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Skipping SPF Can Lead to Second-Degree Burns

A Cautionary Tale About Going Sunblock-Free

My skin almost hurts from reading this Salon article about the dangers of sun exposure. Writer Sarah Stanfield, a fair-skinned student in Ecuador, wound up with a scorching sunburn after tanning for four hours without sunblock. She writes:

Quito rises about 9,000 feet above sea level. At this elevation, the atmosphere is thinner, making skin more vulnerable to the sun's rays. I knew this, but convinced myself the clouds in the sky would temper the intensity of the sun. So I stretched out next to the pool with a Toni Morrison novel, rising four hours later with legs the color of smoked salmon.

Stanfield couldn't walk for days, then developed second-degree burns and leaking blisters the size of quarters. The ordeal sounds terrible — but as a fellow member of the "We Don't Tan, We Burn" club of pale people, I'm surprised that someone so fair-skinned would venture into the sun without protection. Sheer folly! Let this be a cautionary tale the next time you're thinking of skipping SPF. (Remember: oozing blisters.)

Image Source: Thinkstock
Join The Conversation
Natalie-Love Natalie-Love 6 years
When I am at the beach I do protect my face a lot, but sometimes not reapply on the body so much, I've never burned, I think it's my olive undertone. Different skin types are just different though, people really ought to know their skin type and treat it how it needs to be! I never knew you could get burns that bad from the sun! I've only ever seen red peeling skin on people.. never blisters! Scary.
Annie-Tomlin Annie-Tomlin 6 years
Mavs, wow, that is serious. 30 minutes on a cloudy day. I also carry sunblock in my bag. PMS -- You poor thing. I can't even imagine the pain. For some people, there is no tan. Just pale or red. Sorry you had to go through that.
postmodernsleaze postmodernsleaze 6 years
I live really close to Lake Tahoe (high elevation), so it's a summer pastime for everyone in the area. When I was 15, I went up there on Memorial Day with a friend. I am glow-in-the-dark pale and normally wear a lot of sunscreen, but I decided that I would try to get a little color on my legs. I had been wearing sunscreen all day, but put a little bit of something called "tan accelerator" on my legs. Less than ten minutes later I had lobster-red legs that ended up being completely scorched with second-degree burns. I developed blisters the size of baseballs (yes, baseballs, not stretching the truth here) that leaked all over the place in big puddles. I ended up in the emergency room and had to take my finals in a wheelchair in the school office! It was so incredibly painful. My skin looked like raw steak with baseball-sized blisters for like two weeks. I couldn't walk, I couldn't sit normally, and I frequently cried. I consider it the worst mistake of my life haha My dad even took a bunch of pictures of it and has them in a scrapbook on a page called "Jenna's Suburn".
Mavs2980 Mavs2980 6 years
I always used to say that when I was younger, "I don't tan, I burn"! A few years ago (6 is a few in my book) I went down to Port Aransas for spring break, and temps were in the low 60's and it was cloudy and overcast out. Our first day there my friends wanted to hit the beach, but I was cold and didn't want to go, but got dragged out anyway. I wore sweat bottoms over my bathing suit and only stayed out 30 minutes, with no sunscreen. Needless to say I was a lobster on top and spent the rest of the week being miserable!! My friends couldn't believe I had burned that fast. Every day after that before we went any where, my friends made sure I was sun screened up and carried an extra one in my purse. I learned from my mistake and never take the clouds and cool temps for granted any more.
Annie-Tomlin Annie-Tomlin 6 years
Yeah, clouds don't matter. UV rays are tough! I remember my dad going ice fishing, then coming home with a sunburned nose. Austin? Jealous! BlueSL, I don't either. The Salon commenters were pretty harsh about it, too.
bluesarahlou bluesarahlou 6 years
I don't understand how anyone with fair skin would think that laying in full sunshine for four hours would be a good idea. Clouds or no clouds. :oy:
Advah Advah 6 years
I was in Austin for SXSW :) Scotland doesn't feel very warm or exotic right now! (PS: I owe you a PM asa jetlag lets me get more than one sentence together at a time!) How was Mexico? And you'd also think we all know clouds make it worse since you don't realise you're burning..
Annie-Tomlin Annie-Tomlin 6 years
Where were you, Advah? Good times? I spent nine days in Mexico and applied sunscreen frequently, but I still got a little bit of color. I feel like anyone who's fair-skinned is aware of how quickly we burn, but this story proves otherwise.
Advah Advah 6 years
Eugh that made me feel queasy! Coming back from a week in the sun, I've been reminded us pale people even burn with SPF, sigh. (other reminder: amazing what getting some actual sun can do for healing skin though!)
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