On attempting to survive allergy-and-stress vicious-cycle season.
- contains nothing of a scholarly nature
- contains nature
- is entirely self-indulgent without even a veneer of pretence at being anything else or loftier
I write this as a reward to myself after finishing one lot of overdue marking and grade-reporting, and as writing occupies my hands and stops me from scratching itchy bits and poking at eyes. Flaky and scaly, I am metaphor made flesh. More marking and more grade-reporting happen (or whatever the appropriate verb is) tomorrow and Monday. More work in progress continues on thinking about marking and grading themselves, slowly and progressively; this week is an existential crisis that strikes at a similar point every term, in an annual cycle composed of a pattern of such existential crises. What I like to think of as “normal.”
I am more than my work. I think. (Also, I think.) My “normal” is also the rest of life and being. Being a physical person of the human variety, that means health and wellbeing, external and internal; and connections between the two as a continuum and in recognition that I’m not just “me,” even insofar as that thinking and writing “I” is a single subject, I’m a multi-organism ecosystem. That’s been a weird thought to get one’s head around; reading speculative fiction helps. I am more than, and much less than, me.
So. It’s that time of year again, when the thin-skinned meet existential crises and allergens, starting with what is otherwise a joy and delight and a sign that spring has sprung: direct sunlight for several hours a day.
The Lovely Skin-Soothing Bath
- fine oat flour:
because I’m lazy but virtuous so I don’t drive and I use public transit, I got the nearest available kind, in vats at Whole F***s for (CAD) $0.79 / 100g, and therefore organic daaahrling bien sûr; I bought about 750g because that fits into a paper bag while leaving enough bag to fold the top over a couple of times and because that means the bag isn’t too heavy, otherwise its bottom risks splitting before I get it to the checkout. You can guess how I know that. You might not be able to guess how many times I had to repeat the exercise before working out the exact correct quantity. For the purposes of this simple recipe, fine oat flour is approximately equivalent to the colloidal oatmeal that you get in fancier pre-packaged bathing stuff. You can also grind it finer, sieve it, regrind, resieve, etc.; for additional therapeutic benefits (psychological rather than physiological).
- Epsom salts / magnesium sulfate:
I could have got one of those bigger plastic containers, but I just got the 2 kg one from the local drugstore / pharmacy which works out a bit more expensive ($8) than the bigger one or than buying it elsewhere because I’m carrying this MF back home and that means some walking and, you guessed it, I’m lazy.
whatever works for you and your skin. I’m currently using jojoba, which lives in a half-gallon jug; also used for mascara removal, pre-shampoo scalp massage, in-shower body oil, and one of several layers and options for general moisturising. Alternatives would include avocado (food kind is fine, indeed better and cheaper), canola, meadowfoam, olive (food), (untoasted) sesame seed, sunflower seed, sweet almond (but check sourcing and think of the bees).
- optional extra:
dried powdered milk, plant or mammal. Or dried yoghurt or similar for the probiotically inclined, to complement the oats being prebiotic, as these pres and pros are supposed to be good for skin microbiome and traditionally good for soothing. Which two ideas might be related. See The Science for further details, whilst being as duly sceptically wary of scientism as of sympathetic magic.
- a tin or jar:
to sit prettily by the bath: mine is an old plain aluminium tin that used to contain tea, it holds around 4-5 bathsworth of TLSSB Phase 1. It should have a tightly-fitting lid, as its contents should be kept dry.
- a bottle:
for TLSSB Phase 2, a.k.a. the oil
- a larger container and a mixing bowl
if you want to pre-mix a larger quantity
- a container for the oat flour:
ex. a large (around 2 litre) screw-top glass pickling jar from hardware store
- one pair of hands
- brush and shovel and bin, in case of spillage
- water, bath-tub, bath-mat, towel
- recommended: dressing-gown, slippers
- optional: anti-slip bath mat for inside the tub
- optional: a rubber duck and a book or similar to read in the bath; mindful that hard-core extreme bathers would disapprove of all but the purest and nakedest of bathing
- Transfer the oat flour into its container.
- Collect up ingredients and utensils in a clear area of the kitchen.
- Mix together the Phase 1 dry ingredients, in a ratio of approximately 1:1.
- Place into The Pretty Tin, leaving a 3-5 cm gap at the top.
- Shake it up baby now.
- Twist and shout.
- Check lid is secure.
- Move TPT to bathroom and place by bath.
- Return to kitchen and clean up any spillages.
- Close dry ingredient containers and store them in a cool dry place.
- Optional, if only using The Oil Bottle (a.k.a. Phase 2) for this bathing purpose: place TOB by bath, next to TPT. If you usually read from left to right and you’re concerned about the ordering of things, place Phase 1 on the left and Phase 2 on its right.
