Despite my best efforts with sunblock, it seems like every summer we usually end up with at least a minor sunburn or two. We used to slather on the green jelly-like aloe gel to help relieve the dry, tight, itchy, and painful aftermath of too much sun. I always assumed that was a nice, natural way to soothe sunburns. But have you ever read the ingredients list on many of these gels?
Alcohol is added to many inferior aloe vera gels. The company moves alcohol higher up in the ingredient list (sometimes even as high as the first or second ingredient) and moves the more expensive real aloe vera lower down the list. The alcohol provides a short-lived cooling sensation that people associate with aloe vera, but the actual amount of healing aloe being applied is small. Alcohol is very drying to the skin so this is the exact opposite of what parched, sunburnt skin needs!
Triethanolamine, commonly used as an emulsifier in aloe gels, can cause irritation and allergic reactions. It has also been found that it could be toxic with prolonged use. In clinical trials, triethanolamine was associated with increased levels of several types of cancer in lab animals.
Diazolidinyl Urea, used as a preservative in aloe gel, has been linked to dermatitis cancer, immune dysfunction, and damage to mucous membranes.
So I decided to come up with a more natural solution, with ingredients I can pronounce. I originally wanted to add fresh aloe vera directly from the plant, but the shelf life of fresh aloe is very short. I wanted to avoid adding preservatives and emulsifiers but still wanted a product I could make ahead of time and have handy for when sunburns strike.
A salve packed full of healing plants was the perfect solution. Because the plants are already dried, there is no need for a preservative. The base is made with lots of rich and super moisturizing oils, butters, & beeswax to revive parched, tight, itchy skin.
The first step is to infuse your botanicals into olive oil. I used powdered Aloe Vera (burn healing, pain relief, inflammation), Calendula (skin healing properties), Comfrey (healing, pain relief & inflammation), and Lavender (pain relief & inflammation).
You can infuse olive oil in two ways. The first is to fill a mason jar about halfway with olive oil and then add all your botanics. Let the mixture sit in the sun for about three weeks, shaking it up occasionally.
The second way is to prepare the same mason jar mixture but put the jar in a shallow pan of very lightly boiling water for 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally. Strain out all the botanic matter and your infused oil is ready to use.
It is important to only use dried herbs and not fresh ones for infusing. Fresh herbs will contain moisture which will invite bacteria growth in your finished salve. For this salve recipe, I infused 6 oz of olive oil with 2 tsp aloe vera powder, 1/4 cup dried calendula, 1/4 cup dried comfrey, and 1/4 cup dried lavender buds.
Making the Salve
makes four 2 oz tins of After Sun Salve for sharing or one large 8 oz jar of salve for your family
- 4.5 oz olive oil infused with aloe, comfrey, calendula, & lavender
- 1.5 oz cocoa butter
- 1.5 oz shea butter
- 1.5 oz beeswax
- 1/2 tsp vitamin e oil
- 1/2 tsp lavender essential oil
Melt Cocoa Butter, Shea Butter, & Beeswax in a double boiler. Let the mixture sit over low heat for 20 minutes. This will help the butters fully melt and not have a “grainy” texture in the salve.
Use a whisk to add the Infused Olive Oil, Vitamin E Oil, & Lavender Essential Oil. Pour into the containers immediately and let cool
Always wear sunblock – but when sunburns happen apply salve to burnt areas (also works as a great general burn cream). Don’t use on severe, open burns – seek medical attention!