Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to pick a category and find a natural product or homemade remedy to use instead of the conventional and potentially harmful version.
Upgrade one product that you use for outdoor issues like bugs, sunshine, and scrapes.
Seek out a totally natural and safe alternative to petroleum and chemicals you can’t pronounce.
Natural Solutions When You’re in the Sun
If you’re tempted to use: Any sunscreen calling your name from the discount aisle with “SPF 700,000” and “Broad Spectrum Coverage!” emblazoned on the bottle.
Watch out for: Chemical sunscreens that may cause cancer just as quickly as the rays of the sun itself.
Natural ingredients to remember instead:
If you’re not sure where to start to find those active ingredients, check out my reviews of over 80 safe and natural sunscreens my family has tried over the years. Yes, my family really has tried and tested over 80 different sunblocks, and we review a few more every year! I keep that post updated with the most recent reviews and thoughts on the old sunscreens, and I’ll keep adding new ones as I try them.
There’s also a section on how to evaluate a sunblock for yourself if it’s not on the list, in case you find something in a local store that you think is a winner but want to make sure.
Another natural option: Some folks, especially those with extra sensitive skin, may want to consider wearing sun protective clothing instead.
Natural Relief for When the Sun Gets You Anyway
If you’re tempted to use: Any cream or aloe that claims to soothe burns.
Watch out for: Aloes with all sorts of extra ingredients, parabens in your creams, ingredients you can’t pronounce in general, etc.
Natural ingredients to remember instead: coconut oil , 100% pure aloe (check the ingredients, not just the front label), clay, beeswax (we just use MadeOn lotion for about everything around here, but there are stronger, more soothing options specifically for burns that incorporate some healing essential oils and such)
Possible home remedy: a soak in a baking soda bath, OR grow your own aloe plant
From the readers: A cool infusion of chamomile, calendula, and/or comfrey (or a combination); vinegar
Natural Repellent When You’re Running from Bugs
If you’re tempted to use: That spray that people always use to keep the mosquitoes and flies away, because it’s what everyone uses and it works.
Watch out for: DEET is the main offender because it damages brain cells, can cause seizures, and is especially toxic to young children. There is no end to the sources that discuss the poisoning effects of DEET: 1, 2, 3. This article on Medline is particularly striking in its gravity and describes how to handle DEET poisoning, just in case.
Natural ingredients to remember instead: many essential oils and plants, such as citronella, eucalyptus, lavender, neem oil, lemon verbena, catnip, rosemary, peppermint, lemongrass, or cedarwood. Usually carried in water, olive oil , or coconut oil . The citronella candles (you know, the ones bugs are attracted to and like to die in?) are fine, but try to look for one that uses real citronella instead of a fake.
Possible home remedy: My family has reviewed 16 natural bug repellents that use essential oils instead of DEET and my favorite, hands down, is Wild Things Natural Bug Repellent. Please be aware that there are some essential oils that are not recommended for use with children. My bug spray review post outlines that information, and I go into further detail here.
My husband tells me that the military has their forces eat a few matchsticks to ward off the biting insects. The sulfur in their bloodstream gets sweated out on their skin and keeps the bugs off. Not so sure how safe or natural this is, but it’s pretty funny!
Growing plants such as lemon verbena, pennyroyal, lemongrass, and geraniums around your house can give you a first line of defense.
From the readers: diatomaceous earth spray (made simply with food-grade DE and water) to keep bugs of all sorts off; a few drops of geranium oil (straight); eat onions and garlic liberally
Natural Relief for When the Bugs Get You Anyway
If you’re tempted to use: A salve, cream, or numbing spray
Watch out for: petroleum as a carrier (plastic on your skin? Not necessary.), parabens, anything that says “not for children under two.” My pediatrician says that Benadryl, one anti-itch cream, is extremely harsh and doesn’t recommend it for anyone, children especially (this after I purchased two tubes for bug bites and hives).
Natural ingredients to remember instead: clay like Redmond Clay‘s first aid hydrated clay draws out toxins and decreases the itch. Pure aloe is another option for soothing.
From a reader: homeopathic apis for swelling or ledum for stings
How about calamine lotion? It’s actually made of zinc oxide and iron oxide, both natural substances but potentially toxic in large doses (link no longer available). If you’ve got a bottle, I’d finish it, personally, but I do like the idea of the clay or natural salve even better.