- Start drawing a bath. When water is at the optimum temperature—if skin is being allergicky allergorily itchy, make that cooler—deploy the plug and start filling the bath-tub.
- WARNING: it is very important to follow the next two instructions in this exact order.
- Shake TPT (Phase 1).
- Remove lid.
- Holding TPT in one hand, pour out a handful of Phase 1 into your other hand.
- Release the handful into the bath, aiming for its trajectory to hit that of the water running out of the tap, and while keeping hands dry.
- Repeat with a second handful.
- Stir. While stirring the water and while the bath fills, it will go murky (enmurken?) then milky.
- You may see occasional grainy lumps: squidging them out of existence is a crucial stress-relieving step in the bath as a therapeutic mindfulness exercise
- Close TPT and return it to the side of the bath.
- Optional: turn off bathroom lights. (Some people light candles, I can’t comment further as I don’t do bathroom candles. Without my glasses on, I would not be able to see them, and I would fear knocking them over and setting fire to things, including, probably, my glasses.)
- Phase 2: Once the bath is nearly full, pour in about a handful of oil (2-3 capfulls), stir around, then place yourself in the bath.
- Stir the oil around, especially with your toes.
- Soak. Stay until fingertips become wrinkly, the bath cools too much to be comfortable, or you otherwise decide that It Is Time.
- Remove self from bath, dry self, release plug, and drain the bath while wiping debris off its sides. If done while the bath is draining, this reduces bath-cleaning time which otherwise can take as long as your bath did and extend the stress-relieving exercise into cleaning the whole bathroom.
- Soothed, relaxed and refreshed and renewed, the metamorphosis is complete.
- The final step: go forth to spread transformation and innovation and revolution and so on.
PROVISOS, DISCLAIMERS, ETC.
- Works on some funky skin conditions: mine is mostly plain boring hypersensitivity, so far—touch wood—seasonal marking-stress-and-allergy season hasn’t triggered major eczema patches.
- The usual caveats apply: γνῶθι σεαυτόν.
- Like any bath, this is a treatment or a treat, and should be taken in moderation and valued as something exceptional and special. Baths consume much water and use energy for heating it. Maybe reuse your dirty bathwater if you can, perhaps once it’s cooled for watering plants.
- Water is a precious and valuable resource. It should not be taken for granted or abused. Many people suffer water scarcity. Neighbours not very far away do not have access to clean drinkable water. Consider donating to a fitting charity or fund after you have taken a bath.
BONUS EXTRA OATY BATHING DELIGHTS
- Add—instead of or in addition to the oat flour—oat milk to the bath. This works with oat milk as it maintains structural integrity when heated.
- You can use other fresh milks too—instead of in addition to the optional extra of dried powdered milk—any with that same property: ex. mammalian, coconut, rice, soy. Rule of thumb: if it works in hot coffee, it’ll work in a bath.
- Take a handful of plain old oatmeal / porridge oats, and place it in an old sock that’s beyond mendable and fine-knit, or in old tights. (Knots may vary, this recipe is so traditional that there are family sub-traditions in knotting, like in Aran and other knitting designs. Fun fact: in protective clothing and other gear for fisherfolk, some designs are for magical protection from aquatic monsters, such as mermaids.) Start running your bath. Place oaty sock over bath-spout, as close as possible to the opening, and run water through the oats.
- See also: contemporary and historical uses of rice and millet.
- Raise your hand if you met a version of any of these recipes when you were an itchy flaky scaly child. (Or flick your scaly tail.) HIGH FIVE!
Bonus post-bath moisturising soothing tip, especially in allergy season: Allergenics Emollient Cream or Lotion. They are both brilliant: and on face, hands, feet, and any localised dry patches. At present, the Cream is one of the only moisturisers that I can use on my face and around my eyes: the others that also work without irritating are similarly bland, but more expensive. Have used off and on for ??? 12 years.
- Manufacturer information: https://optimah.com/collections/allergenics
Cruelty-free but not vegan (beeswax)
- Cream ingredients: Aloe barbadensis (Aloe vera) leaf juice, Cetearyl alcohol, Borago officinalis (Borage) seed oil, Cera alba (Beeswax), Glycerin, Prunus amygdalus (Sweet almond) oil, Butyrospermum parkii (Shea) butter, Cetearyl glucoside, Brassica campestris (Rapeseed) sterols, Zinc oxide, Capryloyl glycine, Rosa moschata (Musk rose) seed oil, Tocopheryl acetate, Glycyrrhetinic acid, Sodium hyaluronate (Hyaluronic acid), Xanthan gum, Citric acid.
