Samui Wining & Dining
FEELING THE HEAT
The burning facts about sunning yourself on Samui.


Page-114

We’ve all heard the famous story about Coco Chanel returning from a holiday in the 1920’s from the French Rivera, and how the formerly looked-down-upon darker skin aesthetic became in-fashion overnight. Previously associated with those who worked in outdoor manual labour, a tan became a sign of affluence, signifying that you had enough money and free time to go on luxurious holidays – no doubt ones where you’d spend your days lounging by a private swimming pool, being waited on hand and foot by a banana-hammock-wearing cabana boy. Or at least that’s what you’d tell your friends.

      Unfortunately, it’s famously easy to get sunburnt rather than suntanned, and return looking more red-raw than golden goddess (or god). That patch you missed when applying sunscreen, the leg you accidentally wiped the sunscreen from, or even your whole body, which you assumed would be fine because, “it’s cloudy, how strong can the sun be?” Yes, we’ve all been there. And many people underestimate the strength of the Southeast Asian sun, resorting to sunscreen only after they realise that their skin is in fact not impenetrable to its harsh rays. But blistering sore skin is no fun.

        The symptoms of sunburn are fairly well-documented; redness, swelling, pain, blisters and peeling skin. And if it’s really bad; fever, chills and weakness. None of which are pleasant. Most people apply a rich moisturiser or aloe vera after-sun lotion to soothe the burning sensation, but other ways to dull the pain include taking a cold bath, and of course avoiding the sun until your skin has healed. When it’s really bad, a topical pain reliever and a couple of ibuprofen could help you feel human again too.

          Whilst it may be a funny to tease your friend for their ridiculous tan lines, skin cancer’s no laughing matter. The Skin Cancer Foundation recently revealed that 42% of people get sunburnt at least once a year, which doesn’t really sound like that much, but when you consider that if a child or adolescent gets one or more blistering sunburns in their life they more than double their chances of developing melanoma later, it becomes a statistic worth a second thought. Furthermore, five or six sunburns at any age also double the risk of melanoma.

          And let’s not forget another of the well-documented effects of sunburn; aging of the skin. It’s an undisputed fact that excessive exposure to the sun accelerates the speed at which your skin cells degenerate, causing wrinkling and sagging. And yet, it’s often the most looks-conscious of people that you’ll find religiously baking in those damaging rays. It seems that there‘s something of a mental disconnect for some people when it comes to the long-term harmful effects of the sun. Perhaps they’re too blinded by the short-term goal of achieving golden skin to think about the much further away, less tangible onset of accelerated aging.

          The average holidaymaker applies their sunscreen as and when they arrive at the deckchair. But they’re already in the sun at that point and will be unprotected for a further 20 minutes post-application, because that’s how long sunscreen takes to activate. Another thing to bear in mind is that sunscreen filters the sun, it doesn’t block it, so even when you’re wearing it, you’ll still be getting damaging rays from the sun. A broad-spectrum SPF 30+ cream will filter about 96.7% of the UV radiation, meaning more than 3% is still getting through to your skin. It is this fact that inspired governments to implement a universal name-change, from ‘sunblock’ to ‘sunscreen’ – the word ‘block’ was misleading.

          When buying your protective cream, be ingredient-savvy; not all sunscreens are created the same. It’s worth knowing a few facts before you make your choice, and it’s about more than just SPF numbers. Firstly, you must make sure to choose one that protects against both UVA and UVB rays, otherwise known as broad-spectrum sunscreen. Additionally, be wary of the ingredients oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate (a type of vitamin A), because although FDA approved, they may increase the risk of skin cancer. It’s also worth mentioning that sunscreen does go ‘off’. So make sure to check the use-by date on the bottle when you buy it, and then again if it’s been a while since you used it last.

          One classic faux pas committed by holidaymakers is the time of day they choose to expose themselves to the sun. Namely, the hottest part. The average time people wake up at on vacation is a little later than normal, a leisurely buffet breakfast usually ensues, and then they hit the pool – just in time for the day’s harshest rays. It’s recommended that you stay out of too much direct sunlight between the hours of 10:00 am and 4:00 pm. Perhaps during that time you can indulge in a spot of shopping, a long lunch or even an afternoon nap.

          At the end of the day, it’s not rocket science. If you don’t want to get burnt then do as the Aussies do; “Slip, Slop, Slap! Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat.”

 

 Christina Wylie

 

 


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