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Sun Protection, Tanning and Burning

Aug 22, 2008
Most people willingly seek out the healthy glow that sun can produce. Yet two people, spending the same amount of time exposed to the same sun intensity often will come home with far different results. Why is it that one might come home in agony while other comes home looking sleek and glamorous?

The answer has a lot to do with a person's skin type. Other factors can influence the end result such as taking certain prescription medications and using certain types of skin care products, so let's take a closer look.

When skin is exposed to the sun without adequate sun protection, the exposure causes melanin, the pigment in the body that gives skin its color, to rise to the surface of the skin. One of the roles melanin plays is protecting skin from the sun. People with light or fair skin have less melanin whereas people with dark complexions obviously have more melanin. Since melanin protects the skin from the sun, it makes sense then that those with less melanin have less protection and vice versa. Darker-skinned individuals tan more often than they burn, but not always.

Because a burn takes a few hours to develop, most people don't realize they may be burning. They might not reapply sunscreen or cover up if they're not feeling burned. Unfortunately, it's usually not until later that they realize just how bad the situation is.

What to do when you get sunburned?

In addition to the embarrassing skin color you get from sunburns, there will be other symptoms. You might feel nauseous and dehydrated, and dizzy or light-headed. After a few days, sunburned skin will begin to peel and unlike what many people think and hope, sunburned skin will not develop into a tan.

There isn't much you'll be able to do to alleviate the above symptoms of sunburn. You'll definitely want to put on minimal, loose-fitting clothing as any rubbing against the burn will be painful. A pain reliever such as aspirin or acetaminophen will help minimize pain and discomfort. Keeping the body cool is the best thing for sunburns so fill a tub with cool or tepid water and soak. And promise yourself that next time, you'll use sun protection!

Do not immerse your body in a tub full of vinegar or rub the burn with butter. These remedies have been around for years but they're not effective ways to treat sunburns. In fact, it's often advised not to apply lotions or creams because you never know whether the product will intensify the pain or relieve it. And some products, including butter, might trap the heat and cause more discomfort.

If the sunburn is accompanied by blisters, you may have a severe second-degree burn. Blistering is normal after a few days but right away it's usually a sign that the sunburn is bad. In this case, it's advisable to seek medical attention right away.
About the Author
J Edmond have been working in the sun protection clothing industry for several years. The main aim is to raise awareness of the sun' UV radiation and it's effect on human skin. Find out more about sun protection swimwear and how you can enjoy your outdoor activities.
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