While I do know the basics of skin protection to get me through summer without too much exposure to harmful sun rays ó avoid being outside during the sunís peak hours, wear a wide-brim hat and long sleeves, etc. ó now and again, Iíll get carried away in my garden or at the beach and my carelessness will end with a blistery red neck or arms. In these situations, aloe vera has always been my go-to remedy. (And Iím not referring to the electric-lime- or ocean-blue-colored commercial products that are full of preservatives and toxic chemicals. Hereís a list of five ingredients to avoid in summer skin care products. With aloe, always opt for additive-free liquids or gels, safe for ingesting internally to be sure of quality.)
However, I recently discovered that aloe is merely the star player on a team of herbal sunburn remedies. Author of The Green Pharmacy, James A. Duke, offers a few more botanicals that can soothe sunburned skin, repair damage and leave behind a healthy glow, naturally:
Letís start with aloe because it is the best-known summer skin remedy. Aloe is a veritable homegrown first aid kit, with properties that not only cool your skin, but also stop itching from insect bites, relieve bleeding and settle indigestion when taken orally. The plant is easy to grow indoors, and can handle you snipping off a section of a leaf without much fuss. Take a small piece of leaf, peel the rind back and scoop out the jelly inside. Apply this directly to your skin, or for an aloe juice summer drink, muddle the jelly with water and let the solution infuse for 10 minutes before ingesting.
Both black tea and green tea contain tannic acid and theobromine, believed to cool the heat of sunburns. Research is suggesting that these substances can even help prevent chemical-induced skin cancers. Green tea is also high in polyphenals, which act as potent antioxidants when ingested. You may be making iced tea regularly throughout the summer anyway ó keep in mind that the beverage can be applied topically as well as sipped (itís best to use unsweetened tea for this purpose). If you are already out in the sun, go ahead and put that solar energy to work making sun-brewed tea.
Cucumbers share a few important skin-healing compounds with the aloe plant. The same reason cucumber slices will reduce eye puffiness is the reason it works well for soothing burns. Slice off a piece and rub it on your skin or crush up fruit in a bowl to apply a thicker, pulpy paste. Add it along with some witch hazel and essential oils to create a revitalizing facial toner. Hereís a video to show you how.
Calendula flowers speed burn healing by stimulating the growth of new skin cells, closing wounds and reducing inflammation. For this reason, calendula is also exceptional for healing bruises.†Like cucumbers, calendula flowers are super simple to grow in your summer garden.
Bananaís cousin isnít on our North American radar too often, and especially when it comes to summer skincare. That needs to change. Plantains contain allantoin, a potent healer of damaged skin cells. The botanical extract if also found in the comfrey plant and in the urine of most mammals (but itís safe to assume youíd rather lather on mashed plantains than urine).
In the end, witch hazel may be the cheapest remedy for summer burns. Sold at most drug stores, its alcohol-like qualities quickly evaporate heat from the skin. I like this recipe for an after-sun cream that combines witch hazelís damage control with the rejuvenating, anti-aging properties of both honey and egg whites: Mix 1 teaspoon of witch hazel with 1 tablespoon of honey and a beaten egg white. Apply to the skin and let set for 5 minutes or more before rinsing off. While youíve got the honey and egg whites out, here are four recipes for simple, homemade face masks.
Have fun in the sun!
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