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Always use protection, kids

Thursday 21 June 2012

I have the complexion of what you might call a Delicate Rose. A big, pink, blotchy, ridiculous rose. When I was a kid, I used to tan beautifully. We would summer in the south of France (read: we drove for hours to a bloody Eurocamp for a fortnight in August) and I would run around with SPF8 on. 8! It’s a miracle I didn’t burn the arse off myself.

But then when I grew older, I didn’t have as much time in the sun. Summers weren’t the glorious sun-filled months that stretched on forever any more. The rain fell, I had to work, and everything was just a little bit shitter, including my complexion.

I think everyone has one horrific sun burn in their lives that makes them cop the fuck on, and be sensible in the sun. Mine was in San Diego, when I was 18. I was travelling across America with my friend Sam, and on this particular day we hit the beach in the afternoon.

Once at the shore, the sky clouded over. But it was still pretty warm, so we stripped down and laid out. We half-assedly smeared sun cream on, but didn’t think too much of it. I jumped in the sea, getting ploughed by a wave to the riotous laughter of a nearby group of cheerleaders. Which I didn’t mind – I felt like I’d had a true American high school experience all in the space of 30 seconds.

When we returned back to the city, we called into a few shops before heading back to the hostel. A woman working in American Eagle touched my stomach as I walked past (this was when I thought that revealing a few inches of podgy, pale tummy was a brilliant look for me).

“Wow, caught a bit of colour there, hey?”

“Hmm “ thought I as I looked at my reflection. “Maybe I did…”

What started as 'a bit of colour' soon became a solid block of  the most vivid burgundy that has ever been seen on human flesh. The only part of Sam that was saved was a flash of white across her belly, where a streak of sun cream had somehow taken.

We were in bits. We got into cold showers – the water was at boiling point by the time it ran off us and into the drain. Our skin was stretched taut over our limbs, and we were writhing in pain when it came into contact with anything.

At dinner, we were silent. Without wanting to admit it to the other, we each went to the toilets and succumbed to the waves of nausea. And oh, how we were looking forward to our dinner in Moose McGilly Cuddy’s. We’d been rolling over ourselves with laughter at the name. But the laughter had well and truly come to an end after the fourth session of hurling.

We spent the night in a fitful half sleep, roaring whenever the sheets bristled against our skin.

After a few days, we went to LA, where I became genuinely concerned that I had damaged my face permanently. I had begun to peel, and the skin on my nose and cheeks was that fresh pinky brown that you only see on old Australian men, or Jordan. I remember thinking that at least I had a boyfriend at home, who loved me before I was disfigured. He’d HAVE to stay with me. Despite everything, he wouldn’t have a choice. So at least that.

I also began to blister. Stupidly, I tried on a prom style dress in a West Hollywood store. When I looked in the mirror, I saw little tiny dots of water, where the blisters on my chest had burst.

So I bought the dress. And wore it to my summer ball the following year, so all’s well.

Of course, we healed. But we never forgot the agony of that burn. I’ve been a little red on occasion since, of course, but thankfully a situation of that magnitude has never plagued my skin again.

Which brings me to my point. Wear sun cream, dummies.

But not just any old sun cream. When I was in Cyprus last week, I wore SPF30. And I still frickin burnt my stomach, in really ugly and weird patches. I was vigilant about application, too. Each time I got out of the water, and every 30mins or so anyway. I stayed in the shade at lunchtime. I did everything right.

You know who I blame?  The stupid Soltan ‘invisible’ spray. It’s impossible to get an even coverage, you don’t feel like you have a solid coat on and it disappears in a matter of hours. If there’s any hint of a breeze, most of it goes straight into the air, rather than on you. And despite the claim that it sprays upside down, it bloody well doesn’t.

Stick with the lotions. You know how much you have on, it’s hard to miss a spot, and they do the trick. Despite my moaning above, Soltan are actually the best ones. They’re a good price (particularly because they’re always on sale – right now most of them are half price) and they offer fantastic protection.

I’ve come to the conclusion that when I’m next in the sun, I’m going to start with SPF50. I did it in Kenya, and I’m going to do it everywhere. Even a little bit of burn annoys me (as well as being a long term danger) so I’m just going to accept the fact that my skin is as weak as my upper body strength.


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