It is so easy to forget many simple, but essential, necessities in the frenzy of preparing for your summer holiday. Here are some fantastic tips and product suggestions to keep you protected, radiant and healthy.
1. LIP CHECK
In our efforts to protect ourselves from the ravages of the sun, our lips often get overlooked – and the fact that so many lipsticks and balms still don’t contain sun protection doesn’t make things any easier. Ultraviolet light can be damaging to lips, which are thin to begin with and lack the ability to produce melanin, the tanning pigment that protects skin. So get in the habit of packing a natural lip balm that also offers sun protection.
My favourite lip balm is Bee Natural and it has SPF15. It also comes in a tub, so I just decant. It can also be used for bites and is safe for babies.
2. THE SUNLESS TAN
For a sun-kissed look without sun damage, try a self-tanning product which safely darken your skin into a believable tan. Try Xen Tan and TanOrganic (an organic self-tanning product). I also like Caribbean Tan – a sunscreen range that protects your skin while it bronzes it. Then there is a ‘new' tan delivery system via a nasal spray: Betatan's Melanotan nasal spray.
3. SHIELD YOUR EYES
Invest in good sunglasses. Without consistent protection from the sun, your eyes are vulnerable to corneal damage and cataracts. Cheap over-the-counter sunglasses are unlikely to give you the protection you’re looking for. Ask for UV coating for prescription eyewear, too – for clear as well as for tinted lenses. And think of as many excuses as possible to wear a broad-brimmed hat.
4. SUMMER CAN BE HELL ON SKIN AND HAIR
Make sure you use a good moisturiser such as Busby’s Liquid Gold for hands and body, Soy Lite’s Luxury Beauty Oil with organic Baobab and Marula oil, Cream Mask from Esse and Dr Hauschka’s Rose Day Cream. Also try Mississippi Mud Pie, face and body mask from Hey Gorgeous, 100% natural and leaves skin glowing and radiant.
Chlorine, salt water, wind, and sun – you can’t find a worse combination, especially if you colour your hair. To help seal your strands against at least some of the damage, choose an SPF-enriched shampoo and conditioner to protect your hair the same way you do your skin. Along with SPF in your hair products, the best protection from the sun is a hat or a head scarf.
Other ways to protect your hair:
- Massage a small amount of conditioner (or coconut oil) into your hair before heading to the beach or jumping into the pool to help protect it from sun, salt water and chlorine. Even just wetting your hair with plain water before hitting the pool can keep it from soaking up too much chlorine. And whenever possible, wear a swimming cap.
- Treat dry hair to moisturising products. There are several natural options on the shelves. I like the Naturalmente’s Aloe and Sandalwood Shampoo, and Parsley and Lavender Hair Conditioner from the Victorian Garden. I must also mention the versatile ArganRoyal’s luxurious hair and body care oil: a deeply moisturising product for the face, décolleté, breast, nails and hair… AND it reduces scarring and stretch marks.
- Here’s more on fighting chlorine. Mix 2 tablespoons of baking soda, 1⁄4 cup fresh lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon mild shampoo, such as baby or chamomile shampoo. Wet your hair and massage the mixture into it, cover with a shower cap for 30 minutes, then rinse and shampoo.
Remember to hydrate! Experiment – make water interesting by adding berry ice blocks, mint, lemon, ginger or fruit slices.
- Green iced tea. Put four green tea bags in a litre of water and let it steep for four hours, then chill. To serve, sweeten with stevia or honey, and garnish with mint leaves.
- Replenish sweat loss. Working out hard in the sun can lead to the loss of vital electrolytes, which is why electrolyte-rich drinks can be important for athletes. So don’t forget the coconut water!
6. THE HERBS OF SUMMER
For summer aches, pains, scrapes and bites, holistic doctor and herbalist Dr Lois Johnson recommends keeping the following herbs on hand:
- Ginger soothes a troubled tummy, be it from a bad meal or a stomach-heaving drive. Chew it raw, use it as a tea or tincture, or take it in capsule form (250 to 500 mg every 4 to 6 hours as needed). ‘This is a summer all-star,’ says Johnson. ‘Once when I had car sickness, all I had to do was sniff ginger essential oil to feel better.’ A very good product for travel nausea is TravelRite. See our review: Product Review – TravelRite®
- Lavender helps soothe scrapes, abrasions, insect bites, minor lacerations and sunburn. ‘This is a tremendous anti-inflammatory that heals and soothes the skin,’ says Johnson. ‘If I ever get a mosquito bite, I put the lavender on immediately to reduce swelling and itching.’ It’s best to apply pure lavender oil, available at health food stores.
