Five Natural Ways to Keep Your Skin Healthy this Summer

Five Natural Ways to Keep Your Skin Healthy this Summer

Karla Renaud, M.Ac, L.OM. 

Summer is here, and so are the bug bites, sunburn and poison ivy! This year, why not try some natural remedies? Here are some safe and effective recommendations:

  • Try Essential Oils

Regular bug sprays are filled with toxic chemicals. You can avoid these by buying herbal insect repellents at natural foods markets, sporting good stores or online. The three key ingredients to look for are these plant oils: citronella, lemongrass, and peppermint, which are the most effective for repelling mosquitoes, fleas and chiggers in general. Also useful are cedar, rosemary and rose geranium oils, and the latest studies prove that the oil of the “lemon eucalyptus” tree does the best job repelling mosquitoes specifically. For bug sprays, the more plant oil ingredients the better, as certain types of mosquitoes are repelled by different scents. One caveat: if you are allergic to eating lemongrass in Thai food or are allergic to any of the plants listed above, then of course you should avoid using them.

  • Try Medicine from your Kitchen

If you love cooking with garlic, don’t hold back! Mosquitoes don’t like the garlic odor that comes off your body after eating it. Some mosquito repellent plants won’t grow well in our area, but you can grow rose geranium or rosemary in a large pot, and can even bring it inside for the winter to keep it growing. In the summer as you sit on your patio or balcony, pick a sprig or two, crush the leaves to release the oil and scatter the leaves around you.

  • Try These Simple Tips to Keep it from Spreading

Poison ivy is itchy and the fluid-filled bumps spread easily. Once you realize you have it, wash yourself and your clothing immediately and thoroughly - to avoid spreading the plant’s oils on your body further or onto other people, animals or even clothing and towels. There are special poison ivy soap bars containing jewelweed, but you may not have this on hand at home, so just use Dawn or another degreasing dish detergent. Don’t cover any fluid-filled bumps or open weeping sores with creams that are too thick, which will make it worse. I find that using a liquid wash or dry powder is best. You can usually treat this yourself, but if the rash spreads rapidly over your whole body, is on your face and causes your eyelids to swell shut, you should see your physician. If you start to have trouble breathing or swallowing go to the emergency room.

  • Try Chinese Herbs

A topical herb mixture I often give patients can be boiled in water to make a liquid wash or ground to a powder and applied directly. This mixture contains several dried plant and mineral substances to help itching and dry up the poison ivy quickly. If you want a completely prepared remedy, Six Fishes carries bottles of a wonderful herbal preparation called Yin Care™ that you can use topically for poison ivy. We will teach you how to apply it.

If the poison ivy has spread (because you didn’t know you had it and touched your hands or face), then internal herb teas to drink can also be used as the next step.

Got sunburn? We use a fantastic burn cream made with Chinese herbs. This ointment has been used for centuries specifically for minor accidental burns and sunburn.

  • Grow your own remedies

Aloe plants look nice in your home, are easy to grow and are very soothing and healing for sunburns. Cut a piece off an aloe plant, slice it open to expose the inside flesh, then squeeze or scrape out the gel inside to cover your sunburn. Reapply 2-3 times daily until your sunburn is gone. If you don’t have an aloe plant, then stop by the Six Fishes offices anytime to pick up some Chinese herbal burn cream.

Stay safe and natural, and enjoy your summer outdoors! You can stop by the Six Fishes Chinese Medicine offices to pick up herbs or make an appointment.


Karla Renaud, M.Ac, L.OM.

Karla loves to help people with skin disorders the natural way, and treats patients with eczema, rosacea, poison ivy, athlete’s foot, psoriasis, etc. She is NCCAOM board certified in both Chinese Herbology and Acupuncture. She is a Licensed Oriental Medicine Practitioner in Pennsylvania. She loves spending time outdoors hiking, kayaking or at the ocean, but avoids sunburns and bug bites — despite the fact that she has sensitive skin and can’t stand sticky chemical sunscreens and toxic bug sprays. Karla practices at both Six Fishes Chinese Medicine locations in Philadelphia. Read her full bio. Click to schedule an appointment with Karla.

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I have been going to Cara Frank for over 4 years and she has basically been my primary care doctor, keeping my health strong through huge life changes, curing my chronic sinus infections and allergies specifically, but really keeping my whole system in good shape. Cara is an expert in the field, an absolutely wonderful doctor, funny, down-to-earth, and caring friend to her patients. There is no woo-woo or weird stuff to worry about here. I HIGHLY recommend her practice (also Tansy Briggs who is excellent). My husband was a big skeptic, but after seeing my health flourish even during really stressful times, even he began to see Cara for accupuncture and herbs, and is equally impressed and grateful. I’ve been to both practices: one in center city, and the new one on Gray’s Ferry — both terrific!

D.C.