Summer is the most wonderful time of year for diving into all your favorite outdoor activities: swimming, hiking, camping, cooking out … what could be better? Still, the best parts of the season come with some risk: Sometimes no matter how much sunscreen and insect repellent you apply, you still wind up with a burn or bug bites. Stinging cheeks or itchy ankles don’t have to ruin your fun, though. Take advantage of these tried-and-true home remedies that will take the sting out of summer skin mishaps.
Homemade Help for Sunburns
We’d be remiss not to remind you that the best sunburn remedy of all is that ounce of prevention. A high SPF sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays is a non-negotiable part of being outside in the summertime — after all, it protects you from potentially deadly melanoma. Still, we know that sometimes sunburns happen, and these homemade remedies can help cool the burn:
- Cold Compress: A sunburn is, in fact, a real burn, and your inflamed skin will feel much better if you can chill it down. Wrap an ice pack from your cooler in a tea towel and hold it lightly against the burns until you feel relief. You can also try dipping a washcloth in a mixture of half skim milk and half ice water for a healing compress. The proteins in the milk can provide some mild skin relief.
- Icy Aloe: If you have an aloe plant in your home (and you really should — they’re easy to grow and incredibly useful), break off the tip of one of its leaves and rub the clear gel that emerges directly onto your skin. Aloe has been used for thousands of years for its healing properties, and the gel is also a good natural moisturizer, which might help save you from peeling later. If you don’t have an aloe plant, try keeping a bottle of Pure Aloe Vera Gel in the fridge. Pro tip: Squirt the gel into ice cube trays and freeze for even quicker relief when you need it most.
- Oatmeal Baths: Did your mom ever plunk you into an oatmeal bath to relieve the itching from a bad case of chickenpox? If you’re too burnt to take the pain of a strong shower, try soaking in a tepid bath with fine-ground oatmeal instead. You can use regular, plain oatmeal and blitz it in a food processor, then add a cup of the powdery meal to the tub and give it a stir. The oatmeal will help reduce inflammation and relieve any itching that comes as your skin dries and tightens as a result of the burn.
Relief for Itchy Insect Bites
Mosquito-borne illnesses ranging from EEE to Zika are a major health hazard in the summer, so using an appropriate insect repellent when outdoors at dusk and into the evening is smart prevention. No bug spray is guaranteed to keep away every single creepy-crawly, though, so here’s what you can whip up to take the sting out summer insect bites:
- Ice It Down: One quick way to stop a mosquito bite from becoming a major distraction is to grab a piece of ice and hold it on the bite for several minutes. This disrupts your nervous system and keeps the “itchy” signals from getting to your brain. If you can keep from scratching for the first couple hours, you’re probably in the clear.
- Dab With Orajel: If you’re already feeling the itch, stop it in its tracks with a product you might have lying around the house: Orajel. This tiny tube of numbing gel is usually used to help stop teething babies’ tears, but it will numb anything it touches. Use the applicator tip to rub a tiny bit of the gel right around the bug bite, and in seconds your itching will be completely gone.
- Slip on Some Banana Peel: This Chinese method for treating bug bites is easy and fun for kids — they’ll get a snack out of it, too! Simply peel a banana and press the inside of the peel onto the bug bite, rubbing in occasionally to crush the soft part of the peel onto your skin. After five minutes, remove the peel and discard, but allow any banana residue to dry in place on the skin to continue relieving the itch for the rest of the day.
Other Summer Skin Solutions
Sunburns and bug bites aren’t the only things that can irritate the skin you’re in this summer. Razor burn, heat rash and stings? We’ve got you covered:
- Jellyfish Stings: The Mayo Clinic recommends removing any remaining bit of the stinger or tentacles and rinsing with vinegar for 30 seconds. If that doesn’t take away the pain, try applying a paste of baking soda and water (preferably seawater) to counteract a different type of stinger.
- Allergic Hives: Summer allergies can appear suddenly. Whether you’ve broken out into hives as a reaction to excess pollen, oils from an irritating plant or a bee sting, try applying chilled green tea bags to the affected area. Make them ahead of time by soaking the tea bags in hot water for five minutes, then storing them in an air-tight bag in the fridge until needed.
- Chafing and Irritation: You don’t have to be an athlete to experience uncomfortable skin chafing in the heat of the summer. Any time your sweaty skin rubs against each other, you’re at risk. Pat on some clean cornstarch to absorb excess moisture and reduce friction so your skin can heal.
- Ingrown Hairs: All that extra shaving in the summer can result in uncomfortable red bumps from ingrown hairs, especially along your bikini line. To solve this common problem, gently exfoliate the area to release the hairs. You can do this with a little raw honey and granulated sugar: Simply dip your fingertips into the honey, then dip them into the sugar. Use gentle, circular motions to work the scrub into the skin and rinse thoroughly. The raw honey has antibacterial properties that will help your skin heal quickly.
- Poison Ivy: Try applying a cold compress of apple cider vinegar to draw out the toxins causing the itch. You can also soak in that cool oatmeal bath we mentioned earlier for some heavy-duty itch relief.
No matter what the summer throws at you, odds are good that you already have everything you need to face it in your home already. To really be prepared this season, try putting together a mini first-aid kit of these helpful ingredients so you’ll be able to provide the right remedy at a moment’s notice. With these useful, natural ingredients on hand, you’ll be able to nip summer skin problems in the bud and get back to enjoying the best time of the year.