The Sunburn Series Pt. 2: Everywhere Else

I am no stranger to sunburns. I don’t go looking for them, but they have the tendency to find me wherever I go. On my honeymoon in San Francisco, I even had an allergic reaction to the sun resulting in me being covered, head to toe, in hives. My other experiences haven’t nearly been as severe, but they’re no less irritating. So as a follow-up post to Tuesday’s focus on the face, I thought I would share some of my tips and tricks for dealing with sunburns everywhere else.

  1. Prevent it from happening.
    I know, I know – too late, right? You went out into the sun for what seemed like a couple of minutes and now your back looks like a holiday ham. I’ve been there. The best advice I can give is to be prepared for these kinds of things. If you, like me, burn easily, find light summer clothing that gives you some coverage from the sun. Invest in a solid sunscreen with SPF 50-60. I’ve had the best luck with cream sunscreens, since I can see where they’re applied. The spray ones end up streaking, meaning their coverage is inconsistent.
  2. Treat the burn quickly.
    Hop into a cool shower. Sponge some apple cider vinegar over the burn. Dowse aloe vera all over the affected area and stand in front of a fan. Do whatever you can to cool down the skin and stop the burn in its tracks. I find the skin on other parts of my body far less prone to break-outs, so it’s alright if I get aggressive with my methods.
  3. Keep up with the aloe vera as often as possible.
    …but not too often. Aloe vera is non-comedogenic. That means it doesn’t get absorbed by the skin. While it’s excellent at creating a protective, cooling, anti-inflammatory barrier between your burn and the rest of the world, it can build into clumps if you try to apply it too often.Also, and I learned this one the hard way while treating my hives in San Francisco, do not apply aloe vera while you are out in the sun. The aloe dries into a glossy layer that works as a magnifying glass, intensifying the heat from the sun’s rays so it can do more damage to your already damaged skin.

    Don’t let my skin have suffered in vein: learn from me.

  4. Cover up your sunburn with light layers.
    I can’t promise that it won’t hurt to wear clothing over a sunburn. Depending on the severity of the burn, it might hurt a lot. But keeping your burn from being further exposed to the sun is necessary. What’s more, keeping your burn covered with light clothing is equally important. We all remember that science lesson about dark colours and light colours, right? Dark colours absorb light; light colours reflect. Dark colours are therefore going to get hotter, and if you think fabric scraping against a burn is uncomfortable, try a black t-shirt cooking the surface of your already damaged skin.
  5. Drink lots of water.
    Replenish all the fluids you lost when you got your sunburn. The effects might not be noticeable immediately, but increasing your water intake will help speed along your skin’s healing process.
  6. Don’t pick or scratch.
    I remember the first time my burn peeled. It was disgusting. My back flaked off, piece by piece, revealing patches of tan and pink on my still mending skin. It’s one thing to gently brush away errant pieces of dead flesh, but scraping or picking at a burn is a terrible idea. The body is very good at healing itself; it does not need your help in clearing away the dead stuff. Let your skin come off in its own time.Wow, that point sounded much more disgusting than I intended.

Sunburns happen, and while we should prevent them as much as possible, it’s very easy to have lapses in judgment. Nevertheless, our skin is the biggest organ on our bodies and one of the most important. Take care of it.

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