It's mid-summer and the sun is out in full force. Whether enjoying a backyard barbecue, long hike, or chilling by the pool, we're exposed to the sun's UVA and UVB rays. Overexposure can result in skin mutations and increased chances of skin cancer, so taking proactive measures before leaving the house is vital. Cheapism has gathered up several inexpensive ways to prevent sunburns as well as a few tips for soothing your skin's inflammation after the fact.
If you're outdoors between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. (when the sun's rays are strongest), move in on the shade and stay there. If the only option is being out in the open, wear a light coverup to protect your neck, chest, and shoulders. Fast fashion brands such as Forever21 and H and M sell crochet lace dresses, trendy wraps, and light chiffon kimono-style coverups. Amazon also carries similar modestly-priced pieces, including the Finejo Floral Kimono Cape ($13) and the Vintage Women Floral Print Cardigan (starting at $7).
Doctors and dermatologists have drilled it into our consciousness: Sunscreen is one of the surefire ways to prevent skin cancer. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends SPF 15 or higher, and reapplying every hour or two. If you're sweating excessively or swimming, consider a waterproof lotion or spray. Sunscreens are inexpensive and well worth the cost.
On days when there's no shade and you're outdoors until sunset, you might need something more heavy duty. Victorian ladies from the 19th century shouldn't be the only ones with a taste for parasols. Today there are sun umbrellas, available for less than $15, that help guard against the most damaging afternoon rays. Cheap sun-protection options include the Susenstone Folding Lotus Leaves Parasol ($9), or, for a Victorian look, the Leegoal Folding Umbrella ($12). Both have a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) of 40-plus, meaning only one-fortieth of the sun's UV rays will pass through.
Of all your body parts, your face and neck need the most protection. They're exposed to the sun on a daily basis, even during the cooler seasons. Exposure to sunlight gradually wears down the skin's collagen and elastin fibers. A stylish summer hat is a smart summer purchase and costs less than $10. Try a wide-brimmed sun hat, like the Melange Floppy Hat, or a trendy straw fedora that is easy to find at many retail shops.
Another way to protect your skin from sunburn is with clothing made from specialty fabrics. Certain brands feature shirts, swimsuits, and pants with a UPF rating that blocks some (or most) of the sun's UV rays. For example, Kohl's carries performance polos from Arrow Oxford with UPF 40 that are now on sale for $20. Hanes sells long-sleeved crewnecks with UPF 50+ at a starting sale price of about $10. You can also add UPF 30 sun protection to your next laundry load with specialized detergent, such as Sunguard, a product recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation. One box ($4 for one small, medium, or large load) is sufficient to shield more than 96 percent of the sun's rays and lasts through the next 20 washings.
Your eyes also need protection from sunlight, because, again, prolonged exposure can damage your vision. Most sunglasses, whether they cost a few dollars or bear a designer label, provide protection against UVA and UVB rays; look for labels or stickers to confirm. Don that eyewear the moment you step outside.
If you already suffer from sunburn, the damage is done -- there's no way to "cure" it. As you wait for the inflammation to subside, though, there are ways to alleviate the swelling, itchiness, and redness. Many experts recommend aloe vera, a natural gel that helps cool and return moisture to dehydrated skin. Drugstores stock aloe vera gels and sunburn-treatment lotions that cost just a few dollars, so pick up a product or two and moisturize your skin regularly, especially after showers and baths.
You might be tempted to take a long cold bath to soothe that aching sunburn. But long soaks might aggravate already dry skin, especially if it's peeling. Try shorter baths in cool water for 15 to 20 minutes and avoid harsh soaps, bubbles, and oils that can irritate. Try adding ingredients with soothing properties, such as green or black tea bags, mint leaves, oatmeal, or baking soda, to your bath.
If your skin is seriously inflamed and feels hot to the touch, there are plenty of natural home remedies that will soothe the burn. Many ingredients are already found in your kitchen. Blend or grate potatoes or cucumbers into a cool paste and then apply, or spray pure unfiltered apple cider vinegar on the burned areas. A mix of cornstarch and cool water is another soothing application or use plain cultured yogurt for relief. MedicineNet offers additional home remedies.
Sunburn can make you feel dehydrated because fluids are drawn closer to the skin's surface. Pay attention to your body and watch for signs of dehydration, such as dry lips/mouth, dizziness, increased thirstiness, headaches, or decreased urine amounts. Be sure to drink more water than usual and keep your body moisturized until the sunburn fully fades.