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2017.07.14 - How to sunbathe without getting burnt?

How to sunbathe without getting burnt?

Until the beginning of the previous century pale skin was a status symbol, because only those could allow themselves to sit in a cool room who didn’t have to be outside in the fields, hoeing or harvesting while the sun was beating down. Then in the second half of the 20th century the age of the bikini and the new cult of the sun dawned – everybody wanted to get a tan. Today things are different again, it seems that the rays of the sun are stronger or perhaps the ozone layer has become thinner, we don’t really know, but it is sure that we have to be very careful with sunbathing so that we don’t get burnt or develop some kind of skin disease.   

Tengerparti napozás

Today having a tan is the symbol of health. It isn’t so by accident as several physiological processes require sunshine, for instance we need the rays of the sun to build proper bones and teeth. Sunshine is also necessary for producing vitamin D. The sun and the wind dry and disinfect our skin, preventing the spreading of fungi and bacteria on the skin as they need a wet and hot environment, and avoiding the development of acne. Sunshine is capable of starting a detoxification process and reducing stress, so it is worth sunbathing but only within the limits of reason.     

When to sunbathe?

In the summer almost every UV index forecast on the radio warns not to stay in the sun between 11:00 and 15:00. It is very important to keep this rule! Let’s not be impatient! Let’s not want to get a tan fast when the rays of the sun are the strongest, let’s choose a period instead when the rays of the sun are weaker, in the morning or late afternoon. We should also start making our skin get used to the sunshine in the spring, so that we have a bit of colour by the time summer comes. We mustn’t forget that Mother Nature invented the tan so that the pigments of brown skin absorb the energy of sunrays, preventing the cells of the skin from suffering any damage.    


Sun protection

If we can’t avoid staying in the sun for a longer period of time when the rays are strong or we simply don’t want to come home from the swimming pool in the middle of the day, then we must use sun protection. It isn’t obligatory to use skin protection in the form of some kind of cream, because there are hats, parasols and special beach clothing – which can also be worn in the water – that let some of the sunshine through, so that one can get a tan, but only a quantity that isn’t enough to get burnt.

By the way, water. Let’s not think that one can’t get burnt while in the water! When we are swimming or spending time at the swimming pool, the layer of water on our skin isn’t thick enough to protect us from UV rays; what is more, the intensity of the rays of the sun is multiplied as it is reflected off the water.  

What do sun protection factor numbers mean?

If we decide to use a sun protection cream, we should choose a product that suits our skin type and level of tan the best. It is very important to be familiar with the factor numbers (sun protection factor – SPF) indicated on sun creams. Using an SPF 30 suntan lotion means we can spend 30 times more time in the sun and don’t get burnt than without it. For instance the average person gets burnt in about 20 minutes when the sunshine is the strongest, so by using an SPF 30 suntan lotion they can spend up to 10 hours in the sun without getting burnt. A Nordic-type person with a light skin could only spend 3 minutes in the sun without getting burnt, but by using an SPF 30 suntan lotion this period is extended to one and a half hours.    

It is a misconception that the cycle starts again if one puts on a new layer of suntan lotion. We can put on the same low-SPF suntan lotion many times, but we can’t extend the sunbathing period. One more piece of important advice: before sunbathing, we should give our skin enough time to absorb the sun protection cream – we must put it on at least 30 minutes before starting to stay in the sun, and we must make sure that every part of the skin has sun cream on it, because the skin is like photographic paper, it gets burnt where there isn’t cream on it!

Natural sun protection

Babies and little children must always wear high-SPF sunscreen! If we aren’t exposed to very strong sunrays, we can use creams that offer natural sun protection. A good example of this is cocoa butter, which has an SPF between 5 and 7. Other natural oils can also protect from sunshine, what is more, they don’t contain artificial ingredients with dubious effect – suntan lotions are full of these. Even if we don’t use natural oils for direct sun protection, they are excellent to be put on the skin after sunbathing, because they can give the dry skin’s flexibility back, delivering mineral and vitamins to the cells. 

Széchenyi fürdő

What should sunbathers eat?

However pleasant it is, sunbathing is hard work for the human body. Thanks to sunshine, oxidation processes speed up, cell-damaging free radicals are formed, we lose water and even allergic reactions can start. The most important thing is to drink as much as possible! During and after sunbathing our body needs a lot of water, because by sweating we lose lots of water and minerals (e.g. magnesium). Another important nutrient that we have to start giving to our body already before the sunbathing season is an antioxidant called beta-Carotene, which neutralises the free radicals which are formed while sunbathing. Fresh fruits and vegetables can also neutralise free radicals. We must avoid those foods which can strengthen allergic reactions to sunshine, such as celery, dill and parsnip.