This side of paradise

Pina ColadaIn a little over 3 weeks’ time I will be jetting off, some 4,000 miles away, for some much needed ‘R&R’. It can’t come soon enough. I haven’t had a sun holiday in circa two years and after this long, cold winter – which, let’s not forget, is far from over – I loooong, more than anything, to be lying by the Indian Ocean, a cool breeze blowing, a book in my hands and a pina colada (or cold beer) by my side. It’s going to happen very soon – and I’m on countdown.

Holidaying in the tropics is, unfortunately, not always straight forward for me. I don’t have particularly fair skin – in fact, I go brown easily enough (although these days I tend to wear quite high factor sun cream). However, I do suffer from prickly heat particularly badly. On no less than three separate occasions, whilst holidaying in the tropics, I’ve had a particularly nasty skin reaction. It may not be prickly heat – but I’m about 90% sure it is. Others have said it’s a food allergy, some that it’s the sea (or even the sand). But as I look at the rather hideous photos I took last time I had this problem – about two years ago – it is ever more obvious that the rash only appears on my body in sun-sensitive areas where I have had an excess of sun (usually on my front – chest, arms, legs, not below the swimming trunk line, or on my face which is, of course, weather-beaten enough). And it never happens in ‘dry’ heat – regardless of how hot it is or how strong the sun (e.g. Egypt, a place I’ve been to many times). The tropics – with 99% humidity – is a very different story and it seems to trigger with very minor sunburn plus very humid conditions.

The fairer my skin, the more the problem is exacerbated. So this time I am taking a ‘precaution’ of sorts. I have decided to frequent that establishment known simply as the ‘tanning salon’. These aren’t, let’s be clear, ‘good for you’ – and I’m well aware of that. But having my UV ‘body shock’ now, rather than on the first few days of my holiday, should hopefully help my skin cope more easily with the dramatic change in climate.

It’s more than seven years since I’ve been to a tanning salon and it was with a degree of shock that I discovered that my details still exist on this well known chain’s database, all these years later. It’s £1.25 a minute and the minimum is 4 minutes. I said “I think three lots of four minutes should do me” to the pleasant assistant. “Oh, I think you’ll need more than that to really get results” – said she. “I’m not looking for results” I said, proceeding to explain to her why I was there.

Anyway, the session was straight forward, as they always are. I’ve only tended to use the upright high-power ones and this is what they had. You strip down (to underwear, I might add – though I’m sure plenty of people go starkers) – put your disposable eye mask on, get into the tardis-like contraption, pull the door behind you and then fire-up what feels like a mini nuclear reactor – a loud mechanical whirring sound begins as the powerful multi-watt bulbs spring into life around you. And you get irradiated.

Four minutes later you’re done. It was particularly cold outside when I went the other day and my skin felt somewhat sensitive after it. It always feels like wind-burn to me – a kind of smarting – when you use those machines. And your skin kind of sweats – even for quite a while afterwards; it’s a strange sensation.

As mentioned – I was not using it for ‘cosmetic’ purposes and I am not ever going to be a ‘user’ of sunbeds, in the normal sense. But in very limited moderation, to hopefully prevent the issues I have had in the past – I’m hoping it will pay off.

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