I’m not a smart sunbather. I go out in the sun, usually with no sunscreen, and try to get that beautiful bronze glow of a tan. I’ve learned the hard way that this is the worst thing you can do on a sunny day. Instead of a tan, I come crawling home to my mum, begging her to lather me up in aloe. Not attractive.
We’ve all been there, going out to the beach for a day of fun, and even with a hat and sunscreen we end up with red skin that gradually goes from uncomfortable to burning in a couple of hours. Sunburn can happen to anyone, even those with darker complexions, and in Bahrain’s summertime heat can wreak havoc. Thankfully, we’re here to help: here are a few steps for getting through the sunburn. We feel your pain.
Let your body cool before using lotion
Your parents or friends may have taught you to get home and slather on the lotion or aloe vera right away, however, that’s not recommended. First, you should allow your body to cool down and to its normal temperature before applying cooling agents and creams. Dermatologist Dr Vandana Metha, of Dr Hassan Al Abdulla Medical Centre in Qatar, says you should ‘expose yourself to cold temperatures, such as air conditioning, and apply a cold compress,’ to the burn. Take a cool shower or even a cold bath with oatmeal, a magic ingredient that should sooth your skin. Try taking some plain oatmeal, stick it in a blender, and sprinkle it in your bath. After that, relax on the sofa (I know, tough, right?), curl up with a movie and take it easy. Drink some cold water, and before bed you can start to slather on the feel-good lotions.
How to stop the pain
Sunburn hurts. A lot. We have all been there when our friends are calling us ‘lobster’ and your face constantly has the red embarrassed glow. Your skin is burned and therefore inflamed and swollen, which is why it hurts so much. Keep hydrated. The more water in your body, the faster it can heal itself. Most pain you feel, such as that annoying headache, stomach ache and the general pains and ill feeling are actually from dehydration. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, since they can dehydrate you and make your skin feel worse. Power up with tea: green or peppermint tea both work wonders. Mint will refresh and sooth you while green tea has elements that help reduce inflammation and protect against UV radiation in the future. Make the tea, let it cool and soak a cloth to use as a compress for instant soothing results. Don’t rub, though – this will only make it more irritated. Still in pain? Head to the kitchen and grab some vinegar; white vinegar has acetic acid, one of the main ingredients in Aspirin. Either use this as a compress on skin or add two cups of it to a bath.
For those extra burnt areas, such as your nose and neck, slice up some cucumber or potato and rub it on gently, since both have ingredients that can help reduce inflammation. If you’re really suffering, you can take an Advil or other anti-inflammatory pill, but be careful not to take too much. Dr Metha says you should try to see your doctor to get a prescription medication to help the pain. ‘Anti-inflamitories are okay, but taken chronically they can actually increase your chances of getting a sunburn,’ she says. ‘So for temporary relief of pain, Advil isn’t your first choice, but if you need to, one isn’t much difference.’
Sleep it off
You can’t feel pain when you’re sleep.So save yourself and your friends the crankiness of being burnt to a crisp and go to bed. Your body is working hard to repair your skin, so do it a favour and give it a rest. If your skin is too sensitive to sleep peacefully, try mixing baking soda and vinegar and rub it on before bedtime. Sheets rubbing against you? Sprinkling them with corn starch will prevent your sheets from chafing and sticking to your skin overnight.
But if it doesn’t go away, or continues to hurt, get to the doctor if you need to. Dr Mehta says that if sunburn is not treated, it can extend to other areas of your body. For example, if it’s only on your face, it can spread to your neck or hands. ‘Sunburn also requires treatment,’ she says. ‘If it’s just acute from being at the beach, come in for treatment with medication.’
Help the healing
Unfortunately, sunburn permanently damages your skin. However, you can speed up the healing. Wear loose- fitting, light, breathable clothes until it heals. Cottons, linens and light silks will be your best friend, and you should skip anything that makes you sweat or is tight on your skin. Keep moisturised. Dr Mahta recommends applying bland moisturiser or camomile to affected skin. This will help you prevent peeling (which is all kinds of gross), and will also help with that tight, itchy feeling. Avoid lotion with colours or heavy perfumes, as this can add to the irritation. Baby moisturisers are good, since they have little perfume in them, are meant for sensitive baby skin and are usually pretty cheap. If you’re peeling, don’t pick at it. This can cause scars. Ask around and get a hold of an aloe vera plant. You can spread the balm onto your skin. If you can’t find an actual aloe vera plant, you can buy lotions and aloe vera extract, which you can keep in the fridge for an extra cool treat. Lastly, don’t do it again. Apply sunscreen, cover up and have fun on the beach.
Dermatologists in Bahrain include Bahrain Specialist Hospital (17 812 222) and American Mission Hospital (17 253 447)