Take Care in the Sun: All you need to know about sunburn
We all know what it’s like – the first few rays of actual hot-enough-to-sunbathe sun and we go a little bit warm-weather loopy. Getting the right amount of sun is good for us in part, as our bodies can absorb the vitamin D it produces, giving us healthy bones and teeth. Brilliant! But too much sun is definitely not a good idea, and the health implications it can bring with it can be devastating.
by Lisamarie Lamb
The most obvious – and immediate – result of too much hot sun is sunburn. It can happen quickly – so fast in fact that it often isn’t noticed until much later, when someone points out the pinkness (or bright redness) of our skin, or when we get into the shower or bath and realise that the hot water is actually hurting our sensitive skin. One moment you could be safely enjoying the sunshine, and the next you could be in some incredibly intense pain. Factors such as a cool breeze or dipping in and out of the sea, a pool, or evening paddling in the garden can all trick us into not realising quite what is happening – until it is too late.
Sunburn is caused by the ultraviolet (UV) rays coming from the sun. It is, in other words, a form of radiation burn, and it affects us differently, depending on our skin tone, where on our bodies we have been burned (our feet, for example, fare badly when it comes to burning, but our faces – because they are usually exposed to Mother Nature – won’t burn quite so much). The main symptoms include red skin that is sensitive and hot to the touch. It can also be itchy, and this is caused by the skin contracting due to the damage that has been done to it. When the burn is beginning to heal, the dead skin often flakes and peels away, leaving fresh skin underneath. But this fresh skin, although it may look healthy, could also be damaged by these dangerous UV rays – and it could go even deeper than the next layer.
The best advice when it comes to sunburn is to avoid it altogether. The more often you burn – and the more extreme the burn is – the more chance you have of developing serious skin problems in the future, which includes life threatening skin cancer. Staying inside, out of the glare of the sun when it is at its hottest is an excellent idea, and not only will it save your skin, but it will help you stop becoming dehydrated and running the risk of sunstroke.
If you do need or want to be out in the sunshine, there are some useful tips to ensure you keep as burn-free as possible. Firstly, keep covered up. We’re not saying woolly jumpers and thick coats here, but a hat with a wide brim, sunglasses, long sleeved shirts and long trousers – all made out of thin, breathable materials – are a good way to do it.
Secondly, you may yearn for that golden tan, but don’t go for it all in one sitting. It’s best to build up your exposure to the sun gradually, allowing your skin to recover after the initial onslaught. Whatever you do, don’t lie out in the blazing sun for hours and allow it to toast you – you won’t get a tan this way, your skin will sizzle, and you will regret it.
And of course, when it comes to protecting yourself from sunburn, you must use a good sunscreen. Sunscreen comes in a variety of types and strengths, and it is important to choose the best one for you, your skin, and your circumstances. The SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of a sunscreen is your first hint as to which one you might want to use. The higher the SPF, the more protection you’ll get. The number is the amount of time you could stay out in the sun without getting burnt (although it is certainly not an exact science). For example, a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 means you could stay in the sun for 30 times longer than you would have if you didn’t use any cream at all. This does not mean, however, that you won’t burn if you use sunscreen; it simply means that it will take longer. As an extra help, the higher the number you use, the more harmful rays are blocked out. SPF 30 will block out around 97 per cent of UV rays.
To get the most out of your sunscreen, it should be reapplied every two hours, to make sure there is always a good covering. A waterproof sunscreen is a good idea, even if you’re not going anywhere near the water. Sweat can also wash your protection away and on a baking hot day, you’re bound to perspire.
If the worst should happen and you are sunburned, there are a number of ways to treat it. These aren’t cures – once burned, it’s there to stay – but they will soothe the pain and hurry the healing process where possible.
- A cool (not cold) bath of between 10 and 20 minutes will ease the discomfort of sunburn. Avoid using soaps or anything that might irritate the sensitive skin. If taking a shower, make it a gentle one, as the water shooting out at full blast could do more damage
- A cool compress pressed to the most burned areas will also help – simply lay it over the affected skin for half an hour, refreshing as it dries out or becomes warmer
- Wear loose clothing so as not to irritate the damaged skin. Not only will these feel more comfortable, but it will allow your body to heal that little bit faster
- Drink plenty of water – your skin will heal faster if it’s kept hydrated
- Apply plenty of after sun lotion to the affected areas. After sun cools and moisturises the burned skin and is quickly absorbed. It helps to prevent peeling too, which can be extremely uncomfortable and embarrassing
A vital part of enjoying the sunshine without burning (although always read the instructions, and make sure you keep your lotion topped up), we look at some of the best sunscreen on the market.
Soltan Dry Touch Lotion
This lotion dries in under a minute, which is especially useful when on the beach, as it means that sand won’t stick to you. It is also a moisturiser, so you can keep your skin healthy as you use it. Water resistant, sand resistant, and dermatologically tested, this is an ideal beach cream, which includes a parented antioxidant complex to protect against long-term skin damage.
Ambre Solaire Wet Skin
Handily, this excellent sunscreen can – as the name suggests – be applied to wet skin if required (although it works just as well on dry skin too), and it is extremely water resistant, meaning you don’t need to use quite as much of it. Already at a reasonable price, this one will last you all summer, and beyond.
Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration Protective Sun Lotion
Not only does this sunscreen smell like a tropical paradise, it feels great on the skin too as it is formulated to be non-greasy. The natural silk proteins and glycerine used to create this lovely lotion prevent the skin from drying out, and actually continue to moisturise the skin for up to 12 hours once applied.