Criminal Justice senior Katie Strickland has been getting sunburns her entire life. The worst she ever got was on the first day of a cruise in March, despite putting on SPF 40 sunscreen.
“I woke up the next morning with blisters on my skin,” Strickland said. “There were blisters all over the back of my legs, it was just awful. I couldn’t physically walk.”
Once her skin started to loosen up, she said she was able to walk some and make her way up to the food deck. When she got up to the food deck, Strickland passed out from pain and severe dehydration.
“They had to call the medical team,” Strickland said. “They gave me a medical burn cream that I had to wear for the rest of the trip.”
Putting on sunscreen is the best way to prevent sunburn. If you forget or don’t put enough on and end up with sunburn, the best way to treat it is with Aloe Vera gel. Calamine lotion is also good to use because of the cooling and soothing effects it has, and it also helps with the itching, nurse practitioner Darlia Shaw said.
“Sunburns are painful,” Shaw said. “We do know that skin cancers are directly related to UV exposure. Also, what I never thought of as a young woman was the sun damage and injury to your skin that increases your skin aging. Particularly wrinkles, brown spots, red pigment changes and fine red blood vessels.”
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, more people develop skin cancer because of tanning than develop lung cancer because of smoking.
“There is no safe way to tan,” Shaw said. “Every time you tan, you are damaging your skin and increasing your risk for all types of skin cancer.”
When applying sunscreen students should apply one ounce, about the size of a shot glass, to all exposed skin 30 minutes prior to sun exposure. Shaw recommends reapplying it every two hours.
“I prefer the gels and lotions,” Shaw said. “When using spray-on sunscreen, it’s hard to tell how much you are using. If you do spray it on, you need to use your hands to smooth it out so that you know you’re covering all the areas. It’s easy to miss spots.”
When it comes to sun protection factor, which is the amount of UVB radiation that is absorbed or blocked by the product, Shaw said there is a difference between SPF 15 and SPF 30, though not much.
“SPF 30 is not twice as potent as SPF 15,” Shaw said. “SPF 15 contains 93 percent protection and SPF 30 contains 97 percent protection.”
For everyday use without prolonged sun exposure, SPF 15 is fine to use. Shaw said there are moisturizers and even some makeup that contain SPF 15, but if people are going to be sun-exposed, they should use SPF 30.
Shaw said there is very little difference between SPF 50 through 100, and that the FDA said it should be capped at SPF 50 plus. Anything above SPF 50 is going to contain about 98 percent protection from the sun.
Although only 5 percent of rays are UVB, Shaw said they cause the most damage to skin. Out of the 95 percent UVA rays, 25 percent are actually UVA2 rays and those cause the same type of damage as UVB rays.
“We know UVB radiation definitely causes pre-disposed skin cancer and aging,” Shaw said. “Melanoma is the most serious one that can metastasize and cause death.”
Shaw said that people should check their bodies for cancerous spots at least once a year. According to the Academy, early diagnosis and treatment is crucial and when caught early skin cancer is highly treatable.
“It’s very difficult to examine your back, the back of your legs and your bottom yourself,” Shaw said. “In the dermatology office, we would photograph it. That way we had it in their charts and could compare them.”
Forney resident Caty Daniels’ worst sunburn experience was from prolonged exposure in a tanning bed. She doesn’t use them anymore because it’s not worth the risk to her.
“It was probably one of the most painful experiences,” Daniels said. “I was red from head to toe.”