- Stinging nettles. To treat hay fever and other allergies, Johnson advises taking 300 mg a day (in freeze-dried capsule form), starting a month ahead of allergy season and continuing until it’s over.
- Tea tree oil kills bacteria and fungi. Found in any number of products, diluted tea tree oil can be used as an all-purpose antiseptic. ‘It can keep a wound clean and prevent infection,’ says Johnson, who also uses it as an anti-fungal for athlete’s foot.
7. SKIN SOOTHERS
- Aloe ferox. If you have room in your life for just one indoor plant, make it Aloe ferox, indigenous to South Africa. Unlike its sister plant Aloe Vera, Aloe ferox contains aloin, a powerful anti-oxidant. The plant’s gooey gel, appears to act as a mild antiseptic that soothes sunburns, mosquito bites and skin rashes. Choose the biggest plant you can find because Aloe’s potency increases with age. Or just pick up some of the pure gel at a health shop, but some have too little Aloe to do your skin much good. Read labels to determine the percentage of Aloe gel in the formula and choose products with the highest content. If you wish, put the gel in a small jar and mix a little vitamin E oil in with it. Vitamin E makes a good natural burn healer. I love Super HydroGel from Silver Genesis and won’t travel without it. It is an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal moisturizing gel and it works! Another favourite is Aloe 24/7's organic aloe gel as they use the soothing rich gel as well as bitter sap from the Aloe ferox plant. The gel is cooling and the sap has strong antiseptic, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties. I use it for any bruising and swelling.
- Emergency skin repair. Fill the bath with lukewarm water. Add 2 to 3 cups of tomato juice or witch hazel, or sprinkle in 1 cup of baking soda. Then lower your tender, sunburned body in for a long, healing soak. ‘All of these ingredients are naturally cooling, and can help speed skin recovery while soothing pain,’ says Janice Cox, author of Natural Beauty for All Seasons. And don’t forget to drink lots of water. A well-hydrated body heals much faster.
8. TREATING A MINOR OR MAJOR FIRST DEGREE BURN WOUND
Speedy treatment is essential. The burn should be put under cold running water or packed in ice for one minute. (There is a 20-minute critical period during which this treatment is most effective.)
- Tea tree oiI is a non-greasy and volatile oil, and is excellent for burns. Residual oil which has not been absorbed within 10 minutes will evaporate, allowing the skin to breathe. Tea tree oil soothes pain and prevents infection while speeding up the healing process. Diluted tea tree essential oil can be applied to the burn. If the wound is very painful, put a few drops of diluted tea tree oil on a bandage, and wrap it around the affected area. The oil can be applied twice daily for three to four days if necessary. I love Burnshield Emergency Burn Care and First Aid Kits. Visit www.burnshield.com and make sure you have their first aid kit when you travel, and in the kitchen at all times.
- Honey can be spectacularly effective for severe burns and is the basis of a therapy in China that has attracted much attention from doctors in the West. It is soothing, antiseptic and healing. However, I wouldn’t depend on the honey from the supermarket – or the health food store – to treat your next burn. Instead, try one of the medicinal honeys. The type used in New Zealand research on honey for wound healing is known as manuka honey, and is available commercially. German physicians have been using Medihoney for the treatment of persistent wounds. If you have a bad burn, be sure to get prompt medical treatment. Using honey correctly to treat a serious wound requires considerable expertise. When applied to a burn, honey draws out fluids from the tissues, effectively cleaning the wound. You may also apply the honey to a gauze bandage, which is less sticky than direct application. Change the dressing three to four times a day.
- Coconut oil and lemon juice both can help to treat minor burns. Coconut oil is rich in vitamin E and fatty acids that offer anti-fungal, anti-oxidising and anti-bacterial properties. Lemon juice has acidic properties that naturally lighten the scars. For scalds due to burns, take coconut oil and add some lemon juice to it. Mix it properly and apply it to the scalds to facilitate healing.
- The tannic acid in black tea can help draw heat out of a burn and thus reduce pain. Put three tea bags in a cup of cool water and let them sit for a few minutes. Then dab the tea bags gently on the burned area. You can also put cold, wet tea bags directly on the burn and wrap them with a piece of gauze to hold them in place.
Severe burns: Go to the hospital immediately for more severe burns. Emergency treatment is essential to prevent dehydration and shock.
9. BUG OFF, NATURALLY
Find natural products that use ingredients such as oils of citronella, cedar wood and eucalyptus. Mosquitoes may land on you, but then they fly away without biting. Other ways to make yourself repellent are to take 100 mg of vitamin B1 daily, or take 2 to 3 garlic capsules (undeodorised) every four hours if you’re going to be in a heavily infested area. I just love the insect repellent spray from Beautiful Earth. Strategically arrayed bouquets of pennyroyal can ward off mosquitoes. Another approach is to try tea tree oil, a natural antiseptic long used to treat insect bites and other skin irritations. Homeopathic creams may relieve itching and inflammation from mosquito bites.
