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Sun Protection #101 - Cheat Sheet


Protecting my skin from sun damage is something that I never really bothered about. Before I hit my 20's I never applied SPF, I didn't see the point as I wanted to get a tan, but with fair skin, and being a natural red head, sunburn was more common than a sun tan. So I've had quite a lot of experience in treating sun burn. So for all those who have a similar mind set, I thought I would put together a little guide on how to protect your skin, but on the occasion skin does get burnt, there's some products and tips I recommend thrown in there too. 

SPF: As hard as they tried my parents could never get me to wear sun screen whilst in my teens. I was so adamant I wanted to get a tan that I didn't realise how damaging the sun is to the skin. I thought sun burn was the least of my worries. Dry, sensitive or even leathery skin due to too much sun exposure, dark spots from sun damage, the sun being responsible for my freckles, all catch up in the end and it's at 24 I now realise just how stupid it was to not protect my skin. But now I won't leave the house without sunscreen on and in my bag for reapplying later. 

- Use a sunscreen that has broad spectrum, UVA and UVB protection to ensure that you have comprehensive protection against the suns ray, because trust me, a tan is not worth the health risks that comes with it.
- I would say SPF 30 or above is the best protection for skin to prevent long term damage and exposure. 
- Re-apply sun screen throughout the day.
- Sun is the most powerful during the middle of the day, from 10am-2pm. So try and avoid direct sunlight during these times. 

The things I am about to tell you are not things I'm proud of, nor do I recommend them, I just wanted to share some of my experiences/stupidity to show just how naive I was and how important it is to look after your skin, no matter what age you are. 
I remember one time I got so burnt on the back of my legs, that bending my legs hurts for days because it was right on the crease at the back of my knee. Sitting, clothes, walking, anything which involved bending my leg was agony. 
If that wasn't bad enough, I remember getting burnt so severely on my back whilst on a family holiday that I couldn't lay down on my back, I couldn't wear a bra because it hurt, showers, anything that touched my back made it so painful. Luckily this only lasts for a few days before the sting dissolves, but it's then the itching and the peeling skin that looks red raw that is not a pretty sight.
But I still didn't learn. My shoulders and chest have been burnt more times than I remember and it's so painful to wear certain tops, I would have to cover those areas once they got burnt otherwise as soon as the sun hit them they would sting and burn again. 
I have freckles, and when the summer months roll around they get darker, more noticeable because of the sun. My cheeks and nose have peeled to almost an inch of their life because I didn't wear SPF on my face, tops of the ears, forehead, and even lips. Trust me when I say these are very sore areas to get burnt. 

THE FACTS: Sun damage comes in all different forms, from burnt skin, to dehydration and headaches to full on sun poisoning/sun stroke. Here's some tips to recognise, treat or avoid these symptoms and what to look out for when around others.
- Similar to exposure when in extremely cold environments, sun exposure has more than just skin burning or cancer as it's symptoms. Sun sickness when exposed to too much sun is dangerous, just like hypothermia in extremely cold conditions.
- Sun Burn: Red itchy, burning skin isn't the only symptom of sun exposure, too much sun can cause symptoms like...
- ...Sun Poisoning/Sun Stroke: Headache, Nausea, Dizziness, Dehydration, Fever & Chills, Upset Stomach.
- Other than sun burn and sickness, there is obviously risks of dark spots like freckles, and in many cases cancer, but these can be avoided. Limit your time in the sun, ensure SPF is applied regularly, you are keeping hydrated, and you are keeping your skin protected from direct rays. 
- You can get sun burnt even if there is a breeze, in fact the breeze is misleading and it feels like it's preventing your sun being burnt, but actually that's not the case. So still cover up, sunlight is sunlight and whether there's a breeze or not, you still have to be careful. 
- Bed sheets, clothes, bra straps, all irritated and stung when it came into contact with my burnt skin. 
- Shoulders chest and nose are places which are most likely to get burnt first, but feet, back and neck are vulnerable to the Suns Rays.
- Wear a hat, a cover up to protect your skin from direct exposure, reapply sun screen like no tomorrow. All great ways to prevent burning. 
- Keep hydrated whilst out in the sun, drink twice the amount of water when out in the sun. 
- Sit in the shade, get out of direct sun light often to limit exposure.
- Sunburn doesn't just occur while relaxing on a beach or laying at the side of the pool. You can still get burnt when in a snowy environment, and in water. Protect your skin no matter what the weather conditions. 

