Getting a tan is perhaps one of the more popular Australian passtimes during summer despite the fact that we are now more than ever aware of the risks and dangers associated with doing so. Not only do us Aussies love to be outdoors but we love to chase the sun when we are overseas on holidays also.
More often than not, we are diligent with our slip slop slap routine and make sure to apply adequate sun screen protection before going out in the sun. There are times however for one reason or the other, that we forget to, or we run out of supply and stay out in the sun a little more than we should. This article will give you some hints and tips to repair, heal and revive your skin after excess summer sun and describe some common skin reactions that can occur due to excess sun exposure.
Your reactions to sun will depend on many factors:
There are various factors that will determine how careful you need to be in the sun. These include skin type, duration of time with exposed skin, whether or not you plan on being in the water, climate and location and also type of protection used.
Where do you sit on the Fitzpatrick scale? Do you have fair skin that burns easily and rarely tans? Or do you have an olive complexion which tans easily and rarely burns? If you are unsure, we have written an article which can be found here describing the different skin types in detail.
Generally speaking, the darker your complexion, the more sun you can handle before becoming burnt. The reason for this is that the melanocytes in darker skin types are more suited to absorbing the sun’s rays. If you have very light and fair skin, you will need to be much more diligent with your skin care and sun protection routine and ensure you are wearing a SPF 50+ Sunscreen as well as protective clothing such as a hat, sunglasses and even covering yourself to some extent.
Duration of sun exposure
Common sense should apply here; If you are intending to be out in the sun for less than 30 minutes, you will most likely not need to be concerned with possible sun damage from over exposure. Having said that, in times of extreme hot weather even 30 minutes of consistent sun exposure is all you need to create red, inflamed and burnt skin. When in doubt always exercise caution. If you are going to be out in the sun for most of the day, you need to ensure you are adequately hydrated first and foremost and always reapply your sun protection cream every 3-4 hours consistently; more-so if you are going to be in and out of the water despite that some creams claim to be water resistant.
Despite many label claims of sun screens being water resistant, it is always best to re-apply after entering the water. The reason is that there is just no way of ensuring that the sun screen has fully absorbed into the skin and has not been washed out of the pores with constant water exposure. In any event, exercise caution as it is always best to re-apply and be covered.
Climate and Location
In Australia we can have some of the harshest weather conditions and aggressive sun rays. It is true however that even with overcast weather that appears cloudy, the sun is still able to penetrate and cause damage to our skin. If you are travelling this summer to a location that is not as hot and harsh as ours, still continue with your sun protection as you would normally.
Type of protection used
Always use a quality sun screen from a reputable brand you trust. If you are not concerned about sun damage to your skin, you may opt for a lower grade protection rating (Under SPF 30+ for example in order to tan quicker) however we always recommend the highest grade protection (SPF 50+) in order to avoid damage in the first place; remember it is always better and easier to prevent sun damage for your skin than it is for us to fix it!
What do I do if I have had too much sun?
Some of the more common skin reactions we see after sun exposure include;
Redness is the first sign of sun exposure and is when the body increases blood flow and drives blood up into the surface of the skin. Anti inflammatory signals are released by the body to tell it to begin the reparative process and chemicals such as histamine are released to deal with the trauma. Remember; red and hot to the touch skin means you have essentially a first degree burn.
This will appear as white discoloured patches when the skin has been overly exposed to the sun. The white discolouration means that the melanocytes in the skin which are there to absorb light have been overly stimulated. These white blotches usually fade and disappear over time in most cases. If they have not faded by the time your burn has subsided, get in touch with your dermatologist or see one of our dermal therapists who can assess your skin and start you off on your treatment plan.
Age Spots can appear after prolonged periods in the sun. They are usually small and brown in colour and appear around the eyes, cheeks and neck line. There are various genetic factors which can dictate the rate at which you develop these age spots however sun exposure is the main culprit and can accelerate sun damage no matter which skin type you are. We have various successful treatment programs for these Age Spots if you do manage to develop them. The best thing to do is to book in for a complimentary skin assessment so that we can identify the damage and provide the most appropriate course of action for you.
Peeling is a natural way for our bodies to break down and release dead skin cells specifically in the top most layer of our skin. Once peeling has begun it is nearly impossible to stop the rest of the area from peeling despite numerous products on the market claiming to do so. The best thing to do in this case is allow the body to do its job naturally and shed the dead skin cells. Once the burn has completely healed, you may gently exfoliate the area to help even out the appearance.
In some cases over exposure to the sun can cause so much damage that it becomes very painful and too difficult even to the slightest of touch. In this case special care needs to be given to the area and sun exposure should immediately cease to allow the skin to heal faster and avoid further damage. A good place to start is to frequently apply an aloe based healing gel, ideally that contains a numbing component such as lidocaine. This type of soothing gel can rapidly assist in the reparative process and dull the constant burning sensation. During this time, your skin will more readily absorb product and so ensure you are re-applying every couple of hours to avoid discomfort.
Summer does not have to be boring, and you don’t have to spend your holidays locked indoors. As always, be safe, use common sense and make sure you are well protected this summer or before going overseas on your next holiday. In summary here are some final tips for a great and outdoor fun adventure this summer:
- Always pack enough quality sun screen suited to your skin type for your trip. Take extra in case you lose some or run out if you will be in remote areas.
- Choose a quality sun screen that has a high enough SPF rating (50+)
- Wear a comfortable and lightweight hat that can breathe for more comfort in extreme weather conditions
- Always reapply every time you are going to be in the water for a prolonged period of time
- Carry an aloe/lidocaine based soothing gel in the event you are burnt
- Wear sun glasses that have UVA/UBA protection and that are polarised. Ensure the glasses adequately cover enough of the areas around your eyes which are more susceptible to sun damage.