Now is the season when one tends to overdo it in the sun. (For those of my friends who wear a lot of black and hiss when people open the drapes, the sun is that evil daystar thing.) There are tons of products on the drugstore shelves for sunburn, but an extraordinary amount of them contain lidocaine, which has a surprisingly high allergy rate, and can be fatal if overused. To be fair; so can salt…I’m not sure how much lidocaine you’d have to use to cause death, but I’m sure it’s a whole lot.
But why tempt the fates when you could just smear yourself with mustard? Folklorist swear by it. I personally wouldn’t let anyone slathered in condiments wander around the good furniture, but I’m picky that way. Folklore also suggests baking soda compresses, bathing in goat’s milk, and taking an aspirin. All of which have their merits, as does a strong martini.
I keep a couple of things around in case one or all of us at the Hollow find ourselves abundantly blessed by Apollo.
- Aloe Vera plants. Easy to grow, almost impossible to kill, best thing in the world for any kind of burn.
- Rose Hydrosol: It smells good, it feels great, it helps cool the skin…and you can make desserts with it.
- Cucumber water: in a covered steamer with about 2 quarts of water, steam 3 or 4 sliced (unwaxed) cucumbers for 5 minutes. Let the pot cool, and all the condensed water return to below the steamer basket. Strain water into containers and freeze. (I use ice cube trays, then dump the cubes into gallon zipper bag for easy retrieval.) Remove from freezer as needed for sunburns, refreshing drinks and a salad spritzer that will keep your greens looking fresh for much longer. (If your cucumbers are waxed, peel them first, the wax compounds can be kinda spooky.)
- Lavender Oil: .33 ounces pure essential oil, .67 ounces light, cold pressed oil like apricot kernel, evening primrose, cherry, etc.
- Cocoa butter, shea butter, and mango butter with or without essential oils feels great. Keep in mind that unless you’re buying them locally, in many cases you don’t want to ship those butters during the summer. The radical heat changes during the shipping process can make them icky. Nobody wants that.
- Blue Chamomile oil is another soothing oil for burns, but it’s prohibitively expensive.
- Bergamot oil is great for burns, but the high content of bergaptene can cause photo-toxicity. Bergamot and sunlight together are contraindicated. It is advisable to keep treated skin out of the sun, and to use it in concentrations of less than 1 %.
- Tea Tree oil has often been recommended, and it is a fantastic oil for a lot of things, but in practice, I’ve never seen a significant difference on sunburns with tea tree. Actual burns, where there is an infection possibility, then absolutely tea tree should be added to the blend, but for a non blistering burn, I’ve not seen a difference.
- Mint compress and reduction: Take a handful of fresh mint (any variety) and toss it in to 2 quarts of boiling water. Remove from heat, and let steep for 30 minutes. Strain mint tea into a container that can be refrigerated. Scoop boiled mint leaves into cheesecloth and allow to cool. Once cool, press the compress lightly onto the burn, refresh as necessary with your cold mint tea. Also spritz the tea on to burn areas for a quick skin cooling effect.
Remember, your best defense is a good sunblock, but on those occasions when even the SPF 70 lets you down, here’s some quick remedies, a lot of which involve stuff you already have around the house, and none of which will make neighborhood dogs follow you around because you smell like a bratwurst.