As a pale girl who loves the great outdoors, news of a heatwave has me retreating into the darkest, shadiest part of the room with my pack of Magnums, threatening to not come out until it’s all over.
Having a fair complexion can really taint the enjoyability of summer; all you can think about is when the next time to apply sun cream is, or whether or not there will be a shady spot available at the pub later. Skin melanoma is a real threat, and a sunburnt scalp is no one's idea of fun.
But as someone who’s never let her paleness get in the way of having a good time, here I am, armed with advice on staying cool, comfortable and sunburn free...
I’m an SPF 50 kinda gal. When the sun comes out to play, you can bet that my bottle of suncream is never far away. Sunburn is an omnipresent concern throughout summer when you’re the Wednesday Addams of Cooler Mag, but the key to not letting it ruin your day out is simply preparation.
A regular habit of applying suncream in the morning and after lunch to arms, shoulders, chest and neck won’t just save you the shame of weeks of peeling skin all over your office chair, but also reduces the threat of melanoma that pale people are susceptible to. On the daily trot, a little spritz of suncream into your daily facial moisturiser can also be a lifesaver.
And if you are one of the unlucky ones and do accidentally catch a bit too much sun…
Aloe vera gel
A tube of organic aloe vera gel that is kept in the fridge at all times can be a lifesaver for the pale person all year around. Flushed from the gym? Cold aloe vera gel. Got a burn or graze? Cold aloe vera gel. A rash or feeling hot from a fever? Aloe vera. Squeaky door handle? Aloe vera. Broken heart? Aloe vera.
Holland and Barrett do a great 99.9% Aloe Vera gel. Stick it in the fridge and apply liberally to all burnt areas of skin. Weeping with relief is optional.
Re-useable water bottles
Water is my summer lifesaver. Almost religiously, I will be casually carrying around two huge reusable bottles of ice cold water from the fridge which I will proceed to noisily and sloppily gulp down when I get the first opportunity.
In all due seriousness though, as someone who flushes red at the mildest inconvenience, one of the tricks for calming my rosy skin down, and normalising my body temperature again is taking a long slug of an ice cold drink, and it comes with almost instant relief.
While it’s easy to preach about preparation being the key and putting bottles of water in the fridge ahead of hot days, simply carrying a reusable water bottle around with you saves the pennies in your pocket and the guilt of buying yet another single-use plastic bottle. You can just pop into any cafe or Pret a Manger and ask for some water from the tap.
Ditch the Tube and go for a walk instead
On the subject of public transport, if it’s a short journey, why not just ditch the buses and trains altogether in favour of walking?
The Central Line is, as ever, unbearably hot. I have often found myself in favour of ditching the sweaty, smelly, humid buses and Tubes in London in favour of walking in the shade down the side of the street in hot weather. Why? In all due honesty, both scenarios are equally unpleasant but walking down the street seems like the lesser of two evils. I’d much prefer to nothave my face squished up against someone’s sweaty armpit during rush hour. And you never know, if you’re walking outside you might even catch a rogue breeze. Or see a cute dog! The possibilities are endless.
Get a fan!
I love a big fan, don’t you? I’m not talking about the electric ones that guzzle up energy and send your bills rocketing through the roof, I’m talking about the cute little paper fans that you can hold in your hand and wave to create a nice little personal breeze when you’re sitting on the bus or the train.
If feeling like a character from a Jane Austen adaptation is your thing, then this will be right up your street. But ever eager to avoid sweating myself to oblivion, the number of times I’ve whipped a paper fan out of my handbag to fan myself with has proven it to be a good purchase.
Big floppy hat!
Maybe you haven’t quite graduated to the stage where you actively seek out the shade, then embrace the fact that big floppy hats are basically made for girls who are likely to get sunburnt heads/ noses/ shoulders.
From this day forward, go forth and expand your collection of hats and wear them with pride. From snapbacks, to rave bucket hats, to enormous novelty straw numbers - There is no limit to what you can and can’t wear on your head when you are protecting your scalp from sunburn.
Loose, flowing clothing
The fun of summer in the UK is being able to wear the backless dresses, the short shorts, the bikini tops and flowery mini sundresses that never see the light of day for 97% of the year… And here I am saying that a sheet with a single hole cut in it for your head is the way to go.
But when you’re a pale individual, sometimes there is method in the madness to covering up. Going for the loose, flowing t-shirts and dresses will keep you feeling cool and swishy in the sun when everyone else is mopping their sweaty backs, and give your body the cooling TLC it rightly deserves.
Your local lido
Really can’t handle it anymore? Is your body just begging for a dip in a nice cool swimming pool?
Local lidos around London are full of activity at this time of year, and they’re the perfect location to go and get your swimming fix when the mercury is rising.
Ditch the fake tan
Your friends may have been blessed with the sun’s glow and are a gorgeous shade of nut brown after one session in the park, and you’re still a sour-milky shade of white… try - oh, try! - to avoid reaching for the St. Moritz. With cool undertones in your skin, especially if you are blonde or red-headed with blue/green eyes, if you attempt to fight these cool undertones, chances are you going to take on an uphill battle and ultimately lose.
Getting plenty of outdoors activity(whilst wearing suncream!) is a great way to build up a natural tan without resorting to an all-out skin blitzing session in the 33c direct sunlight.