Possible home remedies: A thick paste of baking soda and water soothes bee stings. I still remember sitting at the kitchen table at my Busia’s house waiting for the baking soda to dry after my first (and only) bee sting. I was a pretty big wimp, but if I remember right, it made a world of difference! Witch hazel is also touted to take the sting out, as is rubbing with a cut onion.
My Experience Using Clay to Heal
Who in their right mind discovers she has a mosquito bite on her ankle and cries with glee, “Yesssss! I have a bug bite!”
Probably just me.
Using the Redmond Clay First Aid Cream on my kids was great, but it’s hard to get a good review from a 3-year-old and a 6-year-old, even though I grilled them:
“Does it feel tight?”
“How long did it take to dry?”
“Did it stop itching?”
I was pretty excited to try it for myself.
At first, I thought that the thickness and wetness of the product was a huge downfall, since you’re supposed to put it on very thickly. However, even though it’s not super convenient to keep a piece of skin from touching anything for a couple minutes, it dries just like calamine lotion and actually quite quickly, so I don’t think it’s anything new.
The really interesting part, in my opinion, is that it stayed on the skin for more than a day, and that’s pretty impressive! It also really did stop the itch, although in a way that takes a little patience: the first sensation is that of an increased stinging/itching sensation for a few minutes because of the property of clay that draws out toxins. It doesn’t hurt, but it makes you want to scratch off the cream before it dries – easy for me to tolerate, but might be tough for my 3-year-old.
After the initial drying period, though, the itch went away. Score for Redmond Clay!
The clay also works for cuts and scrapes. My son had a pretty nasty wipeout on rough cement, and the hydrated clay under a bandage for two days absolutely knocked it out. Not that I expect things not to work, but I was actually totally, pleasantly surprised! Score two!
And – it comes in a tube, which I prefer over a jar of salve that I have to dip my finger into. You can also buy the clay in a tub and mix your own with water for various uses.
I have a whole post about natural bug bite relief with lots more ideas, including which essential oils may be effective at getting the itch out.
For the Cuts and Scrapes of Summer Knees
You’re tempted to use: Your average “triple antibiotic ointment” or salve.
Watch out for: Petrolatum (petroleum jelly), triclosan (antibacterial evil), parabens, anything that says “do not use on children under age two.”
Although I used to think it was the perfect natural solution, it is NOT recommended to use hydrogen peroxide on cuts. It may get the wound clean, but it’s a bit too powerful, causing cell damage that actually makes the cut take longer to heal.
Natural ingredients to remember instead: Plain old soap and water does an awfully nice job for most skinned knees, you know!
Real clay mixed with water helps cuts to heal faster, too. One reason I’m enjoying the Redmond Clay First Aid tube is that it can take care of everything so I only have to pack one thing when we leave the house.
Tea tree oil is a natural antiseptic; dilute with water and apply after washing (can use straight, too). Comfrey root and thyme are also often seen in healing salves, and coconut oil is another winner, often with beeswax to keep it sealed in.
From the readers: calendula salve with beeswax/olive oil as a carrier; epsom salt baths; coconut oil mixed with grapefruit seed extract; salt water (dissolve in boiling water, allow to cool, clean nasty cuts and gashes with it); aloe (after washing)
Other Itches and Annoyances
Poison Ivy (thanks to the great reader comments)
- Dust with cornstarch to heal the itch.
- Rub with rhubarb juice from a freshly cut stalk
- Catch it early and rub with an alcohol based hand sanitizer (or plain rubbing alcohol) several times a day – you can often prevent it from becoming a full-blown weeping mess this way.
- Homeopathic rhus tox
If you’re looking to go natural in your other personal care routines, check out this head-to-toe list of natural body products.
Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post from which I’ll receive a commission. See my full disclosure statement here.
Need Some Baby Steps?
Here at Kitchen Stewardship, we’ve always been all about the baby steps. But if you’re just starting your real food and natural living journey, sifting through all that we’ve shared here over the years can be totally overwhelming.
That’s why we took the best 10 rookie “Monday Missions” that used to post once a week and made a printable checklist so you can track your progress.
Sign up to get the checklist and weekly challenges and teaching on key topics like meal planning, homemade foods that save the budget (and don’t take too much time), what to cut out of your pantry, and more.