Summer of 2006. Spain, sun and the beach. It is, and will forever remain, one of the most memorable trips of my life. "Because it was thàt awesome?" Oh yeah, it was absolutely bananas if you look past the trashy hotel, the burned skin from a preparatory solarium visit and the outburst of sun allergies (at least that's what I thought it was). Besides that, it was a party.
Sometimes life, and my own stupid choices, take me places that rock my world. Not necessarily in a good way. But it makes for a great story afterwards!
So there I was, 16 years old, braces, burned and covered in allergies. Can you blame me for being home sick? Didn't think so. It was a surprise because in the first 16 years of my life I had never experienced anything that looked like sun allergies. And I used to spend my summers in 40 degrees heat. Weird..
Fast forward to summer 2014. Spain, again. But now we're in a gorgeous villa, town of Marbella and everything is just perfect. Day 1: the sun is out and I grab the sunblock as if my life depended on it. I rub it all in, up to my ears. No way sun will play any tricks on me this time round, hell no baby, nothing will get through this layer of protection! Turning round every ten minutes to make sure my tan is all even and nice. A little dip in the pool. A little walk around the pool. Seven days of this and I'll be able to call Jessica Alba my skintone sister. We watched the sun set over a lovely dinner and a couple of beers. Yum! And one by one (or two by two) we were off to bed.
You know that feeling you have when you wake up after a night of serious partying & drinking? Even before you open your eyes, or realise who you are and where you are, you feel the pain emerge in your head as if it got hit with bowling ball, twice. Day 2: I wake up feeling that my face is not the same as it was the day before. Without even touching it, I already know, the second I enter the bathroom and switch on the light I will see exactly what I know it is. Click.
"How is this even possible right now? Are you effing kidding me.."
Surprisingly, I was very calm, upset as f***, but all the grand emotions had left the building. Stressing out will only make it worse, there's no quick fix or a magical cure. Guess, like all the other times, I will have to sit this one out. In the shadow. With a hat. And sunglasses. Preferably in a maxi dress. With sleeves. Trust me, there was nothing boho chic about that look.
My entire face was covered with little, tiny bumps. It was bloated and felt like a hot stove to the touch. I couldn't laugh because the bumps around my mouth would burst and the moment they'd burst, they would start to spread. Oh yeah, this is a special kind of fun in the sun. Few days in my face didn't get any better, we decided to move the party to the local emergency room for a
tequila hydro cortisone shot. It's not an instant cure but it stops the whole process from getting worse and takes away the burning feeling. Slowly the skin calms down, the bumps dry out and in a week or two the whole thing is gone.
I arrived in Spain looking white. I left Spain looking... darker white.
Some adventure this was. I came back home and couldn't help but refuse to believe that this is a simple case of sun allergies. In these past years I had many times exposed my skin to the sun. Sometimes without having applied any SPF at all. (This is wrong of course! Especially when your skin is this pale and sensitive! Stupid me. Bad girl. Don't follow that specific example!). Bottomline: my skin didn't show any reaction to direct sun exposure. And I guess if I was allergic to sunrays, I'd be covered head to toe having done that. But no, nothing. Could it be the cream? But I had used so many SPF creams in my lifetime.. Sometimes I got nothing but a sexy tan and other times a far-from-hot-lookin' skin rash. So what could it be?
After doing some research online I finally found out what it was that was causing the so-called "sun allergies": oxybenzone. Oxybenzone is an ingredient some SPF creams contain that make the cream more absorbable. Usually, traditional SPF creams are a bit thicker by texture and don't really penetrate into your skin. With oxybenzone they do. The cream, that contains this ingredient, slips easily into your skin and it's as if you have nothing on your face at all. Awesome right? It is awesome, for the ones who are not reacting to it like I do. That last time in Spain, at least 4 people had applied the same SPF cream. I was the only one who got the extra surprise. Lucky me.. But I only had applied that cream on my face. So why did I also get a rash on my hands, and my eyelids, and lips? Places where I didn't apply the cream. I used an organic cream with SPF to cover the rest of my body, my hands included. The thing with oxybenzone is that it penetrates into your skin, gets into your bloodstream and "travels" through your body. This makes it possible that you get a rash in places that cream was not applied. Because internally it flows through your entire body. As a bonus: it might also mess with your hormones.
I guess it's just like with peanuts: for some super tasty, for others possibly deadly. So be careful. It took me 8 years, several "allergic attacks", a few hydro cortisone shots and many tears to find out what it was and now that I know, I felt responsible to share it with you. I wouldn't want anyone else to experience this. Sure it's not the end of the world, but who knows the damage it might cause in the long run? Bottomline: if you can avoid it, avoid it!
Feel free to share you experiences and feedback below!