Avoiding Sunburn

Sofitel Fiji Resort, Denarau Island, Fiji

Sofitel Fiji Resort, Denarau Island, Fiji

Though you may think a tan will make you look healthier and more attractive, it’s actually very damaging to the skin, which becomes dry, rigid, and prematurely old and wrinkled, especially on the face. Begin with short exposures to the sun, perhaps half an hour at a time, followed by an equal time in the shade. Drink plenty of liquids to keep your pores open and avoid the sun from 10 am to 3 pm, the most dangerous time. Clouds and beach umbrellas will not protect you fully. Wear a T-shirt while snorkeling to protect your back. Sunbathing is the main cause of cataracts to the eyes, so wear sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat, and beware of reflected sunlight.

Use a sunscreen lotion containing PABA rather than oil, and don’t forget to apply it to your nose, lips, forehead, neck, hands, and feet. Sunscreens protect you from ultraviolet rays (a leading cause of cancer), while oils magnify the sun’s effect. A 15-factor sunscreen provides 93 percent protection (a more expensive 30-factor sunscreen is only slightly better at 97 percent protection). Apply the lotion before going to the beach to avoid being burned on the way, and reapply every couple of hours to replace sunscreen washed away by perspiration. Swimming also washes away your protection. After sunbathing take a tepid shower rather than a hot one, which would wash away your natural skin oils. Stay moist and use a vitamin E evening cream to preserve the youth of your skin. Calamine ointment soothes skin already burned, as does coconut oil. Pharmacists recommend Solarcaine to soothe burned skin. Rinsing off with a vinegar solution reduces peeling, and aspirin relieves some of the pain and irritation. Vitamin A and calcium counteract overdoses of vitamin D received from the sun. The fairer your skin, the more essential it is to take care.

As earth’s ozone layer is depleted due to the commercial use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other factors, the need to protect oneself from ultraviolet radiation is becoming more urgent as deaths from skin cancer are on the increase. Previously the cancers didn’t develop until age 50 or 60, but now much younger people are affected.

Garry Hawkins of London, England, sent me this comment: “Also worth pointing out: be careful with certain malaria prophylaxis (preventatives) and treatments with respect to exposure to sunshine (or UV light for that matter). Doxycycline is one of the more effective and one of the cheaper malaria prophylaxesavailable on the market. It is also an anti-biotic for other bodily fluid ailments. Unfortunately, in some individuals it has the unfortunate side effect of increasing ones light sensitivity - which can be er… a bit unfortunate in the tropics. Most of the South Pacific is malaria free, but medical advice should be sought before venturing into Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and certain parts of Vanuatu.”