We all have that really bad sunburn story. Mine? I was in Mexico and insisted that re-applying sunscreen would simply hinder the awesome tan I was working on. I was determined to go back to high school beautifully browned—the envy of all my non-vacationing friends. Instead, on day one I burned myself to a crisp. The tops of my ears blistered. Wearing a bra (or anything with straps) was out of the question. Lifting my arms over my head made me wince.
Even Jennifer Garner, actress and spokesperson for Neutrogena, has a burn story, because—let's face it—no one is immune to the sun. “Every other weekend we would drive to the Chesapeake Bay and plop on our sailboat for the weekend or for two or three weeks at a time," she remembers. "Three weeks, you were sitting outside all day, every day," and she never wore sunscreen. "We just burned to a crisp and would be miserable by being so sunburned. We thought that we had to do it until we were so brown our body wouldn’t burn anymore.”
Like Jennifer as a young woman, many people continue to tan and burn themselves year after year, doing irreparable skin damage. A recent Ipsos Reid consumer survey shows that one in every four Canadians does not use sunscreen, hoping that a base tan will protect them from harm. In fact, fifty per cent of Canadians think that it’s important to get a base tan before a vacation in order to avoid burns. The truth? Tanning doesn’t protect your skin and is a form of skin damage, just like a burn.
Burn side effects
"A tan results from injury to the skin’s DNA," says Dr. Paul Cohen of Rosedale Dermatology Centre in Toronto. "The skin darkens in an attempt to prevent further DNA damage. Many people don’t know that a tan doesn’t protect skin. In actuality, it only has an SPF factor of two.” Signs of skin damage can include “broken blood vessels, small freckles on skin (especially seen on your arms and shoulders), uneven skin pigmentation and dull skin." That's why wearing
is so important, and it's never too late to start.
Neutrogena Wet Skin Sunscreen, $16, neutrogena.com
Protecting your skin while you are young is the best thing you can do—but if it’s a little late to re-do your Mexican vacation, it's possible to ease the pain. “I recommend taking Aspirin or Advil because it actually stops the burn from progressing and helps with any pain or discomfort,” says Dr. Cohen. “To further soothe skin, applying aloe straight from the fridge helps, as do cold compresses.”
The Body Shop Aloe Soothing Lotion, $17, thebodyshop.ca. Vaseline Total Moisture Aloe Fresh, $10.50, available at mass drug stores across Canada.
L'Oréal Paris After Sun Rich Repair Lotion, $15, lorealparis.ca. Dermalogica After Sun Repair, $45, dermalogica.ca. Vichy Capital Soleil After Sun Daily Milky Care, $30, vichy.ca.
When to see a doctor
Though burns can be painful, unsightly and cause aging, you only need to speak to a professional if you are profoundly uncomfortable with how your skin looks and for “red, flaky spots from the sun, as these can be signs of pre-cancerous spots that should be immediately treated by a professional.” If you’re unsure, always speak to a professional to ease your mind and address your concerns.
’s recommendations for making sure your kids are protected.