Your essential after-sun care guide

Sunlight the natural mood booster – its bright warm rays bringing out the best in us, – so it’s no wonder that on bright summer days our parks and beaches fill up with people soaking up the sunshine, while in winter many of us jet off to warmer climes in search of sunny days. But whether we’ve just landed at the ultimate exotic destination or are catching some rays closer to home, we need to stay safe in the sun: we all know sunburn is not only uncomfortable but increases our risk of skin cancer, while overexposure to UV radiation is often the culprit behind premature skin aging.
It goes without saying that young children and people with very fair skin are most at risk of sun damage, but all of us need to take extra care between 11am and 3pm when the sun’s rays are at their strongest. If you’re out and about in the early afternoon sun, stay in the shade when you can, don a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face and cover up with clothing or use sunscreen. You can take a bit more relaxed approach when the sun is less powerful though: sunlight on bare skin gives us a health-boosting dose of vitamin D, and research suggests that a little bit of sun is better for us than none.
If you do get burnt, get out of sunlight ASAP and follow the steps below for faster healing…

1. Cool down
Relieve the pain and heat of sunburn by taking a cool shower, or try an anti-inflammatory bath: add a cup of powdered oats or half a cup of baking soda to tepid water and soak up the soothing effects. Try adding a drop or two of an essential oil – peppermint and lavender both have pain-relieving properties – but be sure to check safety guidelines carefully before treating children.
For more localised burns, a cold compress works a treat. Wrap an ice pack (or a bag of frozen veg) in a towel and hold against the affected area, or dab with a flannel dipped in cold water.
2. Aloe Vera to the rescue
Squeezed straight from the plant or bought as a gel, Aloe Vera is your SOS skin superstar when it comes to after-sun care and for a good reason: it’s an effective moisturiser as well as a soothing remedy for inflammation and pain. Apply Aloe Vera gel to burnt or sun-sensitized areas up to three times a day until the skin has healed – you can up its cooling powers by storing it in the fridge in between applications.
3. Stay hydrated
Sunlight robs our skin of its precious moisture, and making sure we’re properly hydrated is even more important when we’re recovering from a sunburn. Aim to drink at least two litres of water per day, and snack on watermelon, cucumber and other foods with a high water content. Not to put a damper on anyone’s holiday, but it’s also best to skip cocktails and other alcoholic drinks (now that’s a reason to not get sunburnt if ever there was one)…
4. Eat your way to greater sun tolerance
It may not help much if your skin is already burnt, but upping our intake of certain nutrients can – alongside other measures – help prevent us getting sunburnt so easily. To build up your sun tolerance, go for a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids (think flaxseed oil), the antioxidant lycopene (tomatoes and watermelon), vitamin E (nuts and seeds), vitamin C (citrus fruit & leafy greens) and beta carotene (bright yellow and orange veg like carrots and squash).
Processed foods and sugars on the other hand – you guessed it – make our skin more vulnerable to UV radiation.

Tip: make your own ice lollies from blended fruit if you’re missing ice cream…

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