Sun tanning: how not to hurt yourself

  • 2010-07-01

The middle of summer is the perfect time to rest. You come back after a vacation refreshed and suntanned. However, not everyone comes back with a beautiful tan. The reason for that is well known for a long time – excessive sun exposure. Having finally reached the sea, you usually spend all day at the beach, and ... on the next day you look just like a roasted chicken (or like a lobster - call it as you wish).

Or maybe you still haven’t had the time to do such a foolish thing? If not, then read this article and make conclusions.
Typically, a tan indicates a good tolerability and favorable effects on the body of ultraviolet rays, which are formed under the influence of biologically active substances that stimulate the nervous and endocrine systems, metabolism, improve resistance to infections and other diseases. In addition, under the influence of ultraviolet rays, vitamin D (which facilitates the absorption of calcium) is produced. Vitamin D also ensures the normal activity of many enzymes.

Sun tanning is one of the body’s defensive reactions. The thickening of the corneal layer and the ability of melanin to absorb the heat rays protects the body against long-wave ultraviolet rays, which in case of prolonged exposure can cause death of cells of underlying layers of skin and sunburn, as well as against infrared rays, which are one of the main causes of overheating and heat stroke.

Despite the positive effects, the danger to which we are exposed when staying on the beach for a long time is very high. What is most important for sunbathing is to realize that you cannot do it without sun cream. But you also need to understand that it must be chosen correctly. To do this, it is important to know that each of us has a different resistance of the skin to ultraviolet rays. Specialists have divided all people in six types. We are not going to tell you about the last two types, because they are dark-skinned people by nature and don’t really need any special protection against sunburns.

• The first type
This type is characterized by very light skin, blue or green eyes, and the hair is either blond or red. Their skin almost always gets sunburned instantly and it rarely gets any tan at all. Usually it just turns red and remains so, or simply begins to peel off. Experts advise these people to sunbathe very carefully, or not to do it at all! So if you belong to this type, you should take a sun cream with a high protection level and an umbrella with you when you go to the beach.

• The second type
The second type has light-blue or brown eyes, blond or red hair and freckles. Their skin tans a little, but still suffers from redness and burns in the sun. As you probably have guessed, this type is slightly more resistant to ultraviolet. In the first days of sunbathing, use a strong sun cream, and remember that the tan appears only after three or four days.

• The third type
This type has dark eyes, brown or dark brown hair and light skin. Basically, this description fits the people who surround us. People of this type are well tolerant to sunbathing, but they also should be careful, because the skin exposed to sun can get burned as well. They should be in the sun either in the early morning or after dinner. They should use sun creams with maximum protection for the first two days.

• The fourth type
These people have dark skin, brown eyes, hair of any color. Unlike all other types, these people tan evenly and almost never get burned, but in the first days of sunbathing, we recommend to use the sun creams with an average protection level.

"So ... Now I will not get a sunburn! ..." – you may rejoice and go to the store to choose a sunscreen ... Everything is correct, but that's not all.

There are a few more rules for the selection of “solar” cosmetics

It is common knowledge that the insidious UV rays cause cancer and rapid aging of the skin. But, in addition to that, they can cause photodermatitis.

Photodermatitis appears in the form of blisters, redness, itching and flaking skin. Most often it affects a person’s face, rarely the body and very rarely - hands and feet. Often it happens when going to a country where the sun is more active than what people are used to. It is commonly called “allergy to sun”.

However, there are no allergic components in the sun rays. But they are present in various creams, ointments, perfumes and deodorants. Substances in their composition react with UV rays and cause an allergic reaction. Those are polyunsaturated fatty acids, retinoid, oil of bergamot, St. John’s wort, rose, musk, sandalwood, the juice of dill, parsley, boric, salicylic acid, phenol, mercury, eosin, para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA). Therefore, when choosing a sunscreen, always study the content, and for good’s sake you should remove any perfumes or cosmetics, which contain the substances mentioned above from your cosmetics bag.

Treatment of allergy to the sun
Sometimes the appearance of an allergy is connected with the presence of any chronic disease especially of the liver or adrenal glands. Most often photodermatitis affects people with fair skin and small children whose protective reaction mechanisms of the skin are much weaker.

