Here we are, in the heart of summer. No more school. Work is on hold, the week requested off. The sweet sunshine is shimmering down atop the rippling water of lakes, the soft sand beaches of paradise, or even something so lowly as the pool down the street. Wherever destiny may be taking us, summer vacation is near, and its time to start planning. Or, better yet, packing.
However, just because we are set to take it easy doesn’t mean that we can’t still think about reducing our planetary footprints, protecting our own (not to mention loved ones) bodies or saving a little cash. One great way of doing all three of these things, before we’ve even boarded that plane, boat or bus, is to make our own summertime vacation supplies at home. It’s easy. It’s cost-effective. It’s much healthier.
Sunscreen is not quite the safety angel we once thought it was. While sun cancer is a real concern, especially for the fair-skinned amongst us, applying more store-bought suntan lotions is replacing one potential natural problem — overexposure to, not actually, the sun — with carcinogenic chemicals that can disrupt hormones, release free radicals, and negatively react with skin. Common sunscreen chemicals to avoid include oxybenzone, octinoxate, homosalate, octocylene, and many more.
There are natural sunscreens out there, including wearing appropriate clothing and utilizing the shade. Packing plenty of lightweight coverups, such as a hat, a sarong, and an umbrella, to provide 100 percent protection. But, for those times when covering up just doesn’t work, here’s a simple sunscreen recipe:
- Combine ½ cup of olive oil with a ¼ cup of melted coconut oil.
- Then, 2 tablespoons of liquefied shea butter
- For extra SPF, 15 drops of organic carrot seed oil and/or red raspberry seed oil
- And, lastly 2 tablespoons non-nano (this one doesn’t absorb into the skin) zinc oxide
Note: In order to make this waterproof, DIYers generally use beeswax, but this option obviously doesn’t suit us all. So, those opposed to using beeswax should keep in mind that this sunscreen is meant to stay atop the skin, blocking the sun, rather than absorbing into the skin, which is often what makes the store-bought sunscreens problematic. However, water washing sunscreen away might be our problem.
For those heading into the wilderness, bug bites are probably a concern, especially with the recent scares with the Zika virus. It’s tough. We want to be in and appreciate nature, but we don’t want to get bitten, putting ourselves at risk for serious illnesses. But, by now, most of us are also aware that bug sprays come with some irrefutably troublesome risk all their own: DEET’s damaging effects — horrible for our central nervous system — are old news. So, if we don’t want to get bitten, and we don’t want to use DEET, what are we supposed to do?
Again, that’s just us worrying about ourselves (voluntarily applying chemicals), but DEET has long been a bane to the environment, specifically getting into our water sources. Unsurprisingly, it’s also toxic for fish. As a popular pesticide, it also kills insects, not just deters mosquitoes.
There are a host of alternatives out there, but it’s nearly as easy (as finding or ordering them) to simply make one at home, using components with which we are comfortable. With only a few ingredients and a spray bottle, we are ready to get into the great outdoors. Try this mixture for starters:
- A ½ cup of witch hazel combined with a ½ cup of distilled water
- About of hundred drops of mixed bug-deterring essential oils: citronella, lemongrass, rosemary, clove, lavender, tea tree, any kind of mint, etc.
Tip: It’s a good idea to repel insects out of the general area. This can be achieved by spraying the above mixture onto wooden surface or creating a bug deterring potpourri from the kitchen cabinet and herb garden.
Whether or not we use store-bought or DIY sunscreens and bug sprays, accidents can and do happen. People at the beach inevitably get sunburnt, and camping will likely come with a bite or two. It’s just life. Once again, however, we needn’t turn to chemical creams to soothe our pains. The industries just haven’t been respectful to our health, not taking into account the side effects of their products. But, nature provides what we need.
Luckily, soothing is soothing, and most of the things that’ll help with the itchy, burning sunburn will help with the itchy, burning bug bite. So, we can make ourselves a good all purpose ointment for bite and burn relief, as well as recovery. Here’s what to include:
- Melt a cup of cold-press coconut oil in a low heat oven (or olive oil at room temperature)
- Add a two tablespoons of dried calendula flowers, plantain (the weed, not the fruit) leaves, and comfrey leaves, as well as a tsp of dried yarrow and another of rosemary
- Let the herbs infuse in warm oil for about four hours (or four weeks for the olive oil)
- Strain out the herbs with a cheesecloth
- Combine well the infused oil with two tablespoons melted candelilla wax.
- For extra measure, add five drops of lavender, tea tree, and Vitamin E essential oils once the mixture has cooled
FIY: Aloe vera gel is another great option, and of course, aloe vera — the plant — is renowned for dealing with burns. To make your own gel, just cut a leaf and squeeze it into a jar. Add a couple of drops of Vitamin E oil and a bit of citrus (to prevent discoloration). Refrigerated, it’ll last about a week.
It won’t take long to get these made before setting off on that trip. After that, why not make some all-natural travel-sized toiletries to take as well.