Here’s how to take care of your skin
during the dog days of summer.
By Corinne Garcia
In a perfect world, we’d all have glowing, blemish-free skin during the summer months, that time of year when we tend to show more of ourselves to the world. In reality, along with summertime fun comes more time spent in the sun with its harmful UV rays, which can result in a host of skin issues.
Everyone has different skin tones and types ranging from pale to dark, dry to oily, and each type is subject to a variety of issues: dry, flaky skin, heat rashes, breakouts, you name it. No matter what type of skin you’re in, there are some general guidelines to dealing with common issues.
Sun and Skin
Some people may feel like they look healthier and happier with sun-kissed skin, but most people these days also understand that excessive exposure to UV rays can cause skin cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 2 million cases of skin cancer occur each year in the US.
And although most are the rarely fatal basal and squamous cell carcinomas, occurrences of the deadliest form, melanoma, have tripled from 1975 to 2010. Both UVA and UVB rays can cause melanoma and studies have found a correlation between sunburns and this deadly malignancy.
Realistically, summertime is outdoor time, so the sun is hard for people to avoid. “I don’t want anybody worshipping the sun,” says Mary Field, CAMS, of the Institute of European and Natural Skin Care in Gig Harbor, Washington. “It’s healthy to be in the great outdoors, but there’s a big difference between enjoying the outdoors and parking it on the beach; you still need to protect yourself.”
Is sunscreen the answer? The Environmental Working Group reports that regular sunscreen use reduces the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma, but studies have not yet proven that it protects against either basal cell carcinoma or melanoma. However, sunscreen can protect you against sunburns, which have been shown to cause melanoma. So although it’s not the ultimate skin cancer shield, sunscreen is still useful.
What’s more, sunscreen has been shown to help prevent sun-induced wrinkles. A study by researchers at Australia’s University of Queensland reported that those who wear sunscreen daily have 24% fewer wrinkles than those who don’t (Annals of Internal Medicine 6/13).
Professional makeup artist Lora Condon, author of the Beauty Buster Blog (www.makeupwithme.com/wordpress), stays out of the sun as much as possible, but still wears sunscreen on her face every day. “My number one recommendation for summer skin is using sunscreen and reapplying it every hour to make sure you’re preventing skin cancer and wrinkling, but also to get even skin tone instead of getting blotchy and burned,” she says.
Sunscreen has been a hot topic, as researchers and groups such as EWG began questioning product claims and ingredient safety. In response, the Food and Drug Administration has begun enforcing new sunscreen regulations. And EWG recently released their guide to the safest brands (www.ewg.org/2013sunscreen).
Sunscreen can offer some protection, but it’s only one tool. Public health authorities recommend wearing light layers of UV-protective clothing, sunglasses and sun hats to block the rays, in addition to seeking shade during the hours when the sun is strongest, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Stay outside long enough and you can go from sunburn to sun poisoning, which results in rashes, fever and chills, blisters and peeling. “It’s just awful,” Condon says. “It can happen when you don’t realize it, or when you know you’re burning, but not how badly.” What’s more, many medications can increase sun sensitivity.
For burns, Condon recommends soothing aloe (checking the label to make sure the product is at least 80% pure aloe). For sun-induced rashes, along with aloe, she suggests mixing oatmeal with some water to form a soothing paste, or using calamine lotion. “And always make sure you’re hydrated; that will ensure you sweat properly instead of clogging the pores, reducing your chances of getting a sun rash,” Condon adds.
Certain nutrients may help boost your sunscreen’s effects. Two members of the carotenoid family, lutein and zeaxanthin, help neutralize the skin-damaging free radicals that UV exposure generates. Other skin-saving nutrients include another carotenoid, beta carotene, and another powerful antioxidant called astaxanthin.
Summer Skin Issues
Aside from damage related to sun exposure, there are other skin problems that tend to flare up in hot weather.
Although most people think of dry, flaky skin as a winter problem, it can be more prevalent in the summertime for a variety of reasons. “When people tan or spend a lot of time in the sun, aside from the drying effects of sunburns, they are sweating out water, which will dry out your skin,” Condon says. In the summer, many people spend a lot more time in the water, whether it’s the ocean or the backyard pool. “Salt water and chlorine are also very drying to the skin,” she adds.
To ease a case of the summer drys, “make sure you stay well hydrated,” Condon says. “When you’re hydrated from within, your skin appears to be more hydrated.” She also recommends rinsing off when you get out of the pool or ocean before reapplying sunscreen and using all-natural body oils after bathing in the evening. “Oils are always going to go deeper into the skin, and olive oil is always my go-to for more moisture,” she says.
Fields recommends adding extra virgin olive oil to your favorite cream to combat dry skin. Both women also strongly recommend gentle exfoliation, with a body brush or washcloth, to remove dead, dry skin cells. “Sugar scrubs are great for exfoliation; sugar hydrates the skin and it is anti-bacterial,” Condon says.
“More than ever before, many people are saying they’re allergic to the sun,” Condon explains, “It’s usually not so much an allergy, but they are not getting rid of enough sweat through the skin, which can cause a rash.” What’s more, sunscreen, oils and other products can easily clog pores, resulting in bumpy skin.
Condon recommends finding a high-quality sunblock for the face that works for your skin type. “That’s one of the benefits of going to an esthetician or spa. They know skin and can recommend the best sunscreen for you,” she says. Whatever the brand, she recommends mineral-based facial sunscreens that contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. “Zinc is a great sunblock, and is also very healing for breakouts.”
To prevent rashes, Fields recommends a gentle cleansing routine, especially washing the face after a sweaty workout to clean out the pores and let them breathe. “Aloe vera is also great for oily skin,” Fields says. “It gives you moisture, but no oil, and it doesn’t cause breakouts.”
Sustaining the Glow
Whether you have skin issues or not, Condon and Fields offer tips for achieving flawless, glowing summer skin.
Fields recommends a morning layering method for the face. This involves starting with a light moisturizer that contains a 15 SPF sunscreen, and then adding a light mineral-based foundation that contains zinc, followed by a mineral powder. “These light layers are more effective than one heavy douse,” Fields explains. “If you’re trying to completely block the sun with one heavy item, you will be congesting and filling your pores, and they need to breathe to be healthy.”
Condon suggests a combination treatment that includes gentle exfoliation, sunblock, face cream that suits your skin type and oils for the rest of the body to add moisture and a shimmer. “The key to this is repetition,” she says. “This should be done on a daily basis for best results.”
Fields says, “The skin is the largest organ in the body, and we want to be really kind to it.” Protecting your skin now can help it look fresh and lovely as the summers come and go.