We all know that incessant heat can have a huge impact on our skin. Direct sun exposure, especially during the scorching summer, can cause acute and chronic cumulative effects which include mild or severe tanning, hyper pigmentation, ageing & sunburns.
The skin reddening caused by overexposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation may seem to be a temporary irritation, but these are sunburns that can lead to long-lasting damage to the skin. In fact, children are at increased risk due to sunburns.
There are some preventive measures one can take to keep the skin looking young and healthy despite the environmental changes, the most crucial being limiting its exposure to the Sun.
Dr James Zachariah P, Dermatologist at Kaya Skin Clinic says it is vital to apply a sunblock above 40 SPF in ample quantity at least 15 minutes before venturing out.
“The skin is the victim of harmful gases that inhabit the air and the stabs of the sun’s rays. The sunscreens should be applied at least 15-20 minutes before one steps out in the sun; and then should be re-applied every 3 to 4 hours for ideal skin protection,” he says.
The prominent areas on the face – cheeks, bridge of nose, sides of forehead and upper lip are frequently missed causing sunburn and a discoloration. The sunburn is caused by direct photochemical reaction at the cellular level causing break-up and cellular fluid collection leading to a blister in severe cases. This leads to dehydration and weakness, if extensive and permanent discoloration or scarring could be the end result.
Darker skin types can do with lower SPF creams whereas the fairer skin types would ideally need higher SPF sunscreens. “For those with sun-sensitivity, avoiding sun between 12pm and 4pm, wearing hats or using umbrellas help to a good extent,” adds Dr Zachariah.
A stinging sensation with burning hot skin is the first signs of sunburn in white skin with blonde hair but anyone is susceptible in extreme exposure. Come indoors immediately and follow some steps to prevent the permanent harmful effects of the sunburns.
“It is recommended to put a damp towel on the skin for 10 to 15 minutes every hour till the skin cools down. Frequent cool baths or showers will also relief pain. After bath, mop dry but leave a little water on the skin. A moisturizer can be applied immediately to entrap water and keep skin moist,” adds Dr Zachariah.
It is also recommended to use a moisturizing lotion that contains Aloe Vera or Soya to help soothe the sun burnt skin. A hydrocortisone cream would be useful if advised by the doctor in case of persistent redness. Avoid creams with thick textures that include petrolatum & benzocaine because these prevent heat escape and irritate the skin.
Paracetamol tablets can be used for swelling and pain twice or thrice a day. One should seek expect advise in case of no change in symptoms. It is also recommended to drink water equivalent to two litres daily which keeps you away from dehydration since sunburn cause dehydration.
“Leave the blisters as is since the skin can act as a membrane protecting and healing the skin formation below. This also protects you from infections. Applying an antibiotic cream can also be helpful. Consult a doctor if there are general symptoms like dizziness and weakness, stomach discomfort and feverishness. This means the sunburn is more serious like a sun stroke,” he says.
Take extra care to protect the sun burnt skin while it heals by wearing clothes that are soft on your skin like cotton. Tightly woven fabrics are the best for sun protection. This can be confirmed by holding the fabric to sunlight.
Although temporary sunburn is a result of receiving too much UV rays, can result in permanent damage to skin. This damage increases the person’s risk to getting skin cancers or pre-cancerous conditions.
Contrary to the general belief, indoor workers must also use sunscreens as the cumulative effect of sun damage may happen to people who work in shaded environments. Besides protecting from the harsh rays, sunscreens also protect against pigmentation and premature lines.
Apart from sunscreen, it is essential that the face is cleaned with a mild cleanser two to three times every day. Care should be taken against excessive cleansing and usage of harsh scrub based cleansers. It is common to see oily skin go greasy during the summer and for this, toners should be used to control excess sebum.