It’s that time of year, between spring break and Memorial Day, when people everywhere, after months of long, dark winter, are ready to fry themselves like a Scottish Mars Bar. To help you avoid that fate, take a look at the horror stories of three unfortunate souls who eschewed sun protection — and had to live with the bizarre, excruciating consequences.
“I’ve broken my leg twice, and it was probably worse than that.”
Greg Binnie, Scotland: I was cutting grass all weekend — I was there all day on Saturday, and I actually went back on Sunday. Both days were really long. On Saturday I just had a [tank top] on, and then, aye, I spent about eight hours cutting grass. It was just one of those things — I was getting on with the job and I wasn’t thinking. It was really stupid: I’ve got ginger hair and I’m very light skinned, it definitely wasn’t my smartest choice.
I went back to work on a Sunday. I didn’t take my top off that day because I knew I was quite red — it wasn’t until Sunday night when it started blistering and I realized how bad I was burned: I had cold sweats, I was shaky and I thought, There’s definitely something not right. I couldn’t sleep, and I was in bed for the next three days. I’ve broken my leg twice, and it was probably worse than that.
As bad as it looked, it hurt even worse. I don’t know if you have Drumstick candy in America; I was like a Drumstick — I looked ludicrous. I posted some photos of it on Twitter, asking if anybody had any remedies. A few people gave me the same suggestion, so I got Greek natural yogurt — two 1-liter tubs of it — and I caked it on. I absolutely lathered myself in it, seven to eight times a day! It didn’t smell very pleasant when it dried as you can imagine, but it made a massive difference.
When I posted the tweet, at first it was folk laughing. But then it just snowballed. All of a sudden people from the States were retweeting it; I actually ended up deleting the tweet a few months later. Journalists were contacting me for stories. I think when I last checked, it was on 80,000 retweets. After a few months it died down, and I was glad not to be known as the sunburn guy anymore.
“After an hour or two I started blistering up in one giant blister — it turned out I had second-degree burns.”
Max Campbell, Eugene, Oregon: On spring break, my family and I were in Hawaii. I was throwing jokes at my dad, telling him I never get burned, and that I have good skin. He was like, “Anybody can get burned! You’ll get one sunburn, and you’ll put sunscreen on for the rest of your life!”
My cousin and I took a two-hour surfing lesson. I put on sunscreen everywhere but the one place where you get the most sun when you’re surfing: The back of your legs. So afterward when we walked around town, I noticed it hurt to bend my knees, especially the part behind your knees. That’s when it first started to hit me: I was like, oh man, I got really burned. After an hour or two I started blistering up — in one giant blister. My dad was just laughing the whole time, like, “I told you!”
The night before, we went to the hot tub in the complex where we were staying. There was this guy who was like, “Sorry if I scream, I have a sunburn on my lower back,” and we were all laughing because we thought he was exaggerating. But two days after I got sunburned, I got in the hot tub — I think I screamed louder than him.
It turned out I had second-degree burns. The five-hour plane ride back home was excruciating — I was like, okay, I get it now.
“My whole front chest and stomach came off in one ginormous piece.”
Scott, San Diego: For spring break, I’d gone to visit my parents, who were living at the time in Saudi Arabia. For about an hour, I sat out in the yard, not really thinking about it, waiting for my dad to get home. I’m a pretty pale guy, so I don’t really ‘suntan.’ But I thought I’d sit outside. The whole front side of me just completely — completely — fried. I got so burned it was numb, I couldn’t feel anything.
Man, it hurt so bad, but there’s almost there’s nothing you can do. You can’t lay in bed cause you just sweat and burn. You can’t stand in the cold shower all the time. There was no comfort.
A sunburn started coming on that night, then I flew home the next day. I had class the day after that, so by then, I was just flaming red. I remember sitting in class and a girl saw how red I was and made fun of me a little bit, calling me a lobster. I had to walk around pulling the front of my T-shirt so it wouldn’t touch me, or stick to me — even a T-shirt was painful.
After about a week, it started to clear up. I was in the bathroom when I started to peel and when I did, my whole chest and stomach came off in one ginormous piece. I felt like a snake shedding my skin, it was that bad.
Nowadays I wear a daily sunscreen and spend less time sitting out in the sun without a shirt. I wear a scarf even on sunny days just to protect my neck, and if I need to, I can wrap it around my head to protect it from the sun, too. I almost always carry a hat if I’m going anywhere.
Basically, I’m never doing what I did in Saudi Arabia ever again — 100 percent.