Taking certain medications also contributes to photodermatitis. For example, sulfonamides, barbiturates, chlorpromazine, certain antibiotics (doxycycline, tetracycline), antihistamines, certain cardiovascular drugs (amiodarone, trasicor), cytostatics, some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen).

In addition to that, the increased skin reaction to sunlight occurs when the skin “is weakened” in some additional ways, such as peeling or a making a tattoo with the use of cadmium salts.

So what should one do if after a day spent under the warm sun, the face becomes covered with blisters and itches unmercifully? First and foremost, you should, of course, consult a doctor. The treatment of photodermatitis is divided into external and internal. Ointments that contain lanolin, zinc, and methyluracil are imposed on the affected skin. In case of severe skin lesions the doctor may prescribe hormone ointments.

Medications that are taken internally contribute to the normalization of liver function, as well as to the restoration of normal metabolism in the body, regenerating the skin. Usually they are antioxidants, B vitamins, vitamins E and C, nicotinic acid. In cases of strong itching, antihistamines that do not cause allergic reactions in the sun are prescribed.

Treatment usually lasts from several days to several weeks. Repeated occurrence of photodermatitis can lead to eczema. Therefore, if photodermatitis appears for the second time, the exposure to sun is contraindicated for such person.
Many people who once have had “allergy to the sun” think that now they cannot sunbathe. That’s not true. If certain safety standards are maintained, such people can go to the beach. Moreover, children often “outgrow” this allergy.

Tan manual

First of all, you need to minimize the use of perfumes and cosmetics during your stay in the sun. If it is impossible to avoid using, for example, cosmetics with UV filters or sunscreen, it is necessary to carefully study the content of this product, better with a dermatologist.

Secondly, it is obligatory to wear a hat and sunglasses at the beach.

Thirdly, it is necessary to keep within limits. The most useful time for sunbathing is from 6 am to 10 am and from 16 to 19 p.m. In the hottest hours (from 10 to 16) it is better to hide indoors or to wear light clothing with long sleeves and stay in the shade.

Fourthly – one should not sunbathe immediately after meals or on an empty stomach.

Following these rather easy rules we can tan perfectly without any troubles such as sunburns and photodermatitis.

Remedy for burns
If you still have got a little sunburnt, our recommendations of application of some folk remedies may help you.

Potato juice has an anti-inflammatory effect, therefore, it is used in the treatment of sunburn. Potato tubers should be peeled, grated on a fine grater and the juice should be squeezed through cheesecloth. Lubricate the person’s face with it or dampen gauze with it and apply to the affected areas. The juice can be mixed with oatmeal or wheat flour and the mask should be applied on the face for 15 - 20 min.

When sunburned it is recommended to use a compress of strong brewed tea (one teaspoon of tea brewed in 1 / 4 cup of boiling water, brew for 30 - 40 min., then strain). Procedures should be performed 2 - 3 times per day for 20 - 30 min. Compresses relieve pain and burning sensation. 

Camomile tincture (1 tablespoon to a glass of boiling water, brew for 30 min) is used for lotions and compressoes if there is sunburn or frostbite.

Pour the seeds of quince with boiling water in the ratio 1:50, shake for 5 min. and then strain through cheesecloth. Grease the burned places with this slimy tincture 1-2 times per day. The procedure is repeated 3-4 times in a row at intervals of 10 - 15 min.

It is recommended to lubricate burned skin with the juice from fresh leaves of aloe.
Aloe juice, diluted with boiled water (1:1) is also applied for sunburns. Tissues soaked in diluted juice are put on the burned surface 1 - 2 times per day every 5-10 minutes within an hour.

In case of burns one can apply a lotion that is made from equal parts of watermelon and cucumber juice.

Cabbage leaves are used to treat sunburns, applying them to the burned skin.

Also, to treat skin burns, 10 or 20% decoction of oak bark (20-40 g of bark in 200ml water) can be used. Strain the broth immediately after heating, then cool it down and use for fomentation that is imposed on the burned skin every 5-10 minutes for an hour.

Have a happy summer and a beautiful tan!