Summer is on it’s way and with it comes the joy – and pain – of bare skin under the sun. Many Asians have a false sense of security thinking that they won’t burn. The truth is that while Asian skin does not burn as quickly as Caucasian skins, the greater all-day-round UV exposure at our equatorial position can nullify that advantage and lead to a nasty burn at the end of the day.
Staying out of the sun and applying sunscreen are sure-fire ways to avoid getting burned. As can wearing sun protective clothing, hats and caps. However, if it is too late you can wind up with skin that peels, feels too tender to touch, and raises your skin cancer risks.
Sure, time will heal all wounds, but the underlying damage in your skin could be permanent. Apart from a tan, you may end up with significant pigmentation, UV-induced cancerous lesions and premature aging of the skin.
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If you have gotten a sunburn, there’s no use crying over spilt milk. In fact, you should be using some of that milk on your sunburnt skin, according to medical experts. Apparently, using cold milk can help sunburn skin.
To further understand what’s happening when we fry our skin under the sun, we speak to Dr Low Chai Ling, founder of SW1 Clinic.
“Melanin in the skin gives it its color and helps to block the sun’s harmful UV rays. When you are out in the sun, melanin shifts and rises to protect the DNA in your cells from being corrupted by radiation, which is part of the reason people with darker complexions are at lower risks of skin cancer” explains Dr Low.
“So as your skin darkens under the skin, it is becoming more protected, but also more damaged. The whole process can also take a few days – so it may be too late to stop the burn”, she says.
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Why do we feel so much pain from a sunburn? The pain you feel is not due to the deeper damage, however, but to the surface scorching. After a sunburn, your body initiates an immune response, sending blood to respond to the site of the attack.That immune response comes with inflammation, making burned skin swell and redden – what you see when you get a sunburn.
“You may feel the burn only at the surface of your skin but the lasting damage is deeper,” warns Dr Low.
She explains that as our surface skin cells start dying off, our body cuts its losses and doesn’t over-expend energy on dispensable body parts too damaged to function. But in the deeper layers of the skin, enzymes go to work making repairs to DNA. Sometimes, however, the enzymes don’t target the DNA accurately and can corrupt it, leading to the development of the two most common forms of skin cancer.
Here are some sunburn remedies that will help your skin quickly turnaround.
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Cold milk Compress
Cold milk contains proteins and vitamins that cool your skin and encourage healing. A cold compress both pulls heat away from the site of the burn and helps to ease painful inflammation by shrinking swollen cells. Milk contains vitamins A and D, fat, amino acids and lactic acid, as well as the proteins whey and casein. The vitamins promote healing while lactic acid cues the skin to drop dead cells, meaning less effort – and therefore inflammation – is required from the immune system to fix them.
‘A cold milk compress can help calm inflamed skin as well, as proteins in the milk coat and soothe the skin,’ explains Dr Low.
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For the same reason that cold milk may work on the skin, if you cannot get your hands on milk, you can replace it with cold yoghurt.
Gently press a compress satrated with cold yoghurt this to your sunburned skin, being careful to keep a light, even pressure and not rub your skin.
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A cool shower or bath can lower your burned skin’s temperature, but milk is even more gentle. Ice water can work for a cold compress too, but is not as gentle or nourishing to the skin as milk.
Be sure, however, to never apply ice directly to the skin. A cold shower or bath can help cool you down, but ice can stick to your skin and cause further damage.
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Aloe vera has a natural cooling effect on sunburn, but breathes well and does not trap heat in in, unlike many common moisturizers that may look tempting in your medicine cabinet. Aloe can alleviate pain and cool the surface of the skin.
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Once you’ve cooled the burn, seal the deal with a light moisturizer. In the early stages of sunburn care, the primary goal is to create a cooling sensation without actually trapping in heat. Once your skin’s temperature has fallen and no longer feels like the surface of the sun itself, you want to lock that moisture and coolness in to avoid peeling and cracking. Choos a moisturizer that is light, easy to s[read that won’t weigh the skin down. Try Skin Drink which uses organic squalane to naturally replenish the skin’s lipids levels without sensitizing it to unnecessary preservatives and fragrance.
Another simple way to protect sunburn skin is to apply a protective barrier over. Dr Low advises “Apply a petrolatum based moisturizer to form a protective seal over the skin’s surface”.
Finally, when your skin is already burnt, make sure you don’t add to the existing burn by going out without adequate sun protection. We find that the safest sunscreen to use on sensitive, irritated sunburn skin has got to be a full physical blocker Umbrella by SW1.
When we say don’t leave home without it, we’re not referring to your credit card in this case.
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