Preventing and caring for sunburns

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

TEMPERATURES are rising and the beach is calling. For most of us who are going to be at the beach, I can’t stress enough how important it is to protect yourself from sun exposure.

I know getting a tan looks sexy, but any sign of one is considered sun damage, even if you didn’t get a bad burn. I used to love tanning before I got a couple of bad sunburns, and read how bad it is for the skin. I think I was also permanently traumatized by the Australian government warnings about not wearing sunblock and skin cancer, back when I was living in Sydney, where temperatures can get up to 40+ Celsius in the summer.

It’s fortunately not that hot yet here in Cebu, but we’re still prone to sun exposure. But of course, we don’t want to miss out on all the summer fun. Here’s how to prevent and care for sunburns.



• Avoid the sun when you can. Wear a rash guard or look for shade at the beach if you’re not swimming, whether under a tree or an umbrella. Do not bake under the sun to get that tan. Really.

• Buy fresh sunblock. I am recovering from a mild sunburn after a few days at the beach. Even though I dutifully applied and reapplied sunblock throughout the day, I realized my bottle of sunblock was perhaps a year old. One year is the maximum life span of sunblock, so use up that bottle.

• Don’t skimp on the sunblock. Apply liberally at least 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure. Don’t forget those often-neglected parts like the hairline, ears, back of the neck and tops of the feet.

• Your scalp can also get burnt. Protect your head with a hat or scarf, or in my case that worked, pull it back in a hairstyle that doesn’t expose the scalp like a ponytail or French braid.

• Don’t forget your lips, which have very thin skin. Apply lip balm with SPF.

• Reapply sunblock every few hours especially if you’ve been sweating or in the water.


• If you did get burned, don’t use any harsh cleansers on your face or body. Use cleansing milk or mild cleanser on your face, and mild soap or body wash in the shower. If it’s really bad, just shower with cold water.

• Do not peel off the skin until it’s really ready to come off. You can hurt yourself and cause further damage. (This is making my hair stand. Ouch.)

• Apply lotion with aloe vera as a main ingredient, or one that is water-based since it’s more cooling on the skin. Put it in the fridge before application to give your skin extra relief.

• When the sunburn has alleviated a bit, bring back moisture to the skin with a rich lotion or body butter.

• You can apply ice on sunburns to cool off, or keep a spray bottle with water in the fridge to use throughout the day.

• Drink extra water, and avoid the sun until your skin has recovered.

• If you got a really bad sunburn, go to a dermatologist who can recommend the proper remedy and ointments.

If you insist on getting a tan, here’s a hint: The tan will last longer with less chance of sunburn if you are only exposed to the sun (still with sunblock) a few hours a day for several days. Trying to get really dark by sitting in the sun for several hours in one day will make you tan, but will also burn you. But really consider if that temporary golden glow is worth the permanent sun damage. Sorry to be a downer, just buy that sunblock and enjoy the beach! I know I will.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 11, 2014.


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