Wednesday November 14, 2018

By Erin Hiatt


As a redhead who grew up at an altitude above 4500 feet, I have experienced more than my fair share of sunburns – like the blistering, literal color of lobster kinds – and have reached for the aloe vera gel or lotion, just to have something, anything, to please make my skin stop crawling and emitting what feels like literal radiation. Over the years I have tried many tactics, like the aforementioned aloe gel and lotion, the oatmeal/milk baths, and the wait-it-out-through-gritted-teeth-who-needs-sleep-anyway approach. Aloe, at least, made my skin kind of feel like it was not on fire, and the others hardly worked at all. But, one option that was not around for me then, but is now, is topical CBD.

Cannabis and Sunburn

Our skin is the body’s largest organ, and when it comes under attack from the sun’s rays, burning is the body’s healing response. The body releases inflammatory cells to help repair the damage, but that causes discomfort like swelling, skin pressure, heat and blistering. Studies have shown that CBD works well as an anti-inflammatory and can suppress the body’s inflammatory response. A CBD topical may also help to reduce pain at the site of the burn and help to prevent infections.

Aloe vera works well in combination with CBD. photo credit

Aloe vera is another plant that, like cannabis, has been used for thousands of years because of its healing benefits. More than 75 compounds make up its curative arsenal, like amino acids, salicylic acid, and glycoproteins. These work together to reduce pain and inflammation and form a protective layer over the skin to hold in moisture and keep skin hydrated. When aloe and CBD work together, the synergy can be especially beneficial, by quieting the inflammatory response to speed healing and providing a cooling effect upon application.

Products to Try

Bozeman, Montana-based Lost Remedy created their Burn Formula, made of aloe gel, avocado oil, tea tree oil, and hemp-derived CBD.  In the beginning, Burn Formula was intended for cancer patients who had radiation burns. Now, it is also used for sunburn and accidental burn pain relief.

If a lukewarm bath is your preferred post-sunburn go-to, add some of Mary Jane’s Medicinals Heavenly Hash Bath. With ingredients like grape seed oil, cannabis leaves, Epsom salts, and cooling and calming essential oils like lavender, chamomile, and peppermint, it will help soothe and moisturize the skin (Please note that Mary Jane’s Medicinals is only available in California and Colorado).

Mary Jane's Medicinals
Mary Jane's Medicinals has several great products to use after sun exposure. photo credit

Another approach to reducing the pain from sunburn may be to go the internal route, by partaking of a high-CBD strain like ACDC, Charlotte’s Web or Hawaiian Dream. The high CBD content in these strains will help to suppress the inflammatory response causing sunburn pain, and has the added benefits of being anti-anxiety and pain relieving. Or, find a relaxing strain with a nice balance of THC to CBD to help you actually sleep through that sunburn pain!

If you would rather just not deal with the redness, peeling, and subsequent farmer tan that comes from a bad sunburn, why not avoid it altogether? Nevada-based Evergreen Organix has an SPF+THC sunscreen. Available in SPF 30, it contains anti-aging ingredients and THC cannabinoids to help hydrate and protect your skin. But remember to reapply every two hours (or more if you’re a freckly pale one like me), especially if you’ve been swimming or doing strenuous activities like running or hiking.

Beating the Burn

Most of the time, sunburns calm down in a few days and can act more like an itchy, peeling, inconvenience. But they can actually be very dangerous to your long term health. Excessive sun exposure can cause premature aging and wrinkling, and can cause skin cancer, including malignant melanoma. Every time you go outside unprotected, you are putting your skin at risk. So take care this summer, and treat your skin well!

Have you tried cannabis topicals for sunburn? Let us know in the comments below!

Photo Credit: Jean Beaufort (license)

Erin Hiatt Erin Hiatt

Erin Hiatt is a New York City-based writer who has been covering the cannabis industry for more than six years. Her work - which has appeared in Hemp Connoisseur Magazine, PotGuide, Civilized, Vice, Freedom Leaf, MERRY JANE, Alternet, and CannaInvestor - covers a broad range of topics, including cannabis policy and law, CBD, hemp law and applications, science and technology, beauty, and psychedelics.

Erin's work and industry insights have been featured on the podcasts The Let's Go Eat Show, In the Know 420, and she has appeared as a featured panelist on the topic of hemp media. Erin has interviewed top industry experts such as Dr. Carl Hart, Ethan Nadelmann, Amanda Feilding, Mark A.R. Kleiman, Dr. James Fadiman, and culture icons Governor Jesse Ventura, and author Tom Robbins. You can follow her work on LinkedInWordpress, @erinhiatt on Twitter, and @erinisred on Instagram.

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