In the northern parts of Greenland, the sun does not set between April and August. Studies have shown that the perpetual sunlight interferes with people’s sleep cycles and circadian rhythms. Suicide rates are actually higher in the periods of constant day with 82% of the deaths occurring in the daylight months.
This goes to show that while the presence of the sun is central to our existence, it also has the potential to do us much harm. Awareness is rising about the likely damage that unwarranted sunlight can cause. Yet, no matter how high the SPF value of your sunscreen lotion, or how many times you reapply, no product provides 100% protection against the sun.
Excessive time out in the sun can make people dehydrated, even causing vomiting. Sensitive skin may turn patchy: light in some areas, dark in others, or break out in a type of itchy rash called prickly heat. Some people may even suffer from inflammation in the areas that are constantly sweaty.
Sunburn is a particularly vicious effect of overexposure. Sunburn can lead to blistering, discolouration, redness and chapping of the skin. These symptoms can also be caused, not just by the sun, but also by tanning lamps and ultraviolet lights. The sunburn-affected area may continue to tingle or burn even hours after you have stepped out of the sun.
Some skin types (particularly fair skin) are more susceptible to sunburn than others. Although fair skin is deemed desirable in almost every culture in the world, it is actually less resistant to the harmful outcomes of sun exposure. Dark skin is so coloured because it contains more of a pigment called melanin that protects our skin from harmful ultraviolet rays. Constantly getting your skin sunburned can put you at the risk for skin cancer.
Although sunburn may resolve itself in a few days, there are a few simple ways to speed up the healing process:
1. Aloe vera and sandalwood paste are natural sunscreen that safeguards the skin and keeps it cool
2. If you are suffering from sunburn then your skin is probably in need of rehydration so drink plenty of water and eat fruits like watermelons that have a high water content
3. For mild sunburn simply soak yourself in a tub of chilled water. A touch of rose water, lavender oil, or peppermint oil helps cool the skin
4. Use a cold and wet compress for about fifteen minutes, thrice daily, with baking soda added to the water
5. Apply a concoction of cold water and milk to the affected area
6. A blended paste of barley powder, milk, olive oil, honey, and egg white can be applied to sunburns on the face
7. One part of tomato juice mixed with six parts of buttermilk will make the sunburn heal quicker
8. Dip a piece of cloth in water containing a few drops of vinegar to take the sting off sunburn
9. Mix a few spoons of oatmeal with bath water to reduce itching and irritation
10. To fix sunburnt skin on your face, dig deep into your vegetable tray. You can use cooled slices of cucumbers, potatoes, or cabbage leaves. Onion juice has a cooling effect on the skin
Prevention is better than cure and covering yourself is the first step towards sun protection. The summer months are the perfect time to bring out those funky hats, umbrellas and uber cool sunglasses. Don’t forget to apply sun-screen or sun-block lotion before you step out. Drink loads of fluids to prevent dehydration. Employ medicated prickly heat powders to shield yourself against itchy, red rashes.
Poets and songwriters have written volumes about the wonders of sunny days but too much of anything can be risky, and this applies to sunlight too.