A few weeks ago my Dad got himself a new razor, and upon using it he started experiencing a burning, itching sensation on his chin accompanied by redness and dry skin. He came to me asking for something that would alleviate his symptoms, and I immediately started searching in my vast collection of skin products. As someone who has dermographic skin (more on that in a future post) I was familiar with his problem and long years of battling red, itching, irritated skin prompted me to give him a small bottle of Weleda’s Calendula Baby Oil. It wasn’t really that particular product that I had confidence in (though of course I do trust Weleda very much) but more of the fact that it is an unscented, PH-neutral fatty oil which makes it one of the least irritating substances I know of.
I could have given him plain and simple jojoba oil (or any other oil or butter for that matter) instead and the results would have been the same: redness gone, skin calmed down in a matter of minutes. That is simply because they’re all substances which do not produce any considerable chemical reactions when coming in contact with one’s skin, and they are the gentlest, most neutral substances available.
During my teenage years I once decided to wax my chin and the area above my lip with sugar wax strips at home (I was young and foolish, all right?). It is one thing that probably all my neighbors were immediately informed of my attempts through excessive curse words (*blushes*) screamed at the top of my lungs. Another thing, however, was that the “treated” area turned into a real exhibition of swollen, red, burning and utterly painful skin, a reminder of my stupidity, and would not calm down no matter what I tried. (And I had several tricks up my sleeve, believe me.)
For example, I had heard somewhere that lavender oil had calming and soothing properties which I was desperately in need of, so I mixed some lavender essential oil and jojoba oil and applied it to the sore area. If anything, that made my skin hurt even more.
Then I remembered that I had some Aloe Vera juice at home which is often described as some miraculous stuff, capable of improving any skin condition. I put some on, screamed some more and that’s when my skin started to look truly horrible. (Aloe Vera has a slightly acidic PH which in cases of irritation may prove to be too much.)
So there I was, abandoned by everyone else’s Holy Grails, desperate to transform myself into something presentable before the weekend was over. I had previously washed off both treatments and my skin stated to feel dry and parched. After the disastrous results I got from the “gentle” stuff, I was not much inclined to apply a not-so-gentle moisturizer, so I shrugged my shoulders and slathered on some jojoba oil hoping for the best and not really expecting any improvements in my condition anytime soon. I went to bed unassumingly and woke up in the morning only to find that the tortured skin on my face decided to forget about the whole incident overnight and had mostly forgiven me for the inhumane treatment. Since then I have used several kinds of oils and butters successfully in times of skin emergencies. (Sweet almond, olive, and apricot kernel oils, cocoa butter and even plain unsalted butter when nothing else was available.)
This, then, is how I discovered the healing power of oils/butters and how I came to realize that even wonder-products might prove to be too harsh when dealing with irritated skin, and also that the gentlest, most soothing thing is probably sitting on every family’s kitchen counter.
Things to consider when you choose a product to soothe irritated skin:
- should be PH-neutral, unscented (this means no essential oils for you!), as gentle as possible
- should not form a chemical reaction with skin, should not be abrasive (well, duh!)
Let’s look at some examples. When my Dad asked for a healing ointment I did not have jojoba oil at hand, but I had several kinds of Weleda body oils to choose from. These are the things I considered:
- Sea Buckthorn Body Oil (Read more about this oil here!):
Definitely not the best choice since it contains sea buckthorn extract which is high in Vitamin C, an acid itself. (I once treated my sore nose with this stuff: never again, as the song goes…)
- Wildrose Body Oil (Read my review here!):
Contains rose essential oil which is a possible skin irritant and which, by accident, also has a high Vitamin C content. It’s not a very masculine scent either…
- Calendula Baby Oil:
This stuff is pure sesame oil in which calendula flower petals were soaked. It is therefore PH-neutral (not much vitamin C) and has hardly any scent except that of the sesame oil, but it possesses the healing properties of Calendula flowers, thus an obvious choice.