Sunburn has a nasty habit of creeping up on you. Suddenly you’re aware of being sore just where you were getting a nice tan. It’s even quite painful when you touch it. You thought you were covered up enough, and you’d taken other precautions like avoiding direct sunlight as far as possible. But if you’re on holiday in a hot country (or in high mountains), and the sun is so inviting, it’s easy to misjudge how much exposure your skin can take.
That’s often the trouble. If you’re not used to being in fierce sunlight then how do you know how much of it your skin can take without burning? It’s a gamble when you’re trying to figure out how much exposure is safe, how much you can “get away with”.
So in this situation don’t be desperate to “get a tan”. If your skin tans naturally, you’ll get your tan without stripping half naked. If your skin doesn’t tan, or goes into red blotches when exposed to the sun for a while, you’ll have to accept that you’re unfortunately never going to have tanned skin, and that it’s important you stay covered up as far as possible.
So much for prevention. What about the cure?
Unfortunately there isn’t any real cure, as such, for sunburn. It’s a case of nursing your damaged skin back to health. Of course the pharmaceutical industry would like us to believe their products can prevent or cure sunburn. Be wary of these claims. I’m going to cover a few ways of recovering from sunburn using wholly natural substances.
And what could be more natural than water? Run a cool bath and add a cupful of vinegar, preferably white vinegar. If you don’t have any vinegar then just cool water will do. After soaking all affected areas, pat dry and put some chilled moisturiser on.
Alternatively add a little bicarbonate of soda to tepid bath water and after soaking all affected areas allow to dry naturally without toweling.
Don’t be tempted to have a bubble bath, or to use soap or soapy water on any sunburnt skin.
What you can use on it are aloe vera (though test on a small area first in case you’re allergic to it), slices of vegetable (cucumber, potato or apple are best), and natural yoghurt (rinse this off under a cool shower).
Another thing that can be very beneficial is cotton wool soaked in lettuce juice. Boil the lettuce in water, strain, cool in the refrigerator for a few hours, or overnight, and then put some cotton wool into the liquid. Apply to the affected area by pressing or stroking.
Rapid temporary relief can be obtained by applying some witch hazel with a cloth. Use a cotton wool bud or similar for smaller areas.
Alternatively take some corn flour, add enough water to make it into a paste, and gently spread it onto the affected area.
All the while drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids, as your body will need them to repair and replace the damaged skin cells. Maintain a balanced diet for the same reason.
If your feet or legs are burnt it helps to raise them above the level of your heart. This reduces the pain and is a good excuse to sit with your feet up for a day or two!
Some people advocate the use of ice packs. These usually relieve some of the soreness (even a packet of frozen peas, in an emergency), but be sure to wrap an ice pack in a sheet or towel rather than apply it direct to the skin.
If your eyelids are sore from sunburn, soak a couple of tea bags in cool water to help reduce the swelling and relieve the soreness.
You may find the next suggestion distasteful, in which case ignore it. However, many people have found relief from sunburn by actually collecting their own urine, soaking a cloth in it and applying it to the affected area. If you are suffering greatly from sunburn then you may just be prepared to try that.
If your back or sides are sunburnt then sleeping can be a big problem. But you need a good night’s sleep more than ever when you’re battling sunburn. Shake a tin of talcum powder over your bed sheets to make movements in bed easier.
Remember, certain kinds of drugs, anti biotics, tranquillisers, and so on, can cause reactions to your skin if taken at this time. If this applies to you, seek medical advice.
If you have blisters form on your sunburnt skin you may be tempted to burst them in order to relieve the pressure and the pain. Only do this with a sharp pin that you have sanitised by holding over a naked flame. Carefully squeeze the liquid out and soak up with a paper tissue. Never remove the skin covering the blister as this is protecting the new skin growing underneath.
Finally, sun-damaged skin can take 3 to 6 months to heal fully, so avoid further sun damage, especially within that time. Wear proper clothing, including a hat, when out in the sun, and avoid going out as far as possible in the hours around midday. And if you normally live in a temperate climate try and avoid travel to a hot climate, or a skiing holiday, until you have fully recovered.
So you can pack your bags for the beaches now confident that you have the best chance of not spoiling your enjoyment of all the sunshine.