But catching rays can be harmful and, with unusual levels of UV having been recorded in the UK this summer, it’s important to know how to look after your skin in a heatwave.
According to Dr Angie Bone, Head of Public Health England’s Extreme Events team, ‘spells of hot weather like this are enjoyed by many of us, but they can make a very real impact on some people’s health.’
She’s right. Serious health problems such as malignant melanoma (skin cancer) or second degree sunburn can arise if appropriate precautions are not taken in the heat.
So, without wanting to lose out on that essential dose of vitamin D, yet bearing in mind the essentials of summer skin care, here are 4 tips for looking after your skin this summer:
Protecting your summer skin from sunburn is crucial.
Whereas most of us have fallen victim to first degree sunburn—which is when exposure to the sun causes mild, superficial reddening to the skin’s surface—second degree sunburn can be a serious health issue, causing lasting damage to the nerve endings under the surface of the skin.
First thing’s first then: get your suncream right. And, yes, no matter how dark your skin, you do always need it.
Bad quality sunscreen can do more harm than good. Certain lotions cause blocked pores, leaving your skin feeling greasy and increasing the risk of acne or blackhead breakouts.
The question is: which are the best ones to choose?
To begin with, check the SPF (Sun Protection Factor). The higher the better—the British Association of Dermatogolists recommends at least 30. They also recommend applying sunscreen ‘generously and frequently when in the sun’.
Go for mineral sunscreens. They contain zinc oxide and titanium oxide which sit on the skin, creating a barrier from the sun's rays.
Avoid tanning oils. While the oils themselves aren’t harmful, it’s the way they tend to be used that can cause serious health issues. They’re also very low in SPF. Therefore, they won’t offer the protection you need.
In terms of facial sunscreens, they’re a good idea if you have sensitive skin, and they’re often not as greasy as body sunscreens.
As it’s not effective immediately, always try to apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before exposure to the sun. This commonly catches people out as they wonder why they are burnt despite applying protection.
Remember to reapply sunscreen after contact with water or excessive perspiration.
Extended exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays increases the likeliness of skin cancer cells developing. So try to spend as much time in the shade as in the sun during the day.
Avoid too much makeup
When the sun is shining, a heavy face of makeup can not only feel uncomfortable, but it can also be harmful to your summer skin. So, how much (if any) makeup should you wear in a heatwave?
Foundation? It’s a definite no!
In the first place, it won’t offer your skin any protection from the sun, and second, it will run all over your face and look a mess.
In fact, when exposed to the sun, foundation, powders and other elaborate makeup will melt clean off in a matter of hours… not a good look! Instead, opt for a tinted moisturiser and a little concealer over any blemishes or spots.
With any luck, your natural, summer skin will be glowing enough, removing any need for foundation or powders.
A little bronzer and/or cream blusher can give a nice colour without too much redness, and tinted lip balms with SPF are a flattering alternative to traditional lipsticks.
For most women, whatever the weather, mascara is a daily essential. In hot and humid conditions, try switching to a waterproof formula to avoid it running.
Exfoliate (but not too much)
One of the best ways to ensure a healthy-looking summer glow is to keep your skin regularly exfoliated. Exfoliation is particularly important in summer—especially if you’ve been slacking on your beauty regime over winter.
Over the warmer period, to prevent common issues such as ingrown hairs, dry patches and sallow complexion, it’s more vital than ever to keep your skin smooth and exfoliated.
Exfoliation also helps keep your pores unblocked after applying lots of sunscreen during the heat of the day.
Opt for a delicate and deep-cleansing formula which is kind to your skin, leaving it supple and refreshed.
Exfoliating dead skin cells speeds up the skin renewal process, allowing healthy cells to take their place. This process turns your complexion from dull and dry to bright and smooth.
If you are someone who likes to get a little colour from the sun then avoid excessive exfoliation. This is because, by removing protective layers, it can increase sun sensitivity by about 45%, causing your skin to be more reactive to the sun.
In fact, over-exfoliation in general is not a great idea. In summer, try and keep it to about once or twice a week, at most.
Moisturise and Hydrate
It’s natural to want hydrated skin. But in the summer months this can be easier said than done. Dry and hot weather can irritate the skin, leaving it flaky and peeling.
One tip is to moisturise after showering. Water likes to move from high concentrations to low, meaning that after you get out of the shower moisture loss is likely. In hotter seasons this effect is increased, which can lead to dry skin.
Remember to apply a good quality moisturiser after you shower to avoid this from happening.
It’s no secret that the sun’s rays can damage your complexion, not to mention the pigmentation and wrinkles that can occur if you don’t protect your skin during the warmer months.
Keeping your skin moisturised is vital in order to keep it taut, but this is especially true in the summer months, as increased exposure to the sun’s UVA rays is primarily associated with skin ageing.
To improve your complexion, rich, daytime moisturisers can be applied before and after exposure to the sun and, in tandem with nighttime serums, they provide long-lasting, visible anti-aging effects.
Moisturising after sun lotion will not only keep your skin fresh, but it will also help to maintain your tan. Apply after all prolonged exposure to sunlight.
Staying hydrated is key to maintaining youthful, healthy looking skin.
Drink plenty of water every day to keep your Ph levels balanced and to stay fully refreshed outside and in. If you are exercising, top up your fluid intake.
If you are still concerned about how to look after your skin in a heatwave, go the the government's Heatwave Plan for England or the British Association of Dermatologists’ Sunscreen Factsheet for more information on how to stay protected this summer.