Medical Review By: Heather Brew
You may love the relaxing vibes of summer, but it can be a stressful time of year for your skin. Sunburn and sun damage are threats, of course. Hotter temperatures and high humidity are also hard on the skin, making it more prone to acne, dryness, and certain types of rashes. Swimming pools also rob skin of moisture.
To keep your skin healthy, clear, and well protected, follow these tips from Heather Brew, PA-C, a board-certified physician assistant at Water’s Edge Dermatology.
1. Apply sunscreen thoroughly
Even if you use sunscreen religiously, it’s easy to overlook certain areas when you apply it, such as the part in your hair and the tops of your ears. According to Brew, many people also neglect their hands, particularly people who bike or play sports like golf or tennis.
“Many skin cancers develop on the backs of the hands,” said Brew. Failure to use sunscreen there can also make your hands look older than other parts of your body: “The skin on the back of your hands is thin, to begin with, and it gets even thinner after years of sun exposure,” Brew added.
Favor lotion sunscreens over sprays. “Sprays make it very hard to measure how much product you’re using,” said Brew. That’s a concern since most people don’t use enough sunscreen in the first place.
2. Use a lip balm with SPF
Your lips are delicate and vulnerable to sunburn and lip cancer, particularly your bottom lip. Brew recommends carrying lip balm with SPF and re-applying it frequently whenever you’re outdoors.
“It’s easier to find lip balm with SPF 15, but it’s better to buy one with SPF 30 or higher if it’s available,” she noted. If your drugstore doesn’t carry one, look for one online. Plenty of brands make them.
3. Use a vitamin C serum
If vitamin C serum is not part of your skincare routine already, summer is a great time to add it, said Brew. “It provides an extra barrier for your skin because its antioxidant power neutralizes free radicals, which are molecules that cause sun damage,” she explained.
Vitamin C serum also helps fade hyperpigmentation caused by the sun, including sunspots (aka age spots) and melasma. And it boosts collagen production.
Be sure to apply it before you put on sunscreen. Since sunscreen is much thicker, it can prevent the serum from penetrating your skin if you apply it first.
4. Switch to lighter skincare products
Even people who don’t typically get acne may develop blemishes during the summer due to increased sweating and oil production, so adjust your skincare routine accordingly.
“If you usually use a creamy cleanser, for example, switch to a gel or foaming cleanser during the summer to avoid clogging your pores,” said Brew.
To limit oiliness, consider adding a toner to your regimen. “Toner is great for removing any remaining oils from your skin after you cleanse, and it temporarily shrinks your pores, which helps prevent debris from entering them.”
To avoid over-drying your skin, choose a toner that contains salicylic acid, and steer clear of alcohol-based toners.
5. Don’t skip moisturizer
Moisturizer might seem unnecessary in hot, sticky weather, but your skin still needs moisture now.
“Sun exposure dries out your skin, so if you’re spending more time outdoors, dryness can become an issue,” Brew explained. “And if you’re swimming in pools more frequently, your skin can also become parched from the chlorine.”
That said, you may want to use a lighter moisturizer, such as a water-based lotion or a hyaluronic acid serum. Use a moisturizer even if you have oily skin. Sebum, the oil in oily skin, doesn’t hydrate skin, it just makes it greasy.
If your moisturizer contains SPF, you still need to use a separate sunscreen if you’ll be outside for more than a short period since moisturizer has less staying power when you’re sweating, Brew noted.
6. Protect yourself from rashes
Heat and humidity increase the risk of heat rash, also called prickly heat, caused by blocked sweat glands. Symptoms include itching, reddened skin, red bumps, and tiny blisters. Rashes caused by fungal infections are also more common in summer.
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“You’re more likely to get a fungal rash now because fungi love hot, moist areas of your body, particularly the skin folds such as your armpits, stomach, and under your breasts,” said Brew.
To reduce your risk of heat rash and fungal infections, Brew recommends wearing breathable, cotton clothes and applying a powder such as Zeasorb to skin folds to absorb sweat. Drying these areas with a hairdryer set on cool is also helpful if you’ve just gotten out of the shower or start to feel sweaty at home.
7. Guard against rosacea flares
Summer weather is hard on people with rosacea since sunlight and heat are common triggers of flare-ups. Unfortunately, chemical sunscreens can also cause a flare.
“If you have rosacea, it’s better to use a mineral sunscreen that contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide because these ingredients are less likely to aggravate your skin,” said Brew.
If you want to try a new brand of sunscreen, do a patch test first. Apply a small amount near (not on) a rosacea-prone area of your skin. If it burns or stings within 72 hours, don’t use it.
8. See your dermatologist if you get a serious sunburn
You can easily manage a mild sunburn on your own with cold compresses, aloe vera gel, moisturizer, ibuprofen, and drinking plenty of fluids. But serious sunburns should be evaluated by your doctor, according to Brew. If your skin is crusting, scabbing, or draining pus, or if you have a fever or chills, you may need to take an antibiotic.
Article Written By: Jessica Brown, a health and science writer/editor based in Brooklyn, New York. She has written for Prevention magazine, jnj.com, BCRF.org, and many other outlets.