I’m sure it will come as no surprise to you that New Zealand has one of the highest skin cancer rates in the world. When I was at school we used to oil up with Johnson’s baby lotion and lie in the sun all day perfecting the “perfect tan.”
When exposed to UV light your skin increases its production of melanin. Now, melanin is the dark pigment in the top layer of your skin, and upping the melanin is how we protect the deeper layers of skin – in effect that tan is supposed to act as a shield against UV light. Genetics plays a huge part in how much melanin we produce and how much we are likely to burn. I am still a favourite of the good old calamine lotion – we were the kids on the beach with the white blotches all over us until mum discovered zinc cream for noses! – but that’s another story. I grew up and married a blue-eyed redhead and had 2 children who rapidly grew up into adults - one child is blonde with blue eyes and burns at the first sign of sun. The other is a blue-eyed blonde who could literally lie out in the sun all day and get a tan and no burns – who can account for genetics??
We are continually warned, and rightly so about the prevalence of melanoma in New Zealand, and most of us heed these warnings. We are all aware of the SLIP SLOP SLAP message. Nowadays we see little ones at the beach with rash suits and sunhats, parents with cool straw hats with wide brims – which reminds me I need to get another hat because mine blew out to sea – damn, it was a good hat too!
So, even though we try to avoid getting sunburnt, the sun is powerful, we fall asleep or we are literally out there in the heat of the day (between 10am and 2pm) and so get sunburnt.
We recognise that familiar sting - the redness, irritation, peeling, pain, swelling, and unsightly blisters… sunburns can last from 3-7 days, and are painful and uncomfortable. Sunburns are acute inflammation of the skin cells, caused by ultraviolet rays of the sun.
Anyway, to give you some soothing ideas for this summer – have a read below
Aloe Vera Gel is the natural remedy of choice for a bad sunburn. According to numerous studies Aloe Vera aids the skin in healing from sunburns and mild burns as it contains a gel/juice that has soothing and cooling qualities, and is antibacterial. If you are lucky enough to have a big fat juicy aloe plant use the juice – just split the leaves open. Or you can get gel formulations everywhere these days. I always have some in the fridge. I think it’s better cold.
Calamine is either a mixture of zinc oxide (and ferric oxide) or a zinc carbonate compound and is used to treat sunburn, rashes, insect bites and stings – anything when the skin is itchy.
You could consider adding a few drops of lavender oil to coconut oil or using coconut oil on its own. It is a very effective emollient for the skin
Cucumber is instant relief to scorched skin. Not only is a cool cucumber soothing to the burn simply because it’s cool, but its antioxidant and analgesic properties promote healing and further relief from discomfort – you can cut into rounds and apply or mulch into a paste /juice and apply. I prefer to use chilled cucumber and if you want to make more of a paste you can add aloe Vera gel or cornflour.
Tea bags can be an easy way to apply an herbal compress…or …
Mint naturally cools and soothes whatever it touches, and sunburns are no exception. The tannic acid and theobromine found in green tea also helps relieve pain and heal damaged skin when applied topically. Just brew and allow to cool then soak soft clean cloths in the liquid and apply. I would also add calendula, chickweed or marshmallow to that too. Keep the cloths refrigerated in small bags in the fridge
Don’t underestimate homeopathic remedies – I asked the homeopaths in clinic what they would use for sunburn – their recommendation is the remedy BELLADONNA -for when you are lobster red! It is a burning, hot, bursting, swelling kind of a remedy that you take in pillule form. Don’t use arnica on cracked skin, open wounds, or burns
Sunburn is a burn. It sounds like stating the obvious, but we often don’t think about the fact that we really scorched our skin. As with any other thing that burns, your skin is dried out, and your body is probably dehydrated too. Keep a tall glass or bottle of ice cold water on hand at all times to make sure you’re keeping yourself hydrated.
Go well this summer!
By Joanna Vinsen Loveys BNatMed HbT