I suffer from sun-allergy or photo-sensitivity, a so called skin disease that all of us face to an extent – we go out in the sun and our skin gets tanned or burnt or we have rashes which stay on for a week and then disappear. In my case, the sun-sensitivity issue cropped up a few years ago. Coming from an armed forces background, I travelled extensively across India in my childhood and never faced any issues. I could play whole in the sun and I would be okay. Over the past few years, I started developing severe rashes and burns when exposed to sunlight and these would just not go. It became worse with my body immunity mechanism not able to produce pigment on its own- which meant a severe sun burn would leave vitiligo kind of white spots. It was a complete disaster for a person like me who loved travelling and wanted to continue travelling. My dermatologist advised me to “stay out of the sun” at all costs except early morning, but the traveler in me just wasn’t ready to take on that advice – I loved traveling and wanted to keep on traveling as much as I could – Sun or no sun!!
After years of getting tanned and sun burnt whilst traveling (and cribbing about it), I decided to take matters in my own hand and take action. I devised a handful of tips which I believe have helped me over the years in continuing my travel spree to any and all remote locations, including the very hot and sunny locations!
I took to Green Tea in a BIG way
I have always been interested in ‘healthy living’ and alternative health therapies but I saw the benefits of Green Tea in combating sun-allergy when I visited Ladakh this year. A week prior to leaving for the Ladakh trip, I upped my green tea intake from 2 cups a day to 5-6 cups a day. While I increased the number of cups on a general note, I realized during my trip that I was able to walk in the sun without any rashes or major sunburns. I was also experiencing less stress on joints and was able to breathe more easily in a high-altitude location like Ladakh. I did not feel ‘too’ breathless at Khardungla Pass which is one of the highest passes in the world and where most people feel severe loss of breath. All in all, since the trip I have turned into a complete believer and continue to drink at least 4 cups of green tea a day.
Green tea benefits:-
- No major sunburn or skin irritations
- Greater mobility in joints / no cramps
- Able to breathe easily at high-altitude areas
- Able to walk more without getting tired
I personally prefer TULSI brand of green tea (with leaves) which is an Indian brand but any locally recommended brand will also do (check on internet or with green tea lovers in your area)
Water, water and more water for me!
This is the most well-known health tip but almost no one follows it. On an average, an adult is required to drink at least 8 glasses of water on a daily basis but if you face sun burn issues like me, then increase the intake even more. It may sound crazy but I drink around 4 to 5 liters of water every day, not because of an addiction or compulsion but because it helps keep my skin sane and healthy when I am out in the sun. For the past few years, my skin has not had any major eruptions and I believe that water’s superpower to renew skin cells has played an important role in easing my sun-allergy issues.
Drinking water benefits:-
- Kept body hydrated
- Skin remained healthy and minus any major eruptions
- Skin renewal process seemed to help keeping skin eruptions at bay
Note: – Whenever travelling, do ensure that you stick to bottled water and avoid drinking local water. This is to avoid stomach upset caused by frequent ‘change’ of water.
Vitamin E – my savior!
I highly recommend this if you are a regular traveller. A week before embarking on my journey, I pop in a vitamin E pills on a daily basis. This helps strengthen the skin and increases its resilience. I do this on a regular basis (definitely for long journeys) and while my skin does get tanned, it does not break-out into rashes anymore or end up with white spots. Note: Please check with your doctor on taking any supplements including this one. I don’t think it harms anyone but do check with the doc!
Vitamin E benefits:-
- Makes skin softer and stronger
- Increases resilience to sun burns
- Sun tan fades away faster
A bowl of cold water and a clean hand towel does the trick for me
This is my favorite and most trusted tip. It’s also a traditional cure and many members in my family have been doing it for a while now. If you have been traveling out of home, especially in the sun, then the best post-exposure thing to do is to clean the tanned part of your body with cold water and a clean hand towel. And I don’t mean just once – do this repeatedly for 20 minutes or so to see the tanning fade away slowly. If the tanning is too severe (like it is for me), rub on cold cream and then wipe it off with cold water. Do this three to four times to see a marked difference in the tan.
Cold water, towel clean benefits:-
- Fades tan quickly
- Removes dirt and grime
- Relaxes muscles and soothes hands, feet
- Visibly cleaner skin
I book my Spa even before heading out for my journey!
Once you’ve come back beaming and happy from your journey, it’s a good idea to do one round at the spa to soothe your tired skin – something that I am almost religious about now J. If Spa is too expensive for you or if you aren’t the spa types, then go in for a massage at home with coconut oil. The therapeutic properties of coconut oil are perfect for any sun related issue – it’s‘cooling’ oil by nature and best remedy for sun burns with its healing, vitamin E enriched properties.
Spa/ massage benefits:-
- Relaxes body overall
- With the use of right oils, it helps rejuvenate your skin
- Coconut oil significantly reduces tan and calms down your skin
Finally, the regulars such as sunscreen, hats are important too but keep these tips in mind while traveling next time and feel the difference. Happy Traveling in the Sun! J
PS: Ending with a picture of me shopping in the afternoon in Manali – in crazy, strong sun! J
Cheers & keep traveling!