It's the scurge of pasty Brits: the minute our bodies are faced with a hot, sunny day the skin becomes red, itchy and inflamed. No one quite knows why some of us get this irritating rash and for me my skin looks exactly the same - no redness - but the itchy sensation keeps me awake at night and I can't stop touching it. Cold showers, calamine and anti-histamines do fuck all. This year I went to palm desert (38 degree heat) expecting the worst, but well prepared for it.
By doing the below I didn't even feel a prickle...
1. Don't block your pores
They say that prickly heat is caused by blocked sweat glands which leads to the release of histamine and inflammation so first of all i looked at my showering routine. I always use baby oil after showering, which is essentially liquid paraffin. So I decided to switch to a plant based oil. I used The Body Shop's Mango Beautifying Oil on this trip. This sweet smelling oil comes in a handy size for holiday and is now available in 5 further natural flavours. Dr Organic also do a variety of natural oils, such as coconut and argan oil. I started using the oil in the shower about a week before I left and through the trip. From working in healthcare I also know that oats are associated with relieving itching, which i thought might be useful if any itchiness started (it didnt) so I also invested in Aveeno Skin Relief Body Wash with oatmeal.
2. Assist your skin with internal antioxidants
It is generally when your skin is on the cusp of burning that you feel those telltale symptoms coming back. I also know from working on the launch of Colladeen Visage that plant antioxidants can help to tackle the inflammatory response on a cellular level that comes from sun exposure. Colladeen Visage can give the skin an SPF 10 after 12 weeks and SPF 15 after 24 weeks. It literally helps your skin to tolerate sunlight better without burning. I started taking 4 weeks prior to going and I also combined with another potent plant antioxidant beta carotene. This ingredient is found in lots of sunscreens that claim to help you "tan faster" so my theory was if I was tanning quicker I would be spending less time in the sun - and therefore not getting my skin too hot.
3. It's probably your sun cream
I swear I only have to squirt a bit of Nivea sun cream on my chest in the midday sun and the familiar itching fires up. On weekend breaks where I haven't worn sun cream I haven't had any problem, so there must be a reason why. Perhaps these heavy chemical sun creams block the pores? Or maybe it's polymorphic light eruption (PLE) where light and cosmetics can create uncomfortable skin reactions? So I shelled out on some pricey sun cream from The Organic Pharmacy. It was worth it I think and I've ordered another tube. It felt nice every time I applied it: my skin felt soothed not scorched. I went for the SPF 18, but it goes up to 50. As a companion I also bought the tan accelerator - containing our old friend beta carotene, green tea extract (another colladeen visage extract) and other plant nutrients. It comes out brown and glittery. I applied every morning and sometimes doubled it up as an instant tan for legs in the evening. Mix it with foundation for a bronzed face by the pool. I can't praise The Organic Pharmacy sun care range enough to be honest.
4. My body hates me
Another theory, with PLE, is that as the body tans the body thinks the skin cells are a foreign body and start attacking it. This might be why the first exposure to sun gives a bad reaction which lessens as the summer goes on. Severe PLE sufferes have light therapy, but I didn't have access to such high tech facilities. Instead, controversially, I had 3 sunbed sessions - 8 minutes, 10 minutes and 12 minutes - to get my body used to tanning. I wouldn't recommend on a weekly basis but it makes sense to give your skin a little sneak preview of what it will be going through.
And that's it, no burning, no reddening, no itching and no prickling.