I have a confession to make: Sometimes, I forget to wear sunscreen. It doesn’t happen often, but as a beauty writer who is constantly preaching the importance of sunscreen to her teenage readers, it’s not exactly a good look.
On a recent trip to Penang, a small island off the West coast of Malaysia, I went to the beach without any sunscreen on. In my defense, it is really hard to find sunscreen on tiny Asian islands, and my go-to bottle of SPF was too big to go in my carry on, but regardless, I fucked up. In the least surprising news ever, I ended up with a ridiculous burn all over my body (just in time for Valentine’s Day. Sick.) that made me look like an heirloom tomato — red, swollen and shiny. I was in terrible, but well deserved, pain, and all I wanted to do was lay in an ice bath and stop having to listen to people comment on how badly burned I was.
It was so obviously bad that when I checked into my hotel in Langkawi (another Malaysian island) two days later, the concierge immediately commented on how sunburnt I was, which I initially thought was super rude…. Until I looked in the mirror and realized how insane I looked with crispy red skin flaking off of me from head to toe. He made a call to the hotel’s “medicine man” (because apparently, that’s a thing?), and a half an hour later a man showed up at our door with five bottles of green goo.
I was skeptical to rub the creepy-looking concoction on myself at first, but had gotten to the point where I was willing to try anything. I figured it couldn’t possibly make things worse and lathered my entire body with it, even the sunburn-free areas (though there weren’t a whole lot of those). I kid you not —After less than a minute, the pain totally stopped. It was honestly one of the craziest skincare miracles I’ve ever experienced, and I’ve done a lot of crazy shit for the sake of my skin. I continued to use the cream 3-5 times a day for a week, and the burn stopped peeling almost entirely. It was insane.
I was so impressed by the results of the cream that I tracked down the medicine man and begged him to tell me what his secret was. I figured it was some sort of magical, blessed herb from the depths of the Malaysian jungle, and was fully prepared to bribe him for a lifetime supply.
… As it turns out, it wasn’t necessary: All I needed to re-create the “miracle cream” was St. Ives body lotion and a cucumber.
According to the medicine man, cucumbers are naturally cooling and hydrating and have antibiotic and analgesic properties that help reduce swelling. They can be combined with any lotion in a blender (the medicine man just happened to have St. Ives on hand, he told me) to create a soothing paste that helps relieve pain from a sunburn and keeps skin from peeling. It feels extra amazing if you can find someone else to rub it on you, which I would highly recommend.
Safe to say this will be buying a blender and making this a permanent addition to my beach bag from here on out… Along with SPF 75.