We’ve all done it, forgot to apply our sunscreen or didn’t bother reapplying, stayed out in the sun just that little bit too long and ended up looking like a cherry-red tomato.
But burning ain’t cool.
Unprotected sun exposure especially when it results in the skin burning is so traumatic to our skin cells it results in both short-term and long-term damage. Short-term is the red, sore, inflamed, traumatised skin, followed by skin peeling. Long-term damage can be anything from pigmentation, increased skin sensitivity, premature ageing, impaired immune system and of course, skin cancer.
What Happens to Your Skin?
When the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation penetrates our skin it stimulates redness and swelling. The skin will start to lose moisture causing tightness and dehydration. Skin will start to thicken and pigment will be produced (tanning) in an attempt to stop the UV from penetrating the deeper layers and damaging the DNA of our cells. Sunburn is an indication that the UV radiation has caused damage to our skin. This damage is accumulative, with an added ‘hit’ from free radicals, which is also generated by UV exposure.
How to Save Your Skin from the Australian Sun
Spare your skin from sun damage with these top tips:
- Apply a SPF 30-50 broad spectrum sunscreen at least 20 minutes before you go outdoors and reapply every two hours.
- Avoid the sun, especially between 11am and 3pm.
- Drink plenty of water.
- If you’re relying on the SPF in your moisturiser, ensure you apply the same amount as any sunscreen – half a teaspoon for your face, neck and ears.
- For the body, apply 30-35ml of sunscreen – that’s about the size of a golf ball.
- Ensure your skincare products are packed full of antioxidants.
- Toss last year’s sunscreens if out of date. Once opened, they only have a shelf life of one year.
- Wear natural fabrics, especially light cotton tops with long sleeves.
- Avoid products with artificial fragrance as they can react with UV rays and cause photosensitivity.
- Treat skin dehydration with spritz toners and serums containing hyaluronic acid – a great ingredient that can hold 1,000 times its own weight in moisture.
- Those with sensitive skin should opt for physical sunscreens as opposed to chemical ones as they are less sensitising.
- Purchase sunscreens that state they are non-comedogenic, which means they don’t contain any ingredients that can cause your skin to congest.
How to Treat Sunburn
If you’ve overdone it and gotten sunburnt, here is what to do.
Take cool baths or showers and avoid bath salts or bubble bath, using a gentle, soap-free body wash instead. Adding colloidal oatmeal into bath water will also help to reduce the redness and take down the heat and inflammation. Blot (don’t rub) your skin dry. Also, keep cold towels or compresses in the fridge and apply them to the ‘hot spots’ of your sunburn.
Avoid applying greasy, heavy creams or oils as they can prevent the skin from cooling down and can make the situation worse. Use a soothing after-sun repair gel instead and apply it generously to the burnt, red areas. You can also spritz on an ultra-calming toner throughout the day to keep the skin cool and calm. Look for ingredients in your after-sun product such as clove, liquorice, lavender, cucumber and yucca to reduce irritation, pain and redness. I highly recommend products that contain an incredible ingredient called Japanese alder which accelerates the repair of UV-induced DNA damage. Couple this with ingredients such as algae and hyaluronic acid to rehydrate the skin and you should be well on your way to calmer skin.
So think twice next time you decide ‘just another ten minutes’ as your skin won’t thank you for it!