I have become somewhat of a ‘field -expert’ on sunburns over the past 20 some years. I grew up a fair skinned Irish boy with blondish brown hair who evolved into an Bald-headed Irish man. So over the years I have had some ‘tactical’ training in regards to sun management.
So lets start with the basics.
- Any exposed skin can burn. In fact, some covered areas are susceptible to burning depending on the material that is doing the covering.
- Sunblock is your friend. (In fact it’s my best friend.. My BFF!) Use it generously.
- Pre-plan your sun exposure
- Apply any sunblock 30minutes prior if you can
- Apply any sunblock to all areas you can reach to save yourself the mistake of thinking a certain body part was ‘covered’ and safe from being sunburned.
- Bring along extra sunblock wherever you go!
- Reapply generously, at the very least every 2-3 hrs regardless of what you’re doing (swimming, sweating, etc)
- Contrary to popular opinion and recent articles of study, getting a base tan DOES help.
- NO IT DOES NOT PREVENT SUNBURN, but it does lessen the effects of that initial sun exposure (take it from personal experience)
- You STILL need to apply sunblock, regardless of what kind of ‘base tan’ you think you have
- The color/shade of your skin does matter
- Are you a ‘red’ tanner?
- Do you bronze? Or do you simply get a darker red?
- Do you tan at all?
- Your color will affect how long or how little it will take to get burned!
- If your skin is lighter in color, be much more mindful of your exposure time
So here’s the scoop.
I have had a shaved bald head for 10+ years now. And in that time I can count on one hand how many times I’ve actually burned my scalp. Twice.
The first time was when I first shaved my head. I burned it in April, during the first real sun here in the northeast. It was an overcast, but warm day. (Man did that hurt!) The second time was last fall. We were touring Washington, D.C. and I was too caught up on not getting lost, and I did not realize the sunblock that I normally have my car, was not there.
I don’t burn my head, nor any other parts of my body because I plan ahead. And simply because I have sunblock no matter where I go. There are bottles of spray in the closet in the house, a bottle in my car, a bottle in the garage, oh yeah and a bottle In my wife’s car.
The other part of my equation for sunburn survival… and this is the BIG ONE… Baby Oil.
No.. I don’t use baby oil for tanning. That would be a horrific sight.. Could you see this bald headed Irishman applying baby oil to magnify the sun!!!! Geesh.
If you want to know how to help your skin recover from a hard day in the sun, shorten the amount of time it takes to recuperate from a burn, or how to lessen the ‘sting’ feeling on those horrible nights.
Here is the secret.
When you’re in shower, usually the shower you take after you’ve been out all day, or the shower you take to peel off all the sunblock and/or sand off your beautifully burned body. You need to turn up the heat on your water. As high as you can tolerate comfortably. No need to torture yourself. After you turned up the heat, apply the baby oil while you are still in the shower.
I’ll say that again. Apply the baby oil while you are still in the shower.. Yes, while you are still wet! Do not dry off and apply the baby oil, it will negate the effect.
Here’s the reason why this works. It’s two fold. First of all the increased temperature of your water.. As hot as you can tolerate.. Opens up the pores in your skin. It dilates and vasodilates everything goin’ on with your skin and circulation. The baby oil serves as a ‘softener’ of sorts. The open pores literally suck up the baby oil. After your done applying and when you get out of the shower be sure to dab yourself dry, don’t dry off like you normally do. It will wipe away what little bit of baby oil is still on your skin.
If you haven’t noticed, burned skin is dry as a bone. And that dry skin is what causes the ‘sting’. The reason why most sunburned areas hurt so bad, is not so much the state of the skin itself, but the folding and wrinkling of the skin is what causes the sting. Every time you bend your elbow or raise your shoulder you get that ‘stinging’. Well the softer skin, or should I say the more moist your skin is, the less irritating those movements are.
Here’s the crazy part about all this. I can use up 1/4 bottle of baby oil in the shower in one application. By the time I get out of the shower, and dab myself dry, the baby oil is gone. Your skin literally sucks it all up. That’s how dry sunburned skin is.
Think I’m pulling your leg? Try it.
My wife thought the same thing. But guess who uses this technique whenever she gets a bad burn?
This technique I stole. It was something shown to me when I was a competitive swimmer in high school. Spending the many hours you do in chlorinated water tends to dry out your skin, and the baby oil helped stop that side effect from worsening.
Oh, one side note (as my wife kindly pointed out). The baby oil will not turn you into one big oily pimple. You will not break out with acne like you’re a teenager again.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one
As always take care of yourselves and yours.