While they may be extra-susceptible to rays, redheads aren’t the only ones among us who have ‘bad sun days’. No matter the lengths we go to with natural sunscreens, floppy hats and beach umbrellas, every summer seems to bring at least one burn! And even just the increased day-to-day exposure from being outside so much more tends to add up as the season progresses. Luckily, there are all kinds of natural, gentle substances that can help calm down angry skin and get the healing process started.
Witch hazel’s astringent properties that relieve swelling and irritation have been valued for generations. We would definitely recommend finding an alcohol-free product, though, because when your skin is in recovery mode the last thing you want to do is dry it out more! For the most soothing, post-sun experience, try keeping it in the fridge. A generous splash of icy-cool witch hazel feels amazing on post-sun skin. It’s worth keeping in your routine even after things have calmed down—it’s so easy to use and it’s a wonderful natural toner, while it’s antibacterial properties will help keep you blemish free.
While the skin-soothing effects of aloe are pretty much common knowledge these days, we would be remiss in not including it on any post-sun list. Aloe is a cooling plant gel packed with moisture, and it can be used straight from the plant. If you have aloe growing at home, all you need to do is cut and split a spear or two, and either scoop out the gel from the middle, or cut off the skin. Some people prefer to use a blender to create a more spreadable gel, or you can simply take the solid piece you’ve cut and peeled, and rub that over your skin. If you don’t have aloe plants, you can buy the gel pre-prepared, and a number of great natural products include it as a primary ingredient.
Like aloe, plain yogurt feels deeply soothing on burnt or tired skin—especially if you use it straight from the fridge. Its lactic acid will help break down the uppermost, dead layers of skin to reveal the new, healthy skin below, and the probiotics and zinc in yogurt can both have anti-inflammatory effects. Just use it straight from the container, using circular motions to apply enough for a moderate layer over the areas you feel need some tlc. Leave on for about 20 minutes, rinse off with cool water, and gently pat skin dry. Use on an ongoing basis as a gentle exfoliant and all round skin-helper!
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar can really help with another of summer’s little scourges: bug bites. It’s great for reducing stings and itchiness. It’s held to have antiseptic and ph-restoring properties that are good for calming skin down overall, but if you’re going to treat anything more than a small, localized bite, definitely start by diluting the vinegar with water—it does contain fairly high concentrations of alpha hydroxy acids, after all! There are a number of ways you can apply Apple cider vinegar: mixed with water in a spray bottle; on a damp cloth and then pressed gently onto your skin; added to a bath (just use a couple of tablespoons or so, and test the water for your personal tolerance before you get in); diluted with water and splashed onto the skin as a rinse.
Once you’ve dealt with any initial reddening and drying effects of too much sun/water/wind exposure, using rich, nutrient filled oils is a great way to rebuild your skin’s basic health and overall balance. Some of our favourite essential oils for skin health include rose, rosehip, clary sage, myrrh and frankincense, while avocado, argan, jojoba, and apricot oils are fantastic base oils. Don’t forget to be careful when using essential oils that haven’t been pre-blended into a specific product! They are very potent and there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, so be sure to patch test your skin’s reaction and/or dilute with a carrier oil.
And finally, what you put inside you can make as much difference in the long term as what you put on the outside. When it comes to diet and skin, it can be helpful to think about things from the perspective of these three categories;
Foods that are high in skin-strengthening Omega fatty acids, such as oily fish, chia seeds, flaxseed and walnuts, and avocados.
Foods that are high in collagen-boosting vitamin C, such as bell peppers, strawberries, citrus fruits, kale and broccoli.
Foods that are high antioxidant-rich vitamins A and E, such as almond butter, swiss chard, wheat germ, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, carrots and cantaloupe.
Oh, and don’t forget water! Drink lots of it! :)