Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mercredi: The Art of Beauty

I spent the entire day Saturday volunteering at the 33rd annual Christmas Towne Bazaar here in Anchorage. It was a lot of fun, especially since my daughter had great success selling the cute and cuddly sea creatures that she knits so my whole family was there.

Anyway, I wore my boots lined with sheerling because it was that kind of cold, blustery, winter day (perfect for a holiday bazaar). What I didn’t think about was that I was wearing my boots under – not over, as usual – my jeans and with short socks. I also didn’t think about the fact that I’m allergic to sheep’s wool and lanolin… You can see this coming up the street, can’t you? I wish I had.

We got home after nine hours, I peeled off my boots and my lower legs looked like raw hamburger. They also itched as if I’d walked through a field of chiggers. It took me until the next day to figure out what I’d done wrong. Thankfully, though, I knew what to do next.

Milk, really regardless of the animal it comes from but cow’s milk specifically, is both mildly astringent and toning. The lactic acids in whole milk calm sensitive skin but rashes need special attention. And that’s where buttermilk comes in. In past times, patients with eczema, hives and even bee stings were treated with buttermilk soaks. Legend has it that there was even buttermilk in the bath scrofulous French Revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat was soaking in when Charlotte Corday stabbed him to death:
A bath in tepid (you don’t want to soak a rash in hot) water to which buttermilk has been added will sooth itching, ease redness and promote faster healing. The best option for this is powdered buttermilk. About two tablespoons for the average sized bathtub will transform the water into a revitalizing pond for your poor skin. It’s not the most aroma-therapeutic bath you’ll ever sit in but you can add dried herbs if you like. I recommend allspice, which is also calming to the complexion (about ½ teaspoon of the powdered variety to the two tablespoons of powdered buttermilk). Alternatively, try wrapping a handful of dried, whole cloves, dried pine sprigs or rosemary leaves in gauze, tying the little bag with string and letting it steep in your bath with you.

If all of this sounds like too many ingredients to track down, or if you can’t find powdered buttermilk (which is more concentrated and less expensive than the “real thing”) Burt’s Bees makes a Buttermilk Bath Soak which is part of their “Baby Bee” line of products. It’s available at the grocery (usually in the organic/whole foods section) and safe for the whole family.

My legs are still a bit crabby, particularly at the end of the day, but they feel a lot better now thanks to the generosity of our friend the cow. Thanks, Bessie; and no offense to any sheep that might be paying attention.

The Valpincon Bather by Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres and To Marat by Jacques-Louis David


Undine said...

Very interesting. I knew buttermilk was a natural "antibiotic" and that drinking it was good for all sorts of things that ailed you, but I had never heard of it being used topically.

If I can refer back to your earlier post about the herbal dry "shampoo"--I just tried it out today (there was no way I can ever wait three months for anything) and it worked great, better than any of the commercial dry shampoos I've tried. I basically threw caution to the winds, though and did a more, well, inclusive approach--in other words, if it grows in my backyard, a handful of that sucker went in the mix.

This may sound strange, but have you ever heard of this being used for cats? My furry brood has a terrible problem with fleas, especially in the summer, and I was wondering how it would work if I made a batch of this with some flea or bug-repellent herbs for them.

Pauline said...

I'm kind of hooked on buttermilk baths for rashy spots. I had a lot of eczema as a kid and when I figured out what worked I never gave it up.

I'm so pleased to hear about your success with the dry shampoo! I'm hooked on it myself. I have heard, from confessed "cat people", of using a cornstarch based treatment that included fleabane which they brush through the animal's fur in warm weather. I haven't tried it on my dogs but when we lived in So Cal (flea capital of North America, I swear), I would put a generous amount of 50/50 blend powdered boric acid and salt on all the carpets overnight and vacuum it up in the morning. About once a month was enough to keep the fleas at bay if I was dilligent about bathing the pups, too.

Let me know what you try and how it works. We can do a pet feature here some time!

Timmy! said...

I'm glad that your legs are getting better and it's good to see how your recipes are helping others too, Pauline!

Pauline said...

Me too :)