- Costs around $11.00 (GBP 6.00-7.00) / 50 ml; can be shipped from the UK (buying several tubes at once to reduce $ and environmental cost, and consider paying penance through charitable donation such as carbon offsetting)
- There is also an Ointment, which is Deep Heavy Stuff (same size tube, same price): Aloe barbadensis (Aloe vera) leaf juice, Butyrospermum parkii (Shea) butter, Cetearyl alcohol, Borago officinalis (Borage) seed oil, Cera alba (Beeswax), Prunus amygdalus dulcis (Sweet almond) oil, Glycerin, Cetearyl glucoside, Brassica campestris (Rapeseed) sterols, Zinc oxide, Capryloyl glycine, Rosa moschata (Musk rose) seed oil, Theobroma cacao (Cocoa) seed butter, Tocopheryl acetate, Glycyrrhetinic acid, Sodium hyaluronate (Hyaluronic acid), Xanthan gum, Citric acid.
- Lotion ingredients: Aloe barbadensis (Aloe vera) leaf juice, Cera alba (Beeswax), Caprylic/Capric triglyceride, Glycerin, Lauryl glucoside, Cetearyl alcohol, Polyglyceryl-2-dipolyhydroxystearate, Brassica campetris (Rapeseed) sterols, Limnanthes alba (Meadowfoam) seed oil, Capryloyl glycine, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Borago officinalis (Borage) seed oil, Tocopheryl acetate, Xanthan gum, Allantoin, Glycyrrhetinic acid, Sodium hydroxide, Citric acid.
- Costs around $13.00 (GBP 7.50-8.00) / 200 ml + shipping
Closest more local alternative: ShiKai Borage Therapy hand cream or original unscented lotion; the former is thicker than the latter but still thinner than the Allergenics cream; both the ShiKai cream and lotion are more fluid than it, feel lighter, and don’t moisturise for as long (but nearly, and fine for most purposes and the rest of the year, and are cheaper).
- Manufacturer information: https://www.shikai.com/borage-therapy/
Santa Rosa, California, USA
- Cream ingredients: Decolorized Aloe Vera Gel (Aloe Barbadensis), Glyceryl Stearate (Vegetable Emulsifier), Safflower Seed Oil (Carthamus Tinctorius), Glycerin, Jojoba Seed Oil (Simmondsia Chinensis), Borage Seed Oil (Borago Officinalis), Cetyl Alcohol (Vegetable Wax), Vitamin E Acetate (Tocopherol), Dimethicone, Shea Butter (Butyrospermum Parkii Fruit), Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (Vitamin C), L-Ergothioneine (Amino Acid), Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexyl Glycerin.
- Costs around $11.50 (USD 8.50) / 77 ml
- Lotion ingredients: Purified Water (Aqua), Decolorized Aloe Vera Gel (Aloe Barbadensis), Glyceryl Stearate (Vegetable Emulsifier), Safflower Seed Oil (Carthamus Tinctorius), Glycerin, Jojoba Seed Oil (Simmondsia Chinensis), Borage Seed Oil (Borago Officinalis), Cetyl Alcohol (Vegetable Wax), Vitamin E Acetate (Tocopherol), Dimethicone, Shea Butter (Butyrospermum Parkii Fruit), Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (Vitamin C), Phenoxyethanol, L-Ergothioneine (Amino Acid), Ethylhexyl Glycerin.
- Costs around $16.50 (USD 12.50) / 238 ml
Geographically from a source in the same country but about two and half times ShKai’s distance from Vancouver: Skinfix. Numerous lotions, creams, and unguents; they’ve been renamed at least once in the last few years (https://skinfixinc.com/blogs/the-fix/skinfix-collection-guide), and like other emollient barrier repair creams share common ancestors: 19th-century miracle balms (named and claimed and patented, or named later with the alternative kudos of secret family recipe), Galen, Trota of Salerno, assorted monastic communities, and generations of grannies and aunties worldwide and throughout human history. Preference: Barrier+ Lipid-Boost Body Cream, which combines the finest qualities (and without their drawbacks) of Aveeno colloidal oatmeal lotions and Cerave ceramide cream.
- Manufacturer information: https://skinfix.com/collections/barrier
(See also their Eczema and Remedy stuff)
Halifax, Nova Scotia.
- Ingredients: Water/Eau/Aqua, Glycerin, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Stearyl Alcohol, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Polyglceryl-2 Stearate, Colloidal Oatmeal, Caprylyl Caprylate/Caprate, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil, Glyceryl Stearate, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Ceramide NP, Ceramide AP, Ceramide EOP, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Extract, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Oil, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice Powder, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Phytosphingosine, Cholesterol, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Moringa Oleifera Seed Oil, Tocopherol, Allantoin, Ethylhexylglycerin, Carbomer, Xanthan Gum, Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid, Phenoxyethanol.
- Costs: $60.00 / 296 ml
(Links above are for reference only. Not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or suppliers of any items above; all were purchased with my own money, earned through work, and taxed at source as is right and proper.)
Moral of the story: remember to look up, or you might forget how to look outwards and outside and lose sight of the far out.