Tag Archives: sunburn treatments

Everybody’s Free (To Get Burned If They Don’t Wear Enough Sunscreen)

I had an adventure over the weekend involving turtles and a tropical island. More about that later – I’m waiting for some photos to come back before I blog about the actual adventure.

But one part of my adventure was less enjoyable than the rest, and it’s the one I want to write about today:

I am currently sporting one of the worst sunburns I’ve ever had in my life.

Crispy baked human cracklings, anyone?

Crispy baked human cracklings, anyone?

Before the lectures start: yes, I wore sunscreen. Yes, it was sport/waterproof/sweatproof. Yes, I re-applied. And then I ran out. And somewhere between getting on a boat and getting off the boat, I set up a crispy baked pork rind situation on my back. Those glossy bubble-shaped things?

I’m sorry to be graphic (who’m I kidding, no I’m not) but I take sunburns and suntanning pretty damn seriously. My everyday moisturizer is SPF 50. The sunblocks I had with me were SPF 30 and SPF 55, respectively. I usually wear a spray-on Neutrogena spray with an SPF of somewhere between 70 and 100, even though everybody says it doesn’t make a difference at that level of sun protection, because I’m a very pale lady with no “base coat” tan. I get about one mild burn a season when I get caught unawares, but this level of YUCK has not been seen since I was in second grade and we went to Florida and two weeks later all the skin peeled off my nose and started bleeding everywhere in the middle of one of the church services I went to every week with my mom and siblings.

The worst thing about sunburn is that it takes a few hours to start showing real damage, so you don’t even realize that while you’re hanging out on a boat, sipping Carib beers and taking the occasional tequila shot from one of your fellow adventurers, that you’re also slowly broiling yourself. Because you’re re-applying sunscreen, see? So how could you possibly be destroying your skin cells?

In the last 72 hours I’ve rubbed more plant- and foodstuffs all over my body than Samantha Jones in a foodkink episode of Sex in the City.

About 18 hours after I got burned I finally found an aloe plant (craftily hidden in plain sight outside my hotel room door); as one friend said:

I even stripped a few leaves for gel, which I put in a small container and brought back on the plane with me (and yes, I declared it at the border back into the states). Once I was home, I headed straight to CVS and picked up:

  • Solarcaine spray with numbing agent
  • Ibuprofen
  • Vitamin C
  • 70 SPF sunblock spray from Neutragena

I also heard (and did some research to back up) the idea that olive oil can be helpful for retaining moisture in your skin and helping keep it from peeling (though I feel like by 48 hours after the fact, once the blisters had really come up, it was probably too late to keep that from happening), so I slathered on some olive oil last night. Whether it’s ultimately helpful or just makes my skin feel softer where there aren’t any burns, I dunno, but by that point I didn’t even care. (Some research showed that coconut oil might also be useful – unlike other oils, these two get absorbed into your skin, so don’t lock heat in and worsen the burn, according to what I was able to find and read.) One friend recommended using witch hazel or having an apple cidar bath, but a nurse friend veto’d the witch hazel idea (while saying the rest of the plans sounded like they might be useful).

I remember the moment in my adventure when I thought, “Maybe it’s time to sit in the shade for a while.” Then I smeared more sunscreen on and got back in the sun anyways.

It’s not that I wish I hadn’t – I had an absolute blast – but I do realize the wisdom in a move made by two more experienced adventurers: early on, they both pulled out close-fitting long-sleeved nylon shirts and put them on. “I wonder why they’re doing that,” I thought, because I’d seen them both putting on sunblock for most of the morning.

Now I know why.

And next time I go adventuring, I definitely plan to get a long-sleeved nylon top of my own. And maybe some pants, because for the first two days after I got the burn, I could barely sit down.

My lesson? If you’re going somewhere sunny, bring along at least three times as much sunscreen as you think you’re going to need. And some aloe gel. And maybe a large sheet to wrap yourself up in to keep the sun off your body.

Oh well. The rest of the adventure was a blast, and the blisters will fade in a week or so. (And then in 30 or 40 years, I can deal with the fallout from the skin damage that’s been done). Until the blisters fade, though, I’m rummaging through my closet for the loosest fitting, non-bra-est-needing clothes I can find, and hoping my stock holds out until either the blisters go down or we hit the weekend. Whichever comes first.

Please, please, if there’s anyone listening with the power to affect that – let the blisters go down first.

Everybody else: I have sunburn now, but sunburns aren’t cool.* Wear more sunscreen.

2013-09-07 10.28.26


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*Obligatory Doctor Who reference.