In the grand scheme of things, many people assume skin complaints aren’t a pressing concern. An internet search should quickly dispel this notion. Skin issues, no matter how minor, can be a terrible cross to bear—particularly as we enter the warmer months.
Summer should be a time to be proud of our bodies. Finally, we get to pare down our wardrobe, bear our flesh and soak up that nourishing vitamin D. But what if the idea of exposing more skin fills you with dread? For many people, this is exactly what living with skin complaints is like.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common problems and how to resolve them with good summer skin care. It’s rare for health issues to be hopeless, even if they can feel that way. Often, those walking around with seemingly flawless, natural complexions have had to put the most work into themselves.
There’s normally a cause and a solution. We have the tools, but we sometimes need a nudge in the right direction.
Acne can cause serious summertime blues. Our favourite weather conditions for hitting the local park can be a perfect recipe for breakouts. When sweat mixes with facial oils, bacteria form in clogged pores. What’s worse, sun cream contributes to oily skin.
It really is a vicious cycle. Let’s try and break it.
Cleansing and exfoliation should be your first port of call. Getting rid of dirt on the face stops it from becoming greasy and clogging. If you’re sweaty: wash your face with water. If you’re oily in the mornings: try dabbing your face—vigorous rubbing can actually mix facial oils and dirt together.
Exfoliation is the process of sloughing off dead skin cells (either manually with a scrub or chemically with a peel). Loose skin particles trap all of the ingredients for acne, making them resistant to washing alone.
Using a light, manual exfoliator will help bring your body back into balance by restoring your facial ‘ecosystem’. Once the path is cleared, standard washing becomes an effective tool once again.
2. Dry skin
What if oil isn’t the problem? For legions of beauty fans, summer poses as great a threat to hydration as winter. Whereas the lack of humidity in colder months sap moisture, the heat of the sun can actually dry us out.
The problem here is often a lack of facial oil. Showering too often and using harsh products can strip us of sebum (sebaceous oil). Moisturising after a shower is going to be absolutely essential—by adding an emollient to wet skin we can help lock in water.
What’s an important step before moisturising? Exfoliation, of course. Moisturisers tend to work best on vibrant, healthy skin as the lotion won’t mix with dead skin cells to form dirt and bacteria (a.k.a. a one-way ticket to acne town). Exfoliate once or twice a week at most.
3. Prickly heat
Caused by blocked sweat glands, excessive sweating leads to trapped moisture and irritation. The sensation of prickling flesh is your body’s inability to expel waste liquid: creating pockets of sweat which inflame the skin.
Often, there’s little more than discomfort, but prickly heat can manifest as a rash. Keeping cool and loosening clothes generally solves the problem. When we wear thick clothing, particularly in summer, friction and heat can lead to these blockages.
If symptoms persist for more than a few days or inflammation becomes steadily worse, it’s time to seek medical assistance. Your body could be telling you something.
Meaning literally an infection of the follicles, this commonly occurring condition causes raised, sore bumps around the base of body hairs. It’s typically caused by tight clothing and humidity.
So, what makes this such a summery condition? Well, even if we’re not exercising, the heat of the sun will likely cause us to break a sweat. Even without skin tight lycra, a normal office shirt and a lunch time stroll can be enough to induce painful, itchy bumps.
More commonly, exercise is the culprit. The best step we can take is to change out of damp clothes as soon as we’re able to. This means disrobing immediately after a run, taking off our suits the moment we get home and even grabbing some lighter gear in general.
Could this list be complete without sunburn? It seems magazines, doctors and parents drone on endlessly about this common summertime occurrence, but what’s the real story?
Sunburn is an absolutely malicious killer. We regularly underestimate its powers. As the main lifegiving force on this planet, we should remember that too much of a good thing can have terrible consequences.
Let’s break it down simply: your suntan is actually your body focusing its energy on keeping you alive. Incredibly harmful UV rays from the sun hit the skin, damaging cells and denaturing DNA with free radicals. To combat this, melanin absorbs the light and spreads heat, resulting in warm, darker skin.
When you push things to the limit, the reaction becomes toxic, leading to burnt skin. That rosy inflammation is your body screaming in agony, flooding affected areas with blood to begin the healing process. Severe sunburn is almost indistinguishable from fire burns.
If we take things really far, the random denaturing of our DNA can destroy the repair cycle, preventing skin cells from dying, ultimately leading to skin cancer.
Cover up with a good sun cream, apply moisturiser after showers, use after sun if damage has occurred, and never underestimate how serious sunburn is. Try to spend at least as much time in shade as out in the open during the warmer period.