MILAN – Skin peeling and exfoliation (32%), itching and burning (26%) and heatstroke (17%) are the consequences of sunburn which are risked by one out of 2 swimmers (48%) according to experts consulted for an In a Bottle* survey. The most frequent mistakes include using tanning creams instead of protective ones (42%) and a limited knowledge of the effects of the sun’s rays (28%). The shoulders (29%), face (25%) and décolleté (19%) are the most at risk areas in children (67%), the elderly (47%) and anyone with a fair complexion (83%). A remedy recommended by experts which everyone should use straight away (29%) is to hydrate the skin both inside and outside (31%) to keep it soft, silky and luminous.
The wrong behaviour
Real summer is about to start, but what do people about to expose themselves to the sun for the first time do wrong? For 42% of the experts the first mistake made by someone who has never really been in the sun is wanting to tan straight away by using a suntan lotion instead of a protective one. Other mistakes include limited knowledge of the effects of ultraviolet rays (28%) and the false myth that spending hours in the sun speeds up a tan (25%). Last of all, according to 16% of the experts, Italians are not concerned about the most risky hours.
Those risking most
Experts have indicated that the category most subject to sunburn is fair phototypes (83%), those with fair skin, light eyes and fair hair. But children (67%), especially those aged between 0 and 3, and the elderly (46%), especially those aged 60 and over, are most at risk. Amongst adults, men (32%) – who are less prepared – risk more than women (23%) – who are more careful and meticulous. Giuseppe Paolisso, President of the Italian Society for Gerontology and Geriatrics says: “The elderly are a delicate category as they are less aware of thirst so drinking less, and therefore risk dry skin; this makes them more vulnerable to reddening and sunburn”.
Which body parts are more at risk? Above all the shoulders (29%), especially the shoulder blades, the nape of the neck and the upper back, followed by the face (25%), which gets sunburnt mainly on the nose and forehead but also around the lips; décolleté for women (19%) and, more generally, the upper part of the abdomen in men; last of all, the legs (9%), especially the inner thigh and the upper back part of the foot.
The effects of sunburn
Of the immediate effects of sunburn, the main ones for experts are skin peeling and exfoliation (32%) and intense itching and burning (29%) which stops people sleeping properly at night. Other unpleasant effects include heatstroke (17%), allergic reactions (16%) and skin ageing (9%), which, if prolonged, can have very harmful effects on the skin.
Remedies against sunburn
So what should we do to handle initial exposure to the sun safely? The main thing is to hydrate the skin well (31%), according to the In&Out model, this means hydrating the surface using creams or other protective products suited to the person's phototype and hydrating inside, by drinking between 1.5 and 2 litres of water . Dr Magda Belmontesi, a dermatologist based in Milan declares: “All the more so if we are exposing ourselves to the sun for the first time, it is important to hydrate the skin with soothing creams, decongestants that also have a restorative action. But what is really important is internal hydration, mainly with water. Mineral salts are hydrating, antioxidising and help at the cellular energy metabolism level. Sodium, magnesium and potassium are some of the main sources of energy for the skin and for the rest of our bodies. Reintegrating them is a must, all the more so if you think that, even without extreme summer conditions, we lose 600 cc of water every day”.
Other precautions include using adequate sunscreen at least 30 minutes before exposure to the sun (29%), and avoiding prolonged exposure (21%) and exposure in the central hours of the day (21%) when the sun's rays are most intense.
*Carried out by aproximately 40 experts including dermatologists, geriatric specialists and paediatricians to understand what risks we run with the first exposure to the sun and how to prevent them.
Instructions for perfect exposure to sun
Little by little. The skin has to get used to the sun and use all its defence mechanisms. Limit exposure at first, increasing it gradually over the next few days. You start to see a lasting tan after about 10 days.
Watch the clock. You cannot stay in the sun for as long as you want so you need to keep an eye on how long you have been exposed. Sunscreen lengthens exposure time, but you need to apply it often to renew protection and avoid risks.
Do it in advance. Sunscreen should be applied at least half an hour before exposure as the active principles need to cross the skin's surface layer.
Control times bands. The best times for sun exposure are in the morning (8-11) and late afternoon (after 5pm). Avoid the day's hottest hours (from 12 to 3pm). If you do not have adequate shade, wear cotton clothes, with a wide-brimmed hat and dark glasses to protect your eyes.
Dry yourself before sunbathing. Even though the sensation had from drying in the sun after a swim is really pleasant, be aware that the lens-effect of water droplets on the skin can cause sunburn. So dry yourself first and then possibly apply sunscreen again.
No make-up and perfume. They can leave unsightly stains on the skin or cause allergic reactions due to photosensitization
Don’t do-it-yourself . Those miraculous home “mixtures” promising a fast, intense tan must be avoided. No product contains filters against the sun's rays; so it can only help, instead of preventing, sunburn and burns.
Be careful with self-tanning lotions. They colour the skin chemically not by producing melanin. They do not protect against first exposure sunburn.
Watch out for lamps. It is true that the reduced emissions of UVB from lamps reduces the risk of sunburn, but at the same time the increased amount of UVA damages the skin in the same way the sun does.
Hydrate your skin. The In&Out rule must be followed after exposure to the sun; hydrate the skin both inside and out. Drinking between 1.5 and 2 litres of water helps to hydrate your skin systematically. Mineral salts smooth the skin naturally making it soft, silky and luminous.