I am a sun lover and I suffer from sun allergy – talk to me about mixed feelings. I am writing this for my fellow travellers, who are affected by this condition but like me, still love the sun and are always looking for ideas on how to battle this. This article is about what works for me. I am not a licensed doctor (I wish I was), so please read this anecdotally and not as medical advice.
Finding out you have sun allergy:
The dreadful day I stayed at the beach all day and my skin went crazy bumpy, red, pimply and OMG the horror. I have always lived south, I grew up on beaches, I was always tanned. Then I moved to London. My first summer holiday after that, I still remember really vividly. I was in Tenerife, enjoying my 3 weeks off and then my skin went nuts. I obviously thought I had cancer and shot off to the first doctor I managed to find.
She laughed and explained that I have a sun allergy. Have you ever had your jaw drop to the ground? This was my moment. Me? Sun allergy? No sun? I almost had a break down. There are few things I love more than sunning from dusk til dawn (my parents, cats and things). She gave me some ointments and the verdict – stay in the shade for the remainder of the holiday.
The people who suffer from sun allergy can probably relate how annoying this condition is. The symptoms and manifestation can vary. From severe – you cannot even show your face in the sun to really minimal – you get it, when you over do it, and it disappears quickly. I am somewhere in between probably. The moment it triggers, it goes bad – redness, burning and bumps. It also takes me ages to get it to go away.
Over the years, I have tried everything – I have seen dermatologists in pretty much every country I managed to have a holiday in. This is just to check, I am not missing something. I have been given the most mixed instructions ever – from anti histamines to doses of steroids, creams and whatever else comes to mind. I have tried EVERY sunscreen out there. I had even had to get tested for lupus.
Here is what I have learnt:
- Sunscreen – really important and you need to find one that suits you. Prolonged usage of SPF50, triggers a bad reaction after a few days of exposure, as the chemicals in the sunscreen are too strong and actually start irritating the skin. I now stick to SPF 30 then SPF 15. Garnier SPF30 Bronzer, seems to do the work for me and so does La Roche Posay SPF 30. Never NIVEA, this irritates me the moment I put it on. Also, no natural stuff, for me it is just a waste.
- Sun exposure – I have also learnt that ideally I can teach my skin to get exposed to the sun. I aim to start with sunning in the garden (weather permitting), then do short bursts of exposure for 2-3 days and then go full on afterwards. I avoid lounging full on from 1-4 pm as the sun is damn strong. However, if I have managed my gradual exposure, I can do pretty much whatever I want.
- Water – drink a lot and stay in the water. I hate pools but I tend to hang out in the sea every 30 minutes. I have figured out that cooling my skin, the moment I feel it is over heating, helps to stop the allergy surfacing. I have learnt with my skin, it is more of a heat thing than a sun thing. Hence why I try to cool down frequently.
- Sun burn – avoid, avoid, avoid. The moment you burn that is it. I got one of my hands burnt on my latest holiday to Malta and this area was of course in pimples (but that was it, phew)
- Taking B complex vitamins a month before travel – this also seems to help my skin and I do it before winter sun travel.
- Eating tomatoes – I have no clue why but this seems to calm my skin, I constantly eat tomatoes on holiday. Soups, salads, on their own – this one I have no explanation about. I think I read somewhere that they are anti allergens.
I have been offered light therapy. I am 50/50 about it but if I do try it I will update this post. It is expensive and it takes 6 weeks of exposure, twice a week. If anyone is interested there are a few clinics in Chelsea that offer it.
I hope some of these are helpful. Tell me your stories if you have any, let’s exchange tips in the comments and maybe together, we can figure out how to sun properly.
Off we go, good luck babes.