How to know if you've been sun burnt:
Sun burn is where your skin is very red, hot to the touch, you will get stinging or tingling sensations, sometimes inflamed or itchy skin and even blisters can occur. But you can't always see sunburn straight away, it may take a couple hours to develop. So ensure you stay hydrated, keep your skin cool and keep out of sunlight. 

How to know if you have sun sickness:
If you feel nauseous or dizzy, if you feel very tired or lethargic. If you have an upset stomach. These are all symptoms of sun stroke or sun poisoning or sickness and you must tell someone either family member or call a doctor. Stay hydrated

Treatments & Remedies:
- Keep Hydrated: Drink lots of water
- Take a shower: There's misconceptions on this one, some say take a cool shower, others say take a hot shower. The cool water soothes and cools the skin, but hot water stings at first but then takes the overall sting out of the sunburn. So you could always do both and see if that helps. 
- Apply after sun: Or something like Aloe Vera to soothe and cool the skin, it also helps to heal and prevent blistering and flaking. 
- Apply a cold compress to the area. 
- Keep sunburned areas out of the sun until healed. 

AFTER SUN: There are products out there designed specifically for use on sun burn, or even just after sun exposure, even if you haven't been burnt. These products are designed to hydrate, cool and soothe your skin, because if you're going to put it in the ring with the sun, you best be sure you are willing to do what you can to prevent damage after the fact and remain sensible with your exposure time table. If it's a tan you're after, there's safer ways to achieve it, often more natural looking, than to damage your skin to the point where it's irreversible. Just hit the fake tan bottle and you have your natural streak-free tan 24/7, come ran or shine. 

But for those times where you have been a little careless in the SPF department. Always use SPF on the skin following sun burn, sun burn on top of sun burn is not fun and when sun burn is touched by the Suns Ray's again trust me, it's very painful. Wow that's a lot of mentions of sun in that one sentence nevermind this entire post. 

When I got sun burnt, I would slather Cocoa Butter or Aloe Vera lotion or an after sun lotion all over to soothe and cool my skin, and take down the stinging and burning pain. Without this there would have been many more uncomfortable nights with a constant reminder all night how stupid I was to not wear sunscreen. But even more stupidly, I never learnt. The damage I have caused is a lost cause, but I can ensure that from now on, I protect my skin properly to avoid any further damage. 

Ingredients Important For Soothing Skin After Sun Exposure:
You can get ready bought after sun lotions, but they can be pretty pricey and considering there's standard ingredients that are used in most after sun products, it's easier to either mix up a batch of your own or find the one ingredient that works the best. Aloe Vera Gel or Cocoa Butter work best for my skin type but here's some other's for you...

- Aloe Vera - Soothe skins, moisturises, anti-bacterial, relieves pain and inflammation, prevents swelling or infection, accelerates healing.
- Cocoa Butter - Helps maintain moisture in skin when sun burnt, prevents peeling. 
- Shea Butter - Heals and soothes skin, moisturises, eases peeling, Great for burns of all sorts, hair tools, oven burns etc. 
- Vitamin E - Heal skin, Reduce Inflammation and Skin Damage.
- Spearmint/Peppermint (Tea) - Cooling, Soothing. 
- Cucumber - Cooling, Soothe irritated and inflamed skin, 
- Witch Hazel - Soothes irritated skin. It's a great itch relief. Prevents infamous skin peeling and flaking, Lessen healing time.

That's all for my Sun Damage/Protection fact sheet for today. I hope this has been helpful and I apologise it's a lengthy and wordy one. I have a lot of experience with sun burn and being a naive young girl that thought the sun wouldn't damage her because she's so young, but my age is creeping up and I can tell that my skin doesn't thank me for the abuse and neglect when it came to wearing SPF. But I have learnt my lesson and I am never too far away from some SPF. 

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