5 Herbs To Repair Skin Damaged by UV Rays

Nature has a cure for almost anything. From the common cold to cancer, medicinal plants are used to treat and provide relief for various health conditions.

In the summer, before you head outdoors, you’re likely slathering on sunscreen—if you forget to do so, you’re risking a sunburn in the short-term and the possibility of skin cancer down the road.

But what if there was a way to acquire protection from the sun’s harsh ultraviolet radiation without having to apply a chemical coating?

To be clear, all major medical organizations still recommend the use of conventional sunscreen. But if you are very particular about your skin-care ingredients—if you are allergic to a lot, or are interested in exactly how ingredients are sourced—it's worth noting that some sunscreens combine mineral sun-protective ingredients with chemical ones, or with synthetic fragrances or preservatives.

So just because it's mineral does not mean it's necessarily 100 percent "natural" (or organic, or hypoallergenic, or whatever it is that you need for your skin).

Nature has a cure for almost anything. From the common cold to cancer, medicinal plants are used to treat and provide relief for various health conditions.

Researchers have been looking into the possibility that the compounds inside various herbs can confer some degree of restoring the natural barrier in the skin for some time. Contemporary science has been studying individual chemicals in plants to explain some ways they function to keep us healthy.

As UV radiation can cause sunburns, wrinkles, lower immunity against infections, premature aging, and even cancer, there is a permanent need for prevention from the side effects of UV rays.

Several studies have shown that extracts made from natural herbs, when taken orally or applied directly on the skin, were associated with reducing the damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) light.

Research reveals which exactly herbs and herbal preparations have a high potential due to their antioxidant activity. Let us discuss some of the general uses for botanical extracts that have the power to nourish and repair our skin after it has been affected by harmful UV rays.


Black tea is commonly used as a home remedy for sunburn. The Chinese recommend applying cooled black tea to the skin to soothe sunburn. Green tea has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects in both human and animal skin.

Topical green tea applied to human skin provide a photoprotective effect, reduced the number of sunburns cells, protecting epidermal cells from UV damage, and reduced the DNA damage that formed after UV radiation.

Scientists report that the tannic acid and theobromine in tea help remove heat from sunburns. Other compounds in tea, called catechins, help prevent and repair skin damage and may even help prevent chemical- and radiation-induced skin cancers.

Aloe vera

Aloe vera gel is widely used in cosmetics and toiletries for its moisturizing and revitalizing action. The reputable aloe vera has been scientifically proven for all forms of burn, be it radiation, thermal, or solar.

It has also been demonstrated that it has a prophylactic effect if used before, during, and after these skin-damaging events.

Clearly, the plant is mainly used for its soothing and cooling effect. However, it is recommended that it is used at 100% to be sure of any beneficial result.


Those bright orange and yellow blooms are filled with photo-protective qualities as well as many other virtues that support the skin. Calendula is a beautiful flower that is easy to grow in many climates, making this a prolific plant that you can easily source from your backyard or local farm.

Calendula can support already healthy skin or aid skin that has been damaged. While calendula’s gifts are many, we know it promotes wound healing, as it is also mildly antimicrobial, helping to prevent infection.

There are so many ways to enjoy calendula! You can infuse it into oil for creams, body butters, salves or serums. You can also eat the fresh petals in salads and soups.

You can use calendula to maintain healthy skin and to improve elasticity and hydration. Calendula can also be used to promote skin health after the skin has been severely damaged. Skin care specialists recommend it as highly effective in the form of infused oil to nourish the skin after getting too much sun.

Olive oil

Olive oil consists mainly of oleic acid, with smaller quantities of other fatty acids such as linoleic acid and palmitic acid. More than 200 different chemical compounds have been detected in olive oil. Unsurprisingly, olive oil has been used as a skin product and hair cosmetic since time immemorial in several cultures.

A mixture of olive oil, sesame oil, and honey was demonstrated to be a useful treatment for burns, by preventing infections, accelerating tissue repair, and facilitating debridement.

Topically applied olive oil has a detrimental effect on skin barrier function. Extra virgin olive oil applied to the skin delayed the onset and reduced the incidence of skin cancer development.

Golden serpent fern

Also known to scientists as Phlebodium aureum, it is the herb for which the most evidence has been amassed. The plant grows wild in Florida and Georgia, but is most commonly found in Central and South America, where it is called calaguala.

Golden serpent fern is used in the treatment of some inflammatory diseases, and research indicates that it might be useful for sun protection in the general population as well.

Scientists speculate that antioxidant compounds in the herb—including phenolic and hydroxycinnamic acids—may protect skin cells at the molecular level. While most sunscreens attempt to provide topical protection by absorbing or blocking ultraviolet (UV) rays, golden serpent fern antioxidant compounds work inside the body to stop UV’s effects.

Golden serpent fern also has been studied as a treatment for several sunlight-related diseases in humans, including vitiligo and solar urticaria, with results showing improvements in re-pigmentation and reduction of dermal damage.

The research data on golden serpent fern extracts look very promising for counteracting negative effects of UV exposure in healthy people wishing to avoid sunburn and in patients with conditions aggravated by the sun.

Scientists are still trying to figure out which exactly herbal compounds might protect us most effectively from the sun, how we might best consume them and how much we would need to take.

One thing that is absolutely clear though is that using quality skincare products that contain natural, nourishing herbal ingredients can keep your skin looking healthy and youthful.

Herbal extracts are natural, relatively stable, and safe to use if original plants have been commonly used in traditional medicines.

Someday, specially-formulated herbal extracts—either taken orally or applied on the skin—might replace the bottle of sunscreen in your beach bag.

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