Under the Sun

Protect yourself when you’re out in the garden.

| August/September 1996

Recipe: Sunny Day Cream
Sidebar: Sensible Sunning 

An herb garden invites the gardener to linger. There, you can find hours of pleasure, not only by sitting in a comfortable chair and enjoying the fragrances and colors and billowing shapes, but also by getting down on your knees, working the beds, planting, weeding, pruning, harvesting. Getting dirt on your hands, breathing fresh air, soaking up vitamin D, exercising every muscle in your body, feeling sunlight on your face. . . .

Intruding on this idyllic picture is a cold fact that every gardener confronts: sun on your face—or any other exposed part of your body—gives you wrinkles, makes you age before your time, gives your skin the look of old leather, and, not least of all, increases your risk of developing skin cancer, the most common form of cancer. Let’s hope that anyone who takes up serious gardening gives some thought to coping with the problem of overdosing on sunshine.

Common sense is one place to start; another is the box at right, which ­provides several guidelines for skin ­protection.

Sunburned herb gardeners can draw comfort from any number of plants growing in their gardens. Many herbs have been used for hundreds of years to soothe and cool hot skin, take the sting out of a burn, condition dry skin, and help it heal. Whether used alone or in combinations for teas, lotions, bath oils, or salves, herbs lend their healing qualities to rough, dry, end-of-the-summer skin and help mitigate the aging effects of overexposure to the sun. Here’s a look at some of the herbs most often used on skin and a simple, soothing recipe to concoct from your garden.

Above all, aloe

No herb is simpler to use or more effective in healing sunburned skin than the familiar Aloe vera. Break or cut off one of its thick leaves, split it down the middle, fold back the outer layers, then rub the thick, gooey, cool gel gently over tender, reddened skin. Relief will be instantaneous. Aloe gel prevents ­progressive skin damage, relieves pain, reduces inflammation, and dilates ­capillaries to increase blood supply to the injury and speed healing. It also inhibits the growth of bacteria and fungi, and it moisturizes the skin and promotes the growth of healthy new skin cells in the bargain.

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