After the trip, stay alert. Problems can surface after your return. It can be weeks before parasitic infections show up, and malaria can hide for up to a year, and bilharzia for much longer! The most important symptom to be aware of is fever, particularly fever with chills. Depending on your itinerary, your doctor may need to rule out malaria, typhoid fever or other problematic ‘souvenirs’. If you find yourself particularly tired and you have been in fresh water, check for bilharzia. It is more common than we think.
10. MINIMISE THE RASH
You’ve just bounded happily through a field, and now you notice that you have a rash. Shower to wash off the plant oils with soap. Take quercetin, a flavonoid often recommended for allergy sufferers, 2 to 3 grams a day in divided doses until the rash clears. It’s even more effective when taken with 500 to 1000 mg of vitamin C. And here also, the Super HydroGel will be very useful…
11. SORE MUSCLES
Arnica speeds recovery from sore muscles, aches, swelling and bruising. Pack the gel and/or cream as well as the homeopathic arnica. Magnesium is a very popular kid on the block these days. Make sure you buy a credible product such as the topical magnesium spray Lifematrix Magnesium Oil.
Cramps, migraines, insomnia and stress may be related to magnesium deficiency. If you prefer a dietary supplement, there are a few very good products on the market today.
- Invite the good bugs. Pack probiotics! These good bacteria can help you fight off any new bugs that might invade your digestive system, says our expert Dr Elson Haas. Take capsules of hydrochloric acid with meals – it’s a ‘good’ acid that acidifies the digestive tract, making it harder for the bad bugs to gain hold. I prefer the oil-based Reuterina drops as you don’t need to keep it in the fridge, or any probiotic with DR Caps to keep the probiotic safe from digestive juices until it enters the gut. One such product is FloraCare from Progast. See our Product Review – PROGAST® FloraCare Forte.
- Avoid dubious food or water. Ingesting contaminated food and drink can cause a variety of infections, from E. coli to giardiasis and hepatitis A. This is a particular problem for travelers in developing countries. Boil water vigorously or disinfect it with iodine; portable filters impregnated with resins, sold at camping stores, are another option. Consider all your water sources even ice cubes in a drink or brushing your teeth with tap water can make you sick. If you don’t know that the local fare is safe, choose cooked or steamed food over raw. Peel fruit before eating it, and avoid salads and unpasteurized milk products.
- Take your vitamins. The last thing you may think of packing are your vitamins. But a trip is one of those times you need them most, says Dr Haas. On a high-stress trip – one that, say, has you changing time zones or spending lots of time in a plane’s pressurized cabin (a perfect breeding ground for germs) – taking antioxidants can help you stay healthy. Haas recommends vitamins C (1 to 3 g) and E (400 to 800 IU), beta-carotene (15 000 to 30 000 IU), selenium (100 to 200 mcg) and lipoic acid (100 to 200 mg). When it comes to catching nasty bugs, prevention is always better than cure. I use Echinaforce daily, not just during the holiday season. But if you want to come home without a winter cold this summer, start taking Echinaforce at least four days before you depart.
- Fly without fatigue. I always travel with spirulina tablets. They protect against radiation and give me loads of energy! Many time-zone hoppers also swear by melatonin, if you can still find it on the shelf! Take 1 to 3 milligrams of thee time-release version a couple of nights before leaving and at bedtime when you arrive, and repeat the process before returning home.
13. DURING THE FLIGHT
- Try to minimize nasal dryness since breaks in the mucus membrane can facilitate infections. Take along an over-the-counter zinc-based nasal gel or saline gel.
- Wash your hands often. On land and in the air, frequent hand-washing prevents the transmission of respiratory and gastro-intestinal diseases.
- Keep moving. Move around the airplane cabin every 15 to 30 minutes. Women on oral contraceptives are at higher risk for blood clots when airborne, so they should stay hydrated and walk whenever possible. If you can’t get up, do a series of in-seat exercises like toe-wiggles, ankle rotations, knee lifts and shoulder shrugs. I love Dr. Hauschka’s Rozemarijn lotion for heavy legs, as well as BetterYou™ MagnesiumOil Goodnight spray – a unique combination of the purest form of magnesium chloride and essential oils formulated to soothe, relax and harmonise restless legs.
- Compression stockings, available at pharmacies and medical supply stores, have been shown to reduce clot risk; wearing them during and a day after the flight is recommended.
Use this time of travel to meet yourself. Enjoy growing and learning as you travel and rest deeply whenever you can. Bon voyage!