Soothing Summer Skin

Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean that you have to itch
By Dr. Linda Miles, DOM

Midsummer is full of activity: From backyard bashes to county fairs to afternoons on the pontoon, we’re bound to spend a lot of time outside. Although we may be thankful for the warmer temperatures, longer days, and fun in the sun, our skin may be singing a different tune.

Warmer temperatures and high humidity can lead to increased sweating, trapping moisture under the skin and causing rashes, irritation, and itching; sometimes, this perspiration even provides a breeding ground for bacterial and fungal issues. Plus, more time outdoors means you’re more likely to be dealing with insect bites, cuts, abrasions, poison oak or ivy, and itching from unknown causes.

When you open your medicine cabinet, what will you find to soothe your irritations? The good news is that you don’t have to reach for unsafe, chemical laden OTC products to get relief. This summer, reach for one of my favorite natural first aid remedies: tea tree oil.

Medicine Kit in a Bottle

Tea tree oil is extracted from the leaves of the Australian tea tree Melaleuca alternifolia and is characterized by its pungent odor and pale yellow color. It is remarkably complex, containing more than 100 compounds. Both the individual components and the synergistic reactions between those compounds contribute to tea tree oil’s broad spectrum of healing properties. Tea tree oil is a natural antiseptic, antibacterial, and antifungal, making it an integral part of your personal first aid kit.

Tea tree oil has been used for centuries as an effective topical treatment. Today, you can find a great amount of research backing this beneficial botanical, which shows just how effective it really is. Tea tree oil has been shown to successfully treat a wide variety of skin problems, including fungal infections on nails, athlete’s foot, ringworm, and scalp or skin fungi. In fact, one study compared a topical application of pure tea tree oil with a 1 percent clotrimazole solution (a pharmaceutical antifungal agent) for the treatment of nail fungus. After six months, researchers concluded that tea tree oil was as effective as the clotrim­azole solution at treating the fungal infection, improving nail appearance, and reducing symptoms. Other studies have evaluated the efficacy of tea tree oil for tinea pedis (athlete’s foot) and vaginal and oral candidosis (yeast-like fungal infections) in HIV patients, all with promising results.

Tea tree oil can also be used for sunburn, prickly heat, dermatitis, psoriasis, boils, pimples, cosmetic rashes, abrasions, bacterial skin infec­tions, and other irritations. Plus, it is an excellent insect repellent with natural solvent properties that help dissolve insect toxin in existing bites, which work to stop itching and allow the bite area to heal faster.

To help resolve skin conditions, wounds, and insect bites, you can apply pure oil or a dilution of tea tree oil directly to the skin. You can even add a few drops of tea tree oil to your favorite shampoo to alleviate scalp irritation, or to hand soaps to increase the antimicrobial capacity. Tea tree oil should not irritate the skin, but it is always a good idea to try a patch test first. Place a few drops of the oil on the inside of your arm and wait a few minutes. If any irritation occurs, discontinue use.

Creams, moisturizers, and itch relief products containing tea tree oil are also extremely beneficial; look for formulas that also contain moisturizing ingre­dients such as vitamin E. That way, you will not only get the healing powers of tea tree oil, but your skin can also reap the nourishing and hydrating benefits of this protective antioxidant. If itch relief is your primary concern, formulas that combine tea tree oil with soothing botanicals such as chamomile, calendula oil, evening primrose oil, peppermint, and chickweed are ideal for that much- needed cooling, calming sensation.

This summer, stock your medicine cabinet with tea tree oil for a speedy recovery and healthy, happy skin.

 

In celebration of derma e’s 30th anniversary, Dr. Linda Miles, cofounder and chief formulator for derma e, is hosting this column for the year. The column will address natural skincare solutions, natural skincare ingredients, and skincare issues. Visit Dr. Miles online at dermae.com.