Accidents happen. And when they do, it's best to be prepared. Here are our 5 skin care tips for summer's inevitable bug bites, bee stings, and sunburns with a holistic first aid kit.
Summer usually makes us think of long, leisurely days, warm nights, and more time outdoors. But who hasn't spent the occasional vacation suffering through a sunburn or a pesky case of poison ivy? As every good scout knows, being prepared is half the battle. Have a few simple ingredients on hand and you can create natural, fast-acting remedies.
1. Prevent Sunburn by Wearing Protection
Prevention is better than treatment, so before going out, always protect your eyes with sunglasses that provide UV protection and smooth on sunscreen and a lip balm with an SPF of 15 or higher. If, however, you do end up with a sunburn, soothing remedies can be grown right in your own garden. The gel in aloe plants, for instance, lubricates and heals the skin.
2. Sooth Sunburn with Cream Containing Calendula
The bright orange flower calendula (also called pot marigold) is anti-inflammatory and can help reduce the pain of sunburn. It is best applied as a cream or an ointment up to three times a day. You can find calendula products (and many of the treatments mentioned here) at most health food stores or by doing a simple search online.
3. Reduce Inflammation with Chilled Cucumber
Cucumbers also cool the skin and reduce swelling. Shred one to make a poultice for affected areas, or place slices of chilled cucumber on closed eyelids for 20 minutes to reduce puffiness.
4. Quell Bites and Stings
Most bee stings and bug bites are more irritating than life-threatening, but some reactions to bee stings can be fatal and should be treated medically and quickly. Worrisome symptoms include hives in areas other than the sting site, tightness in the chest, difficulty breathing, a swollen tongue, dizziness, and unconsciousness.
To prevent bites and stings, apply a few drops of lavender essential oil or tea tree oil; they're natural bug repellents. If you do get bit, dab on witch hazel (it's an antiseptic) then a few drops of lavender essential oil (or rub lavender leaves) directly on the skin to relieve irritation. Aloe vera gel can also quiet the pain, while calendula cream or ointment and St. John's wort oil can reduce inflammation.
If a bee does sting you, it's important to remove the stinger as quickly as possible—extracting it within 15 seconds of the sting reduces the severity of swelling and irritation. Wash the wound immediately after and apply ice or a cold compress. Create a paste of baking soda and cold water to help draw out allergens from the region and reduce the pain.
5. How to Stop The Spread of Poison Ivy and Poison Oak
If you think you've had a run-in with any poisonous plants, find the nearest water source. If you wash yourself off within five minutes, you lessen the chances that the urushiol (the ingredient in the plant's sap that causes the rash) will spread. Since urushiol can remain active for months, it's also important to wash your contaminated clothes and any gear you were carrying.
Jewelweed, a pale yellow or orange flower in the impatiens family that's often found growing near the poisonous culprits, can provide some natural healing. Apply the juice from the stem to the affected areas and allow it to dry. Or make jewelweed ice cubes: Run some stems through a blender and freeze the juicy pulp with water in an ice cube tray. If you develop a rash with painful blisters, be sure to see your doctor.