Legendary American athlete, Wilma Rudolph once said: "When the sun is shining I can do anything; no mountain is too high, no trouble too difficult to overcome." Nothing is more invigorating than spending a day in the sun. Not only does it provide our skin with a lovely tan but it also boosts our serotonin levels which improves our moods and reduces anxiety. As much as we enjoy spending time in the sun, it is important to realize that careless, prolonged exposure can result in premature aging and an increased risk of contracting skin cancer. Even if you only get sunburned once every two years your risk of melanoma skin cancer can triple according to the American Cancer Society. By coupling a few basic guidelines with good-quality sun protection products you can prevent sunburn from occurring, ensuring that your skin remains free from damage.
Understand your tanning time and apply the right sunscreen
At some point while tanning, your skin is going to reach a point where it is unable to produce any more melanin, making it pointless to spend day after day in the sun. Everyone has a melanin cut-off of approximately 2 to 3 hours according to leading dermatologist Dr. Nick Lowe. This time is significantly less if you have very fair skin. If you stay in the sun any longer than this you are simply exposing yourself to severe UV damage. Opt for a high-quality SPF 30 sunscreen that is designed for broad-spectrum use and use it liberally as indicated on the packaging.
Eat sun-friendly food and take some supplements
Did you know that by taking a daily beta-carotene supplement you can boost your skin’s natural UV defense? Healthy doses of Vitamins C & E can also contribute towards your skin’s resistance to damaging UV rays and can be obtained either directly from your diet or from a good multivitamin. Make sure you follow a diet rich in antioxidants as they can play an important role in how well your skin withstands the sun. Lycopene is the skin’s built-in sun defense and can be found in tomatoes and other red and orange-colored fruit and vegetables. Greens are another great addition to a sun-friendly diet as leafy vegetables contains heaps of polyphenols that help protect the skin from sun damage, keeping your skin looking and feeling young and healthy.
How to address your sunburn sensibly
Sometimes, despite our best efforts to not be exposed to too much sunshine, we end up with a sunburn regardless. If you find yourself with a nasty sunburn make sure to cool your skin down as fast as possible with a cool (not cold) bath or shower. Apply a non-oily moisturizer to your skin while it is still damp, paying extra attention to sensitive areas such as your shoulders, nose and the skin around your eyes. If you are in severe pain you can take a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for some relief. Don’t take any pain medication continuously for more than 72 hours before seeking medical assistance. Severe sunburn often goes hand in hand with dehydration, making it imperative to replenish your fluids and keep yourself well hydrated for the duration of your sunburn.
While a good after-sun lotion and some rest are often all that is required to recover from sunburn there are instances where medical attention may be required. If you have severe blistering as a result of exposure to the sun or experience a fever or chills, confusion or a terrible headache it is recommended to seek professional medical help as soon as possible.