Natural Remedies for Summer Skin Woes

Discover natural ways to treat and prevent sunburn, poison ivy, bug bites, poison oak rashes, and skin imitation with our at-home remedies.
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Sunburn girl

Photo via ELLE

As we shed our warmer layers and sport shorts, tank tops, and swimsuits all season long (yay!), we also expose ourselves to a whole new set of skin problems that only the warmer weather has to offer (not-so yay!). 

Read on to learn how to prevent and treat common summer skin problems:

How to Prevent and Treat Sunburn


Photo via ELLE

How to Prevent Sunburn:

To avoid painful, red, itchy, swollen, and blistering burns, minimize prolonged exposure to direct sunlight, especially between the hours of 10am and 4pm, when the sun's rays are the strongest.

Stay in the shade when possible and apply (and reapply!) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher when spending long periods of time outdoors. Even if the sun's not out, you can still develop a sunburn on an overcast day or in the shade!

Adding more tomatoes to your diet may also help combat against sun damage. Research suggests that consuming high levels of lycopene, a phytochemical responsible for producing the characteristic red pigment of tomatoes and other crimson produce, is linked to increased skin cell production, repair, and overall good skin health, and can provide additional protection from the sun's harmful rays.

How to Treat Sunburn:

  • Aloe Vera - The gel from the inside of the leaves of the aloe vera plant will provide cooling relief when applied to sizzled skin. Instead of rubbing the gel in, leave on a thin film to moisturize and prevent your skin from drying out further.
  • Oatmeal - Apply cool, cooked oatmeal directly to your skin or add about a cup of oats wrapped in cheesecloth or nylon tights to cool bathwater for a refreshing soak. Oats' natural anti-inflammatory properties will help to relieve sunburn pain.
  • Tea - Apply dampened tea bags directly to your skin or let several of them steep in warm bathwater. The powerful antioxidants that benefit your body from drinking tea also work to soothe inflammation when applied topically.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar - The acetic acid found within vinegar may help relieve itching, peeling, and swelling.

How to Prevent and Treat Bug Bites

How to Prevent Bug Bites:

Stay inside between the hours of dusk and dawn when temperatures are cooler and mosquitoes are out on the prowl. These bothersome bugs are most active during the evening and early morning hours, and are also abundant in shaded areas where there is an absence of direct sunlight.

Empty flower pots, bird feeders, and other areas that collect water after it rains since mosquitoes lay their eggs in stagnant pools of water.

Avoid walking through tall grasses and weedy areas where insects and all types of creepy crawlers like to dwell. Covering up as much as you can will lessen your chances of being bitten. Opt for loosely-fitting clothes as mosquitoes can easily bite through tight fitting fabric.

How to Treat Bug Bites:

  • Ice - Applying ice immediately after you have been bitten can significantly reduce redness and swelling by restricting blood flow to the area.
  • Aloe Vera - The cooling gel from the plant's leaves will help calm the itching sensation after getting bitten.

How to Avoid and Treat Poison Ivy/Poison Oak

How to Prevent Poison Ivy Rash:

The intense red, itchy, painful rash that accompanies an encounter with these summer-loving plants is the result of contact dermatitis, an allergic reaction to the urushiol oil found within the leaves, stems, and roots. Approximately 85% of the population will develop a rash in reaction to urushiol oil.

Listen to the old adage, "Leaves of three, let them be," and stay clear of these pesky plants by knowing what to look out for. Poison ivy grows as a trailing or climbing vine with shiny, red stemmed leaves in clusters of threeand can be found all over the US while its cousin, poison oak, a shrub with similar three leaf clusters, is prevalent in southeast and west coast regions.

Make sure to wash any clothing that has come in contact with these plants as urushiol oil remains potent within clothing for years and can spread or cause recurring bouts of the painful rash.

How to Treat Poison Ivy:

  • Cucumber - For cooling and calming relief, apply fresh cucumber slices to the affected areas.
  • Oatmeal - Wrap about one cup of oats in cheesecloth or nylon tights and place into lukewarm bathwater. Soaking in the tub for at least 30 minutes can help dry up blistering and relieve itching.
  • Lemon Juice - The highly acidic juice will help to dry out the urushiol oil absorbed by your skin and can alleviate itching.

Immediately wash the affected area with soap and water to remove as much of the oil from your body as possible. DO NOT take a hot shower within 24 hours of exposure. Hot water will open your pores, allowing the oil to easily penetrate your skin, and worsen your reaction.

General Tips for Calming Summer Skin Irritation

Applying lotion

Photo via ELLE

Applying a cold compress to an affected area will constrict blood vessels, helping to reduce redness and inflammation and alleviate some discomfort.

Sunburns, bug bite reactions, and rashes from poison ivy and poison oak are generally short-term and go away within a week or two. (Poison ivy and poison oak rashes, depending on the extent of the affected areas, may take longer for symptoms to disappear.)

While you can use a variety of different methods to treat pain and discomfort, there is no way to "cure" these conditions. The only thing you can do is to be patient and allow your body to heal itself over time.

If symptoms are severe and long lasting, schedule a visit to see a doctor in case your condition is worsening. You may require more serious medical care.


Did you find any of these natural remedies effective? Have any tips or tricks for alleviating an itch or burn? Have an interesting run-in with one of these summer skin irritants that you want to share? Comment below!

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