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Sunburn questions

  1. Jun 2, 2014 #1
    I've been trying to acclimate myself to the sun this summer by tanning a little bit. I didn't want to get a sunburn, so when I was out at the beach, I was only there for about 30 minutes or so. I felt fine out there and on the way back, but later in the day my skin started to turn red. I apparently got a little bit of a sunburn. That was a few weeks ago. I let that heal and today laid out by the pool for maybe 15 minutes. Well, I have a bit of a sunburn again.
    So I have a few questions:
    1) I'm worried about premature skin aging, so have these two sunburns irrevocably damaged my skin? The sunburns are pretty mild, but I pride myself on my young appearance, and don't want to get wrinkles or anything.

    2) About a year ago I got a pretty bad sunburn on my shoulders from being at the beach. Now, even when I'm laying down, my shoulders get the reddest when I sunburn. Why is that?

    3) If I'm trying to get a tan, should I use sunscreen? Or should I just stay in the sun for a very short period of time? It seems to me if I use sunscreen, I basically just have to stay in the sun longer to get a tan.
    I just want a little bit of a tan.

  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 2, 2014 #2

    D H

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    You can always tell which ones are the dermatologists at the beach. They're the ones wearing bathing suits from the 19th century, with whatever skin that is showing plastered with sunscreen. On the plus side, they have young, healthy looking (albeit a bit pale) skin well into their 50s or 60s.

    You must be rather fair skinned given that you burn in 15 minutes to half an hour. That means you are at a higher risk of skin cancer than most. Dermatologists have been saying that there is no such thing as a healthy tan for a long time, and that applies even doubly so to fair skinned people who burn easily. Do you want to risk your life for a tan?

    There are safe cosmetic materials you can use to color your skin. It's much safer than a tan. Don't go overboard, and don't do it too fast. Orange people look so funny!
  4. Jun 2, 2014 #3
    Yeah, I have pretty pale skin. I have dark brown hair, so it's not like I'm a redhead or anything. I just want a little color. I figured I'd do it gradually. If I did it gradually, I didn't think I'd be risking skin cancer or premature aging or anything like that. My arms below the elbow are kinda tan because I wear short sleeves all the time. Am I in danger of getting skin cancer on my arms every day that I wear short sleeves?

    I just want to get a little bit of sun, get my vitamin D, and get a little bit of color gradually over the next few months. I just don't want any cancer or wrinkles. I was just wondering if that was possible.

    I figured it was the burning that was the problem, but it's just tanning in general? Burning has to be worse, right?

    And I'd rather not have a tan at all than spread some dye on my skin. I don't care enough about it to go through the effort of doing all that.
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2014
  5. Jun 2, 2014 #4


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    Oh dear,.... :cry:

    In my part of the world it's something of a sport to watch Europeans, Japanese, etc, come to the beach on holidays to "get a tan". (That's like saying "I'm spending my vacation at the beach to get cancer".)

    They ignore the strident local advice about laying on the SPF-30+ sunscreen (or higher) all over, because they just want to get "a bit of a tan". When I see them again the next day, their face is almost falling off, and/or their shoulders, arms and legs are in excruciating pain. It would be laughable if heavy sunburn wasn't such a serious injury.

    If you must go out in the sun, wear a wide brimmed hat, polarized sunglasses, and high-SPF sunscreen. Even that won't protect you totally, so you'll still get a bit of vitamin D.
  6. Jun 8, 2014 #5
    To prep yourself, you can always go to a tanning bed. I was scared of them a few years ago, but recently my doctor actually recommended it to me for the face of the Vitamin D you get from the light beds. It will give you some color and make you a little healthier.

    *I am super pale and only go to tanning beds for the Vitamin D. Also is great help if you have any acne.
  7. Jun 8, 2014 #6


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    I read that people only need 10 minutes of regular sun exposure to get the vitamin d they need, tanning beds are bad.


    Last edited: Jun 8, 2014
  8. Jun 9, 2014 #7


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    It is one of these things that makes you wonder how Homo sapiens survived up to 21th century, doing all these dangerous things (like getting outside and working in the Sun). We should become extinct long ago.
  9. Jun 9, 2014 #8


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    Wasn't much of a problem when we died long before skin cancers and the like ever had a chance to kill us.
  10. Jun 9, 2014 #9

    D H

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    ANCIENT DISEASE An X-ray of vertebrae from a 50–to 60–year–old man exhumed from an early medieval cemetery in Slovakia showed damage from what paleopathologists believe was metastatic carcinoma – a cancer that began in the soft tissues of the body and spread to the bone.

    DIAGNOSIS Evidence of tumors in the skull of a male skeleton exhumed from an early medieval cemetery in Slovakia. Often thought of as a modern disease, cancer has always been with us.​
    For more, see http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/28/health/28cancer.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.

    If there is such a thing as a healthy tan, here's a recipe for how not to do it:
    1. Stay indoors all winter long, at work and at home.
    2. On the first warm day of summer, expose as much pasty white skin as possible to sunlight, skin that hasn't seen a spec of sunlight for six months.
    3. Stay in the sunlight all day long.
  11. Jun 9, 2014 #10


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    Always wear protection when you are going to sit in the sun, especially near water on the beach, especially around noon (actually better to avoid the sun around that time).

    With sun protection cream you can get a tan, just slower and in a healthier way. An alternative is to sit in the shade, but you can get burned as well.
  12. Jun 20, 2014 #11


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    Some people have skin that will never tan. They burn, peel, burn, peel, ... and never tan. If you are one of those, learn to live with it safely. Stay out of the sun at the most hazardous times when solar radiation is fiercest.

    If you do get sunburnt, try spreading raw aloe vera juice (i.e., the slime inside the leaves) over the inflamed skin. I once got my arms badly burnt, they were fiery red and felt hot and burning hours after. The aloe instantly took away the heat, and I was amazed that the anticipated days of peeling skin never eventuated. There was no peeling at all, and no further pain.

    I do not suggest that you deliberately overexpose your skin with plans to counter the pain using aloe vera. Resort to this in cases of accidentally overdoing the sunbaking. Don't skimp on the suncream, and always use a high SPF product. Visit the beach early morning, then late afternoon, the times that sensible people venture outdoors in the tropics. :smile:
  13. Jun 21, 2014 #12


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    An addendum to the above: you need to reapply aloe vera juice to the burnt areas every few hours, until the fiery heat in your sunburnt skin subsides. Between applications, store the leaf in the fridge if possible.

    Aloe has a reputation for being a good first aid for everyday heat burns in the kitchen, but it is equally good for applying to a sunburn. Every household should have an aloe vera plant growing so a leaf can be broken off to quickly treat an accidental burn.
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