Don’t let that summer glow turn into an “oh no.”
There were moments this winter where picturing yourself relaxing on a beach somewhere was probably the only thing that got you through those endless weeks of sleet, snow, and ice. Now that summer is finally here, nothing is going to get in the way of your beach time bliss. As soon as your toes feel the warm sand, a wave a calm comes over you. Ahhh, summer.
Then all of a sudden you feel a bit itchy and your skin starts to sting. What the heck is that? OK, this was not the picturesque summer scene you had in mind.
To protect your skin from summer’s worst offenders, you know to slather on the SPF 30 and spritz on bug repellent before heading outdoors, but there are other, lesser-known summer skin issues that can also put a damper on your summertime state of mind.
Don’t let itchy, scratchy, prickly, and patchy get in the way of your summer fun. Here are six annoying skin problems that you may not even know existed—and how to avoid them.
1. If your skin is brown and patchy, it could be melasma.
Melasma is brown to gray-brown hyperpigmented patches that usually appear on the forehead, cheeks, or upper lip, and it’s often triggered by sun exposure and hormone fluctuations.
People with darker skin or who have a blood relative with melasma are more likely to get it, and it’s far more common in women. In fact, about 90 percent of melasma cases occur in women. Melasma is especially common during pregnancy—so much so that it’s sometimes called "the mask of pregnancy."
"Melasma appears when the underlying hormone called melanocyte-stimulating hormone goes a little crazy and increases production of melanin, which is responsible for the amount of pigment in the skin," says Rhonda Klein, MD, FAAD, co-founder of Modern Dermatology in Westport, Connecticut.
While melasma can be treated medically, Dr. Klein says it’s tricky. Your best bet is avoidance: Stay out of the sun, and when you do step outside, wear broad-spectrum SPF and a wide-brim hat. (Here's how to pick the perfect sunscreen for your skin type.) “With patience and strict sun avoidance, we can turn [melasma] around,” says Dr. Klein.
2. If you’re breaking out more than usual, it could be from your sweat.
Face and body acne can happen at any time, but hot, sweaty weather can increase your risk of breakouts. When sweat mixes with bacteria and oils on your skin, it can clog your pores. To minimize a pimple-y surprise:
- Blot, don’t wipe, sweat from your skin with a clean towel or cloth. Wiping sweat off can irritate the skin and lead to a breakout.
- Wash sweaty clothes, headbands, towels, and hats before you wear them again.
- Use non-comedogenic sunscreens. Non-comedogenic means it’s designed to not block pores, which will help prevent acne breakouts. The label may also say “oil free” or “won’t clog pores.”
- Shower daily and use a cleanser designed for getting rid of acne.
“Alternate using an anti-bacterial wash that contains benzoyl peroxide to zap acne-causing bacteria and a salicylic acid-based one to unclog pores and dry up pimples,” says Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in Los Angeles and a clinical instructor at the University of Southern California. Here are more ways to prevent acne.
3. If it looks like you’re breaking out, it could also be folliculitis.
The hot, summer weather can also cause inflammation of the hair follicles and pores, which can lead to an infection known as folliculitis, says Dr. Shainhouse. These infected hair follicles look like pimples, but they tend to be itchy and tender. To avoid folliculitis:
- After exercising, change out of your tight workout clothes ASAP and shower.
- When it’s hot and humid, wear breathable, loose-fitting clothing.
- Enjoy a hot tub or whirlpool with care. Hot tubs that aren’t cleaned well or don’t have proper chlorine levels can cause “hot tub folliculitis.”
4. If you’re experiencing a psoriasis flare, it could be from a bug bite.
If you have psoriasis, you probably do everything you can to avoid habits that may cause psoriasis flares, like eating a psoriasis-friendly diet and managing stress. During the summer, be aware of one more surprising psoriasis trigger: bug bites.
“Mosquito and other bug bites can aggravate psoriasis symptoms,” says Joel Schlessinger, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and RealSelf contributor.
“Also, if they become infected, this can cause a body-wide flare of psoriasis.”
To lower your chances of a bug bite-induced psoriasis flare, use a bug repellent to ward off those pesky critters. “While DEET can also be an irritant for those with psoriasis, every other insect repellant is unproven,” says Dr. Schlessinger. “Sadly, the organic or natural approaches don't seem to work very well at all.” Ask your dermatologist which bug repellents they recommend for your case of psoriasis.
If you do get bit, whatever you do, don’t scratch. This can lead to an increased chance of infection, says Dr. Schlessinger. Instead, treat a mosquito bite with these tips.
One thing you can love about summer if you have psoriasis? The sun. Ultraviolet light from the sun’s rays appears to be naturally soothing for psoriasis symptoms. Learn how you can maximize the sun’s benefit on your psoriasis, while still staying safe.
5. If your skin is dry, it could be from the … air conditioning?
You’re probably thinking … Huh? Dry skin in this hot, sweaty summer weather? It sounds counterintuitive, but sun exposure can dry out the skin, as can spending a lot of time in water (especially chlorinated pools), and in air-conditioned rooms.
“The outer surface of the skin has surface lipids (natural oils) that lock moisture in. When your skin is in water the surface lipids are removed, and the skin’s moisture escapes,” says Dr. Klein.
To remedy dry skin, Dr. Klein recommends using a oil-free serum or moisturizer. “Adding oil-free moisture to oily skin can actually help the skin to self-regulate oil production,” says Dr. Klein. If you can, find a moisturizer with hyaluronic acid too, which helps hold in skin’s moisture. Here are more ways to soothe dry skin.
6. If the skin on your head is stinging, you may have a scalp sunburn.
You might think you can get away with applying sunscreen to just your face, but that sun will hit you everywhere. (Check out more common sunscreen myths here.) Commonly forgotten spots include the ears, back of the neck, tops of the feet, hands, and even the scalp.
“If left uncovered, your scalp is at risk for a sunburn, especially if your hair is parted,” says Dr. Schlessinger. “This area, along with your ears, is highly sensitive to sun exposure and rarely gets the SPF protection it needs.”
If you don’t like the idea of liquid sunscreen in your hair, try a powdered sunscreen with SPF 30, which you can find at a makeup or drugstore, says Dr. Schlessinger. “I love the idea of hair sunscreen, but the best protection possible is still a hat. Wearing a hat can protect your scalp, as well as other areas you might have forgotten sunscreen, like the ears, hairline, and the back of the neck.”