Dr. Maura: Herbal Remedies for your Summer Skin Issues
There’s no denying that summer is best spent soaking up the outdoors – from lazy beach days, to weekend barbeques and hiking with friends. But it’s also the perfect opportunity for unique skin issues to arise. Some common skin problems include pesky bug bites to painful sunburns and unexpected poison ivy. As a naturopathic doctor, I always try to reach for simple, natural treatments to these solutions. These are my go-to herbal remedies to soothe and relieve these summer skin hazards.
Skin Issue 1: Bug Bites
If you’ve ever experienced a bug bite, you’ll know that scratching at it for immediate relief just feels so much better than fighting against the itch. Unfortunately this only leads to even more irritation, and your skin looking worse than before. When you get bitten, your body’s immune system kicks in to release histamines, which is what causes the itchy feeling. The swelling and inflammation that happens after can be described as a localized allergic reaction to the bite. Not only are these reactions itchy, but they can be downright painful.
The Fix: Camphor
Camphor is a natural compound found within the wood of Camphor trees and is a great remedy for bug bites and stings of any sort. You’ll find this ingredient in many healthcare products as it’s extremely effective in relieving skin inflammation as well as pain and itchiness. When applied to the skin, it has a cool, tingling effect that helps ease pain and inflammation from bug bites as well as calming any redness in the area.
Skin Issue 2: Sunburn
Sometimes in our valiant efforts to achieve the perfect tan, we end up getting more than we bargained for. Sunburns are caused by too much exposure to UV light, which damages the proteins and DNA on the top layer of skin. The painful swelling, redness and inflammation from a sunburn are your body’s inflammatory response to this damage.
The Fix: Witch Hazel & Aloe Vera
While sunburns can be nasty, there are a myriad of common treatments to ease the inflammation, some that can be found right in your own pantry. Aloe Vera is a popular go-to natural remedy for sunburns due to its anti-inflammatory properties that can soothe irritated skin. Thanks to the aloin present in the Aloe Vera plant, it aids in the healing process of skin after it’s been damaged, and can also prevent peeling of skin after too much sun exposure. In addition, Witch Hazel is another great remedy to relieve sunburns. Witch Hazel is a natural astringent that contains tannins, which are exceptional anti-inflammatory agents within the bark of the flowering shrub. Dabbing Witch Hazel onto overexposed skin can help alleviate inflammation and swelling.
Skin Issue 3: Poison Ivy
Poison Ivy rashes are no joke. Within a few hours of coming into contact with Poison Ivy, your skin might turn red, bumpy and itchy. It can lead to swelling and in severe cases, blisters can form. The culprit behind this painful reaction is the natural urushiol oil secreted by the Poison Ivy which is a known skin irritant.
The Fix: Camphor & Eucalyptus Oil
Products that contain Camphor are your best bet when it comes to calming Poison Ivy rashes. Like bug bites, the itchiness caused by the Urushiol oil can become unbearable and camphor’s antifungal and antibacterial properties can alleviate itchiness while speeding up the healing process. Camphor also activates nerve endings that make it feel soothing when applied on inflamed skin. Essential oils can also be beneficial to treating Poison Ivy as they target inflammation and contain antibacterial properties to prevent further infection. Eucalyptus oil is an ideal essential oil for Poison Ivy as it has skin soothing properties and contains cineole, which is a natural antiseptic that will work to keep infection at bay. It’s antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties can lessen irritation and reduce itching as well. In addition, Eucalyptus oil can prevent peeling and flaking of the skin after the rash has subsided.
By Dr. Maura Henninger, Licensed and Board-Certified Naturopathic Physician. For more information on Dr. Maura, please visit drmaura.com