Summer Skin SaversA Guide to 5 Summer Skincare Problems
-- By Leanne Beattie, Health & Beauty Writer
After counting down the days until summer, the warm weather is finally here! But it’s hard to enjoy the season’s skimpier fashions if your skin isn’t up to par. Ingrown hairs, body acne, and sunburn can take the fun out of the season. Get ready for the shortest shorts and the tiniest tanks with this guide to summer skin care.
Acne can make even the most confident people feel self-conscious—especially when it occurs on the body. "Backne" (acne on the back) is common among men and women, but you can get pimples almost anywhere on the body if your pores become clogged and infected.
- What causes it? Hot, humid weather often prompts the production of excess oil, resulting in acne on the back and chest, which can take longer to heal than facial pimples.
- What prevents it? Wear loose clothing made with moisture-wicking fabric to help release trapped moisture before it can contribute to the problem. Sweating in the summer sun can clog pores faster than you're able to get to the shower, so clean up as soon as you're done exercising and spending time in the heat.
- What eliminates it? Treat body acne with a medicated body wash containing salicylic or glycolic acid to help unplug pores. Consider applying a light layer of tea tree oil directly onto the acne for a naturally-antibacterial treatment.
Summer fashions for men and women expose more skin than during the cooler months. So make sure your skin looks healthy, not dry and flaky.
- What causes it? Sun exposure, tanning, dehydration and repeated dips in the pool can leave your skin dry and flaky.
- What prevents it? Exfoliating and moisturizing regularly can help keep skin in tip-top condition. Be careful when selecting an exfoliating product—it's easy to go overboard and treat the skin too roughly.
- What eliminates it? Combat the flakes with physical or chemical exfoliation once or twice a week. Physical exfoliants include facial scrubs and buffer pads. Stay away from products containing ground up nut shells, which can damage skin with their jagged edges. Instead try a product with exfoliating beads, which are round and much gentler. Chemical exfoliation uses alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids to loosen and remove dead skin cells. After exfoliating, always apply a moisturizer that won’t clog pores or cause breakouts. Gel formulas are especially light and refreshing for the summer—store them in the refrigerator for a cool burst every time you use them.
Many women need to clean up their bikini line before hitting the beach, but nothing spoils the look like red, irritated skin. Ingrown hairs, or razor bumps, occur when the shaved or waxed hair gets trapped inside the hair follicle and grows back down into the skin.
- What causes it? Ingrown hairs commonly result when skin is shaved too closely.
- What prevents it? To avoid this, don’t pull the skin too taut when your shave; shave in the direction of your hair growth; and apply light (not heavy) pressure on the blades. If you are prone to ingrown hairs, visit your dermatologist for advice and ask about options for permanent removal options, such as laser hair removal.
- What eliminates it? If you already have ingrown hairs, use a product containing salicylic acid or glycolic acid to exfoliate the upper layers of dead skin around the trapped hair. Then, use tweezers to gently lift the hair out of the follicle without removing it completely. Dab a cream with lactic acid directly onto the razor bumps to help soften the skin so the hair can emerge.<pagebreak>
Summer means spending more time outdoors, but practice caution while hiking and camping. Poison ivy is found throughout the United States and Canada, and nothing will ruin a vacation faster than an itchy, uncomfortable rash.
- What causes it? Contact with poison ivy can result in a rash. Even if it doesn't directly touch your skin, you can still pick it up from petting your dog or touching clothing that was exposed to the plant.
- What prevents it? The best way to prevent poison ivy rash is to avoid the plant altogether. Familiarize yourself with what it looks like (its three leaves are a good giveaway), and try to cover up your skin when in wooded areas where the plant thrives. If you’ve been exposed to this three-leafed plant, immediately wash everything that may have come in contact with it. The oil can remain active for quite some time on fabric and other objects.
- What eliminates it? Apply a cool, wet compress to relieve the itching. Add ground oatmeal or baking soda to your bathwater to ease the discomfort, or make a paste with either of these ingredients (mixed with a small amount of water) and apply it directly to the rash. Leave the rash open to the air to help it heal. Consider using a lotion with ingredients that dry up blisters and speed healing, such as calamine, alcohol, and zinc acetate. Don’t break the blisters as this may cause infection. If you are extremely uncomfortable, talk to your doctor about taking an oral antihistamine to relieve the itch but avoid the topical variety—they are not as effective and may cause a rash of their own.
If too much sun has left your skin blistered and considerably painful, seek medical attention. If the sunburn is accompanied by fever, dehydration and nausea, you could have sun poisoning.
- What causes it? Whether tanning under the sun or the glow of a tanning bed, excessive exposure to the sun or ultraviolet light can cause sunburn. The skin "burns" because your body isn't able to make enough melanin to protect the skin.
- What prevents it? Health experts advise against indoor tanning entirely. But when spending time outdoors, apply sunscreen regularly, wear sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat, and limit your skin exposure to prevent sunburn from occurring.
- What eliminates it? If your symptoms aren’t severe, you can treat the burn yourself with cold compresses, which help reduce the skin’s surface temperature. Apply a layer of pure aloe gel, calamine lotion (if the burn is itchy) and a gentle, non-scented lotion (to help prevent peeling). Be careful not to scratch the itchy areas as this may cause infection. Drink plenty of fluids, but avoid alcohol, which can dehydrate the skin even more. If the pain is severe, ask your doctor about aspirin (not for use in children under 12), ibuprofen or another over-the-counter pain medication.