With a few 90-degree days already behind us, it’s time to prepare for some of the delights and challenges of the warmer months in central Texas.
Here are some essentials for stocking your natural medicine cabinet in preparation for Austin’s sultry season:
1) Tecnu Outdoor Skin Cleanser – If you’re included in the 85% of the population who has a reaction to poison ivy/oak, this product is great to have on hand. To use, simply wash with Tecnu within 8 hours after exposure to the plants (the sooner the better).
Many people believe that poison ivy/oak rashes spread from one part of their body to others. However, it’s the repeated contact with the urushiol oil, which is the irritating oil of the plant, that causes the rash to appear in other places. Contaminated clothing, shoes, tools and pets are all sources of continued oil exposure, which causes a rash that appears as though it is spreading. The rash itself cannot spread throughout your body; it can only spread through the oil. The oil cannot spread via air, except for cases when the plant is disturbed (burning the plants, weedwacking, mowing, etc).
Although the rash usually appears 1-2 days after your skin has contacted the plant’s oils, it may take a week or longer the first time you develop a poison ivy/oak rash. It’s a good idea to wash all clothing, pets or tools that might be carrying the oil with a product like Tecnu. If you’re a purist you should know Tecnu is not completely natural, but it is a great way to address the issue ahead of time before heading to stronger treatments such as steroids.
Urushiol-containing plants are widespread throughout Austin’s trails and parks, so it can be hard to avoid them entirely. However, prevention is best when it comes to poison ivy/oak dermatitis, so start by familiarizing yourself with the appearance of the plants in order to avoid contact. You can learn more about how to identify these plants here.
2) Badger Anti-Bug Spray – Mosquito season is around the corner, and you might be looking for natural alternatives to DEET-based bug sprays. Badger Anti-Bug Spray contains a blend of natural plant-based oils and essential oils to repel mosquitoes. It has a pleasant aroma and it’s easy to get good coverage with the mist. Removing standing water sources from yards and wearing lightweight, long-sleeved garments will also minimize the need for protection. More information on DEET’s toxicity profile can be found at EXTOXNET.
3) Living Clay Powder – Available as a dry powder that can be mixed in water or as a pre-mixed mask, this bentonite clay product can provide relief for all things itchy, including poison ivy rashes and insect bites. For those whose skin is oily and prone to breakouts in the summer months, it makes for a great facial mask, drawing out excess oil and leaving your skin feeling incredibly smooth.
4) Ditch the Itch Spray and Bar Soap – If despite taking the above measures, you succumb to a poison ivy rash or itchy mosquito bites, consider this skin-soothing line from All Terrain. Ditch the Itch Spray and Bar Soap can be used to soothe skin that is suffering from all things itchy. Controlling the itch is important for symptom relief, but also to prevent scratching that can lead to secondary skin infections.
5) Vanicream Sport Sunscreen – Outdoorsy Austinites may spend most of the year wearing sunscreen, so it’s important to closely examine the safety of sunscreen. Sunscreens use either chemical or mineral barriers to protect the skin from the sun’s UV rays. Several of the chemical barriers including oxybenzone, octinoxate and homosalate, are endocrine disruptors, meaning they create undesirable hormone-mimicking activity in the body. To check the safety of your sunscreen, check out the Environmental Working Group’s yearly report on sunscreen safety, which includes detailed information about each brand and its overall safety ranking. My personal favorite is Vanicream Sport Sunscreen, as it’s not greasy and rubs in easily without leaving a chalky appearance. Other staff favorites at Peoples Rx include Badger and Blue Lizard brands. Don’t forget to keep tabs on your Vitamin D levels throughout the year, to make sure that you find the balance between skin protection and Vitamin D levels.
Dr. Amy Tyler, ND* received her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University and also holds a BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. She takes the time to listen closely to her clients and to educate them, empowering them to gain a deeper understanding and ownership of their health. Her individualized wellness plans, incorporating herbs, homeopathy, nutritional supplements, and nutrition and lifestyle advice, are designed to support the body’s innate healing abilities.
*Naturopathic doctors are not currently licensed in the state of Texas.