I did a silly thing yesterday. I let myself get sunburnt. OW. I'm paying for it today. Usually, I'm quite good about keeping lathered up and all, but this is the first summer I've been on venlafaxine (medication I currently need) and I totally forget that it heightens my sensitivity to the sun triple-fold. And I'm a white lily to begin with.
Yesterday we went to the beach. Beautiful, beautiful day. Nope, we enjoyed it all so much that no pics were taken, but much fun was had by all, including mama falling asleep face down on the beach. I wore my hat faithfully all day, even keeping it over my head while I slept, but the back of my legs and a patch in the middle of my back where I didn't apply sunscreen well enough got...rather toasty. I haven't been sunburnt in years. Years, I tell you!
Get out of the sun. Once your skin is burned, it is damaged and extra sensitive. Cover up. Get in the shade. Wear your hat. Stay indoors or in the shade as much as possible until the burn has healed. Wear long, loose clothing that won't chafe or stick to the burned skin, and keep cool for a few days.
Cool it down. Run yourself a herbal bath. Tie up a bath tea bag containing a handful each of lavender, chamomile, calendula, comfrey, and two handfuls of black tea leaves. The herbs will help cool and heal the burn and the tannins in the black tea will help your skin color brown a little as it heals instead of merely peeling off back to pale white.
Keep the bath cool, as cool as you can stand it, and immerse yourself for as long as you can manage. 45 minutes to an hour is best for bad sunburns, at least once a day for the next several days. If you have access to fresh aloe vera plant or a bottle of dye-free aloe gel, add that to the bath, too. As the burn begins to heal, once it is cool to the touch at normal room temperature (out of the bath) like the rest of your skin, also add a cup of apple cider vinegar (ACV) to help restore the pH of your skin.
If the burn is in such a place as you cannot immerse it easily in a bath or large bowl, such as your face, neck and shoulders, brew a tea from the same herbs as above. Let the tea cool, soak a soft cloth in it, and apply as a damp poultice to the burn. Do not cover with cling film as you might do with other poultices, however. Keep the area cooling, allow the skin to breathe, and rewet the cloth every 10 or so minutes.
If you must keep moving, maybe travelling or working and can't soak in a tub as often as you might like, keep a spray bottle of water handy. Add a few drops of lavender, geranium and rose hip seed essential oils for healing and soothing, and some shelf-stable aloe vera juice or gel. Shake it up and spray over the burned skin regularly. The evaporation will help to cool the surface of the skin. Follow up with moisturizing.
Moisturize. You can use cocoa butter, whipped body lotion or blender lotion, salve, infused oils, or whatever your preference, but keep that skin moisturized. Reapply throughout the day. Burned skin is extra dry and your chances of a peeling sunburn increase greatly if you allow it to fully dry off like the rest of your healthy skin. Don't cover the burn with anything that prevents airflow (clingfilm, as I heard someone suggest once for sunburn!) as your natural body heat won't do the burn any favors with that trapped heat. But do keep moisturized, lubed, oiled. Today I am loving Sunshine Salve (what we call calendula + lavender salve) and a comfrey-infused olive oil for my sunburned legs.
Hydrate. Lastly, drink water. I know it's obvious but we tend to forget these things at times. Within the first 24 hours after experiencing a sunburn, increase your daily 2 quarts (8 cups) of pure water to 3 or even 4 quarts. You'll pee lots but just do it. Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and it must have moisture from within as well as from without in order to heal best. You are less likely to peel and more likely to tan if you plump up your skin with moisture in all ways. Plus, most of us don't really drink enough water when we've been playing in the sun, anyway, so a little extra is probably needed even without the burn.
If in the sun you begin to feel cool, get up and move around. Don't put on a cover -- move around. Your body temperature ought to return to normal, providing a change in weather isn't the obvious cause. An early sign of burning skin on a sunny day is the irregularity of body temperature. Get moving, get cooled in water, drink fluids, and reapply sun screen.
(If the body does not quickly return to feeling normal temperatures but still feels chilled in warm weather, seek treatment for heat stroke. Bundle yourself into a cool bath, as much as you might feel too cold already, and make the appropriate calls to a professional for further advice.)
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