There are pros and cons to every season. One of the number one drawbacks of summer? What the harsh summer rays can do to the skin.
We all know the harmful affects the sun's beautiful beams have, right? If it's been a minute since you've really read up on the affects of UV rays, allow us to catch you up.
UV (or ultra-violet) rays are electromagnetic radiation that is present in sunlight, constituting about 10% of the total light output of the sun. And while 10% might not seem like a lot, it's enough to cause some pretty severe damage on human skin, if unprotected.
Namely? The infamous sunburn.
Sunburn, that annoying redness of the skin, is due to increased blood flow in the skin. It's caused by dilatation of the blood vessels in the dermis (a.k.a. a layer of the skin) and is a result of exposure to UV radiation.
Pain, blistering, and peeling often come after a sunburn -- not to mention that too much over exposure can eventually cause various types of skin cancer.
That being said, the first and most important offense against sunburn is a good defense. We all know that regularly applying sunscreen is key in preventing damages, but it's also important to know a little bit about the enemy to best outsmart it.
According to the American Cancer Society, here is when you're most likely to fall prey to the sunburn:
- Time of day: UV rays are strongest between 10 am and 4 pm.
- Season of the year: UV rays are stronger during spring and summer months. This is less of a factor near the equator.
- Distance from the equator (latitude): UV exposure goes down as you get further from the equator.
- Altitude: More UV rays reach the ground at higher elevations.
- Cloud cover: The effect of clouds can vary. Sometimes cloud cover blocks some UV from the sun and lowers UV exposure, while some types of clouds can reflect UV and can increase UV exposure. What is important to know is that UV rays can get through, even on a cloudy day.
- Reflection off surfaces: UV rays can bounce off surfaces like water, sand, snow, pavement, or grass, leading to an increase in UV exposure.
Now that you know the tricks of the sunburn, let's be real for a second -- sometimes we screw up. We forget to reapply, we go out during prime sun time, or maybe we forget the SPF all together.
Just like that you're red as a lobster, can't touch your shoulders without wincing in pain, and are suddenly shedding your skin like some kind of snake.
So, you didn't put up the defense, but you can still jump on the offense in a few really simple ways! Here are a few tricks to ease a sunburn and help it fade away faster.
1. Use Cold Compresses
Applying a cool compress for 10 or 15 minutes a few times every day will help take some of the heat out of your skin. Taking cool baths or showers will help relieve the pain, too!
Just make sure that get out of the bathtub or shower, gently pat yourself dry, and leave a little water on your skin. Then, apply a moisturizer to help trap the water in your skin. This will help reduce dryness and peeling in a few days.
2. Apply Moisturizer
Get yourself some moisutrizer that contains aloe vera or soy to help soothe sunburned skin. Or, if you want to go right to the source, straight aloe will do the trick.
Be careful not to use lotions or creams that have any of these things listed in the ingredients: petroleum, benzocaine, or lidocaine. These ingredients can trap heat in your skin (let's all say a big, NO THANK YOU) or inflame the area.
If a particular area feels especially uncomfortable, you may want to apply a hydrocortisone cream that you can buy without a prescription.
3. Drink Lots of Water
You need to moisturize on the outside, right? Well, the inside is no exception! Drinking plenty of water is crucial to healthy skin and that's especially true when your skin is under attack.
Plus, it'll keep you nice and hydrated which should be a daily goal, sunburned or not.
4. Don't Pick
Look, we've all peeled at our sunburned skin. Don't lie and say you haven't. But when your skin is blistering from a sunburn, your best bet is to keep your hands off.
Not only will picking at the blistered area increase discomfort, redness, and irritation, but it could also cause the burn to become infected. And, friends, that is something you do not want.
5. Take Extra Care
It might seem a little extreme, but take extra care of your skin when you're battling a burn. Wear clothing that covers your skin when outdoors, especially tightly-woven fabrics that don't let in too much light. Opt for hats and apply sunscreen often and accordingly!
Don't forget, keep an eye on how you're feeling; if you feel dizzy, weak, sick to your stomach, cold, or just not yourself you need to see a doctor ASAP. Sunburns can make you pretty sick if left untreated, so be on the alert for unusual symptoms.
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