I did something really stupid recently. I took a spur of the moment trip to Los Angeles, California (that wasn’t stupid, that was fun) to celebrate a dear friend’s 30th birthday. On the day I was due to take a red eye back to Dulles, the birthday girl wanted to head towards the beach. I hadn’t had a chance to see the ocean yet this trip and I was game. It was a beautiful sunny day with the kind of light breeze that keeps you from feeling too hot. I stripped down to my bikini, applied an SPF 30, laid out on my stomach, and proceeded to pass out…for two hours.
If you’ve ever had the distinct pleasure of meeting me, you’ll know that not only am I fair, I’m so pale that many of the most loved make up brands don’t make a foundation light enough for my skin. I like to call it alabaster — it sounds prettier than ghostly white. My usual sun tanning schedule in order to prevent burning includes a high SPF every twenty minutes as I flip on each side and add in another 20 minutes in the shade per hour. So 40 minutes in the sun and 20 minutes in the shade with three sunscreen applications during a single hour. I only managed the first application.
Needless to say, I got absolutely fried. I haven’t burned myself like that since before I graduated high school and I’m pushing thirty. I’ve never been so uncomfortable on a plane ride in my life.
There are few key ways to care for skin that’s been compromised. I say compromised because treating a sunburn is almost identical to skin that’s had a chemical peel or skin that’s had an allergic reaction (hives and rashes aren’t cute). The advice I humbly offer can apply to the face or body.
And I mean this both internally and externally. After a burn or peel, the skin becomes dry and cracked, as it is preparing to remove itself. Grab a good moisturizer with aloe. It’ll help cool the skin and reduce the inflammation. I slathered myself in Coola’s Radical Recovery After Sun Lotion every couple of hours. It helped reduce redness and calm my backside quickly so that sitting was no longer painful.
For the face, Alchimie Forever Kantic Calming Cream delivers a big boost of antioxidants for a hydrated glow without overstimulating the skin.
As far as internally goes, you know the drill: drink tons of water. It helps promote health of the new skin that’s forming. And after the damage you (and I) did, don’t you want it to be in tip top shape? (Yes.)
Can’t Touch This
Skin peeling sucks. But for the love of anything, do NOT touch that skin. The area damaged by the sun heals itself by forming a new layer of skin to replace the damaged, dead skin layer. The epidermal reaction to a peel is exactly the same. It is how you get that baby-soft, wrinkle-free skin. Throughout the process, the new skin is fragile and the old skin that is peeling acts as a shield against more UV rays and pollutants. If you peel the dead skin, you could expose your new, still too-delicate skin before it is ready. You could trigger tenderness, bleeding, scarring, and infection. So… let’s not, yes?
If you truly cannot deal with the itching (I definitely can’t) but don’t want to damage the skin by scratching, go old school and ice it. Place ice in a thin piece of cloth (I used my Makeup Eraser. Hooray for dual-purpose products!) and place it on the areas that you are desperate to claw at. It’ll soothe the skin quickly so you (and your skin) can relax again.
Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)
Protect your frail-skinned self from the damage that happened in the first place (or from making a situation so very much worse). Do what Baz Luhrmann tells you and wear sunscreen.
Personally, I prefer the lovely non-sunscreen-y scents of the Coola Citrus Mimosa Sunscreen Sport Spray for my body. It makes me smell like a favorite beverage of mine while offering me the protection I should have been using all along. For my face, Skinceuticals Physical UV Defense SPF 50 options are amazing, because I cannot stand the feel of anything on my skin in this humidity and they feel completely weightless.
As with most things related to the overall health and aging of your skin, prevention of further damage is key. Don’t go without your sunscreen, and make sure you’re reapplying. If you are considering a peel or other type of deep re-texturizing treatment, check first with your favorite esthetician or dermatologist to learn about recovery time and what actions you should be taking after your treatment.