Ever been in desperate need for a serious anti-itch cream, or a calamine lotion, and you were about 2,000 miles away from the very thing?
About two months ago I was in the Bahamas for a couple of days – I was working there and had to meet a client. I stayed at what was supposed to be a quality resort (not gonna name names here even though I reeeeally want to). The morning after my arrival I’m at a beach and look down at my legs to put on mosquito repellent and see a bunch of little red bumps on my legs. I thought ‘wow that’s weird, I don’t remember getting bit – and it doesn’t sting. Hm, maybe it’s just a slight reaction to the salt air or something.’ I didn’t think about it again and put it out of my mind.
The next day I noticed even more red bumps and it was all over my legs up to my knees. Nothing elsewhere. Weird, right? Didn’t itch either. Took the plane and went back home.
The NEXT day I started to itch. And itch. And itch some more. Then I started going crazy from the itching and it wouldn’t stop. By the second day I was freaking out. It was all over my legs, front and back, and only up to my knees – what could have happened? I was wracking my brain trying to figure out just what was going on and retraced my steps over the last few days to what I had done. And then it hit me: my nightgown covers my body down to my knees (it has long sleeves – my arms get cold because I always wind up throwing them over my head and then the blood drains and I get cold. Weird, I know). The only place where I could’ve gotten bit with my nightgown on would have been the bed. I had been quite literally attacked by a swarm (is that the right word for it?) of bed bugs in my bed. TWICE. I was there for two nights. So I got attacked the first night… and then went back for more!
After I got over my shock and revulsion (which, believe me, took a while) I got myself an appointment with the doctor… who told me basically what I already had learned from Google. Anti-histamines and corticosteroid cream, and basically wait it out. Folks, my legs were covered. I couldn’t sleep for 2 days because it was driving me crazy. The cream wasn’t doing it and the Benadryl knocked me out. Let me reassure you here – as soon as I figured out what had happened, I literally ripped the sheets from our bed, the kids’ bed, everything that was in my suitcase, the clothes on my back… eeeeeeverything went into the wash in the hottest cycle I could put it in, then I basically sprayed down the house in anti-bed bug spray that I got from Home Depot. Twice.
So after that I got to work making my own calamine lotion to relieve any future itching I’d ever get – why didn’t I think of it before? Because I was too busy trying not to rip my skin off my legs and make everything worse. But I got to work researching and seeing what was out there. Did you know that calamine lotion’s secret ingredients are zinc oxide and red iron oxide? Which is basically the zinc oxide! (The red oxide is for coloring) Yeah, I didn’t know that either. Calamine’s active ingredients are generally either zinc oxide with red iron oxide or pink kaolin clay. I happen to have white kaolin clay so I’ve used that.
Clays are wonderful because they’re drawing. What I mean by that is that they pull dirt and inflammatory agents away from the skin by making them stick to the clay particles. Some clays are more drawing than others. For example, bentonite clay is more drawing than kaolin clay, though both are really excellent overall for skin (especially if you have oily skin).
And because I’m such a believer in the power of herbs, I couldn’t resist also adding to my calamine lotion an extra anti-itch and healing element by including an infusion of plantain leaf and St. Johns Wort. Although always useful, this step is not necessary – you can still make a good quality anti-itch cream without herbal agents. In fact, essential oils can really make up for this and add in their own incredible power to your solution.
Among its many amazing benefits, plantain leaf is also used as an antivenomous herb and is helpful in drawing out the poison of snake bits, or other insect bites or stings. It also does a good job in easing the pain of poison ivy. If you’ve got some near you, you can simply crush the leaf into your hand and rub it onto the affected area and it will start working right away. St Johns Wort is also helpful in treating inflammation, first degree burns, bug bites, and nerve pain – among its many other uses as well. So these two I’ve infused into some skin-friendly almond oil.
Witch hazel is also really terrific at reducing inflammation in the skin. Witch hazel is a natural astringent derived from the bark and leaves of the common North American witch hazel shrub. It’s been used traditionally to treat skin irritations and tumors, but today it’s more widely recognized as a natural skin cleanser and toner.
I also add in some aloe vera into my calamine lotion for its soothing and skin healing properties – because it’s one thing to try to treat the itch, but you also want to soothe the inflammation and get some cooling and healing relief.
There are lots of ways to create your own anti-itch lotion, and there are some amazing sources on the web that can teach you how to whip up a quick batch if you want to take a look around.
Quick tip: Witch hazel is easy enough to find and if you add in some tea tree oil (which you can find even at Walmart these days) you’ve got something that will definitely help you right away. Add in a bit of lavender essential oil for its all-around anti-inflammatory and pain relieving qualities, and you’re on your way!
So here’s my recipe for my herbal calamine lotion. If you like it but don’t have time to make it yourself, I’ll soon be selling it at my little Etsy shop, Pô Naturel, so stay tuned!
Homemade Herbal Calamine Lotion
This lotion is great at fighting off itchy insect bites, rashes, poison ivy, and other itchy skin inflammations. The herbs add in a natural healing touch to not only relieve the itch but also reduce inflammation and soothe the skin. If you don't have the herbs on hand, don't worry - it's still a very effective lotion without them due to the drawing power of the clays and the power of the essential oils in there. Just add in a few extra drops of the essential oils 🙂
- 2.5 tbsp Almond oil
- 2 tbsp Witch hazel
- 1.5 tbsp Zinc oxide
- 1 tbsp Aloe vera gel/juice use either gel or juice - just depends on how thick or thin you want your lotion to be
- 1 tbsp Kaolin clay
- 1/2 tbsp Bentonite clay
- 1/10 tsp Red iron oxide This is more for color- so use however much you like. Start small and work your way into the color you want
- 20 drops Tea tree essential oil
- 10 drops Thyme essential oil
- 5 drops Geranium essential oil
- Water This is at your discretion - I used about 1.5 tbsp
Mix your ingredients together and add the water in at the end only. This way, you can adjust the amount according to the texture that you want - if you like it creamier, add less water, or if you want it more like a more spreadable lotion, then add in a bit more.
Since there is water in this lotion, it will last for a few weeks. After that, the water may cause your lotion to mould if you haven't added in a preservative. If you want your lotion to last longer, I suggest adding in a preservative. I use Germall Plus at a rate of 2% of total weight. In this case, it comes out to about 0.1 oz.
And voila! That's it! Enjoy 🙂
This lotion really helped me not only get rid of the itch, but I had no lesions either and my skin is back to normal now, no scars or blemishes or anything.
What do you do at home for rashes and itches? If you make your own calamine lotion – what’s your favourite ingredient?