If you are going on any kind of outing, take the following items to ensure you won't have an attack of "lobster skin." All of the suggested articles will fit in a small backpack or beach bag. Don't leave home without them, or you may come back home sporting a sunburn.
Always have a lightweight, long-sleeved, white T-shirt (like the kind you get for running a race). It will cover most of your upper body and save you from burning. You can pull it on and off if you are boating, on the beach, or even taking a long walk or hike. It can be wrapped around your waist when you aren't wearing it. Lighter colors reflect light and won't make you feel as hot as darker colors.
A bandana or scarf is another important sun protector. The T-shirt won't cover the nape of your neck. If you have short hair or your hair is pulled up off your neck, this area is highly susceptible to sunburn. The bandana or scarf can be tied loosely around your neck, like a scout, covering most of the back of your neck. You can also dip the bandana in water before putting it on. (The water will help to keep you cool.)
Take a hat. You should always have a hat with you, even if it's just a visor or baseball cap, if you are going to be out in the sun. Wide-brimmed hats offer you much better sun protection than caps, but any kind of hat is better than no hat at all.
Of course, you want your trusty sunscreen. Waterproof is best if you are going to be in, on, or by the water. Waterproof sun protection also needs to be worn if you are going to be outside in the heat for any length of time where you'll be sweating (even mowing the lawn or gardening). And finally, if you will be exercising, then of course you'll want to wear waterproof sunscreen. Otherwise, in the first few minutes of sweating, you will be left unprotected.
Cotton, drawstring or other loose-fitting pants in a light, sun-reflecting color are good to have around—especially on a boat. If your legs have been exposed for a while, slip these pants on and keep the sun away until you're ready for more.
Don't forget your sunglasses. Most sunglasses sold today have UV sun protectors built into the glass. Check to make sure, and then make sure to wear them. Not only can they filter harmful rays from your eyes, but they will also keep you from squinting. (Squinting will rapidly increase the lines around your eyes.)
The burn. So now you've done it. Your friends are calling you the lobster because you fried yourself in the sun. While they're chuckling at you, you are really in pain. It's like lying on a stove top with the burners on. You're a piece of toast that stayed a bit too long in the toaster. You're overdone.
Sunburn can bring with it some serious side effects. Because you have just damaged a large section of skin, your body has been signaled to flood the area with fluids to help begin the repairing process. This will cause slight to acute swelling or edema. It will make your skin feel tight and even more painful as the fluids stretch out your burned and sensitive skin. I want to emphasize the importance of the following advice. It has saved me and many clients from a lot of pain. I hope you never get burned, but if it happens I hope the following information can help.
If you have been overexposed (AT ALL) to the sun, start putting aloe vera gel all over the effected area immediately and continually. Aloe vera is 99% water, 1% protein. The water helps to replace the fluids that have been lost through sun exposure; the protein helps to rebuild damaged tissue. Aloe is a contact healer, meaning it starts to heal on contact. In cases of severe burns, aloe vera will not be enough, and you will want to seek medical treatment. But for the average, milder type of sunburn, aloe vera gel can do wonders. Don't wait until you've become a lobster before getting this product at the store, and don't forget to take it with you on vacations. Even hiking in the cool mountains can cause sunburn if your skin is overexposed.
Aloe vera products and pure 100% gel can usually be found at most health food stores. There are gels on the market with ingredients like allantoin (a soothing agent extracted from the herb, comfrey) and cucumber extract. These ingredients are both beneficial in calming sunburned skin. Aloe vera gel is not terribly expensive, and it keeps for an eternity if refrigerated. It has many uses, but it is especially good for sunburns. I recommend a gel that is at least 95% aloe vera. Anything less will have too many other ingredients in it you don't want.
If you are burned, you'll need to start applying aloe immediately and frequently. Because it's a gel, it will dry fairly quickly, and you will probably go through quite a bit of it. As soon as it dries, I would reapply it. Or at least reapply it every 15 to 20 minutes for the first few hours and every hour after that for the first 24 hours. I have recommended this course of action to many clients over the years as well as using it for my own overexposure, and if you keep applying aloe gel, it can have a remarkable effect on a sunburn.
Drinking water is also important because it helps to rehydrate your system after sun exposure. A bowl of water sitting in the hot sun will evaporate in a short time. Your body, through sweating and evaporation, also loses a lot of water when out in the sun. These fluids need to be replaced often. Keep in mind, alcohol is a diuretic and leaches water out of your body. If you're drinking alcohol and are exposed to the sun, you really need to seek out some shade and keep your system hydrated with lots and lots of water.
All of these items (a long-sleeved T-shirt, a bandana, a hat, sunscreen, loose-fitting pants, sunglasses, aloe vera gel, and water) can easily be carried with you whenever you're going to engage in outdoor activities. Be prepared, be careful, and most of all enjoy your (protected) self. (To Top) Back to Articles List