exhibited “anti-inflammatory effects” when using on an in vitro skin model.

Moreover, a second research paper, this time from the Journal of Experimental Medicine, found that CBD significantly suppresses chronic inflammation and neuropathic pain. When you think back to our list of sunburn symptoms, both inflammation and pain made the top three—so far, so good for CBD.

The compound has also shown antibacterial and antioxidant capabilities, both essential characteristics for treatment of sunburn. Burnt, damaged skin is more susceptible to infection, so a boost to our immune response is a welcome benefit. The antioxidant potential of CBD could also help reduce the damage of free radicals and limit the impact of mutations caused by UVA rays.

Have you packed CBD for your summer holidays?

Combined, the research above suggests that the therapeutic potential of CBD is vast. So vast that it covers several of the symptoms exhibited by sunburnt skin. Not only do results suggest CBD can tackle inflammation, but by potentially mitigating pain it also might make it that little bit easier to get a good night's sleep—in spite of the discomfort caused by sunburn.

CBD topicals are still in their infancy, but given the prevalence of the endocannabinoid system throughout our skin, many researchers feel it may only be a matter of time before the compound takes the world of skincare over. Sun cream should always be your first line of defence against the damage the sun can cause. However, if you do get sunburnt, CBD might be the extra ingredient that lets you make the most of your time in the sun.

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