Preventing 6 Of The Most Common Summer Skin Ailments From Acne And Prickly Heat, To Melasma And Folliculitis
We want you to have a skintastic summer!
It's ironic, isn't it?
The few months in the year when it's the best time to bare as much skin as we like is also the season of flare-ups and breakouts. The ungodly trinity of sweat, oil, and perpetual moisture pushes our skin to throw tantrums, and what we get are unsightly acne, rough spots, dry patches, bright red allergies, and then some. You get the point.
Summer can be tough on our skin (and we mean the skin on our whole bodies, not just our faces!) especially for folks like us that live in year-round humidity, so it truly pays to know how to prevent, and treat, skin ailments when we're most susceptible to developing them.
Without further ado, we list down some of the most common skin concerns come summertime and how best protect yourself against them. Even though most of us will be spending yet another summer season indoors, who's to say that we shouldn't make sure our skin looks and feels its best these days?
Acne sucks all the time, but there's something about needing to deal with a breakout during the hottest time of the year that makes the common skin condition a million times more bothersome. As we mentioned earlier, the warm weather that pushes our skin to perspire and secrete more oil than usual, and this creates the perfect combo for bacteria to form—nay, thrive—on our skin.
Though every person may find different treatments to be effective (there's no universal solution to treating acne, unfortunately), what we can suggest is how to stop your skin from reaching the point of no return, a.k.a., preventing the worst of the worst breakouts. Here are some useful, and manageable, tips to consider:
- Wash your face more often, but with the caveat of switching to a non-drying facial wash. When you feel a little grease building on your face, head to the bathroom for a little refresher.
- Similarly, exfoliate more often. It's assumed that you don't exfoliate every day (because you shouldn't, generally speaking), so perhaps what you can do is increase the number of days in a week when you do so. If you're a twice a week exfoliator, consider increasing to three times a week. Exfoliators with salicylic acid are your BFFs.
- Opt for skincare products that are not heavy cream formulations to avoid clogging your pores. Scout for gel and serum-type products.
- This next one seems obvious but people often forget about it: Stop touching your face with dirty hands! Bacteria on your hands easily transfers to other parts of your body and can cause you to breakout.
- Keep your hair up, and maybe also wear a headband. (Feel cute while you're at it!). Hair can harbor acne-causing bacteria too, even though you shampoo regularly, so stopping it from constantly brushing against your cheeks, temples, hairline, back, and shoulders could shield yourself from developing unsightly bumps on areas that hair touches.
Folliculitis sounds scarier than it is, and if you've never heard of it, it's basically what results after failing to change out of tight, sweaty workout clothes and cleansing properly after exercise.
You might mistake folliculitis as pimples/acne if you're unfamiliar with the condition. It shows up as small, red bumps clustered close together, and as for the most telling sign of all, they itch like heck! Acne and pimples don't give off itching and/or burning sensations, so this should be a pretty clear delineation for the two skin conditions. They also often appear in parts of the body that are constricted/covered up with tight clothing (like your bum, inner thighs, and even the under-boob area).
As an extra note, you should also know that there are other causes of folliculitis aside from a post-workout hygiene that needs improvement. Because it's essentially an infection of your pores, you can get it if you shave or wax hair improperly, if your skin constantly rubs up against rough clothing (friction is the enemy), or if you are exposed to bacteria, virus or fungi from sharing towels or taking a dip in a shared tub/jacuzzi/pool.
So how do you guard against folliculitis?
- First things first: don't sit in your soiled exercise clothes. Don't allow the clothes to dry before you change out of them. And then, shower right away.
- Because friction can irritate pores, you'll want to wear loose clothing as often as possible. (Some women even do without bras, or bras without underwires, while at home for extra prevention). Clothes made from natural fibers are also a good choice, so store your polyesters and rayons for now.
- If you shave hair, change your razors regularly. If you wax by yourself at home, cleanse skin thoroughly before your session and make sure to follow waxing instructions to a tee.
- If you're going to soak in the tub or a jacuzzi or going for a dip in the pool, make sure that you're jumping into clean water.
- Last but certainly not least, don't share personal bath items.
Ah, yes. This is the price that is paid for achieving that perfect tan.
Melasma is the official word for that skin condition you've likely observed your fair-skinned friends to have; it makes faces look map-like because it manifests as noticeably brown patches anywhere on the face, most often the cheeks and forehead, and it's almost always a result of sun exposure.
We mention fair-skinned individuals in particular because although anyone of any skin tone can develop melasma, it's those with lighter complexions who are most prone to seeing the contrast of melasma against undamaged skin.
The science behind melasma is pretty straightforward; the sun's UV rays stimulate pigment cells in our skin, and the more stimulated they are, the more pigment they produce, hence the dark spots.
We have a two-syllable word for you when it comes to melasma prevention: sunscreen. Sometimes, the most basic and time-tested of skin protection practices really is the most effective! Wear sunscreen even though you spend most of your days indoors, because as we all know, the sun's UV rays don't just affect you when you're outside.
Here's another important consideration though: for everyone that bleaches their skin or uses skin-whitening products, know that you're more prone to developing melasma. You're going to want to take extra care for all the times you need to step out of the house or go for a walk outdoors during the daytime.
The raised, sometimes warm to the touch, skin that shows up after a mosquito chooses you to feast on is called a welt. Welts are small but terrible, and they can distract you from work, enjoying a good nap, and even eating a yummy meal! Welts themselves aren't bad, but they can get infected if you scratch and rub, eventually cracking the skin open (even worse, scratching and rubbing makes them itchier because you worsen the inflammation by doing so). So when the mosquito bite has long gone, you potentially leave yourself with scars on your legs, thighs, and arms from a welt that became an open wound.
You can do two things to stop this from happening:
- If you know you're going to be somewhere that increases your chances of mosquito exposure, applying a thin layer of bug balm/spray/lotion is seriously helpful. You can apply this over your regular lotion/whole body moisturizer because most products absorb quickly into the skin and are non-sticky. There are synthetic brands that do the trick, but if you're looking for something organic, a citronella-based product is what you want.
- If you've been bitten and all you want to do is stop yourself from feeling the torturous itching, have an over the counter calamine lotion on hand. Its cooling sensation provides immediate relief. For really, really terrible reactions to itchy bites, it's safe to pop in an antihistamine (but make sure you choose a non-drowsy brand if you have a long day ahead or will be driving!).
Nod your head if you've ever been jealous of people who barely sweat, or don't sweat at all, even in sweltering temperatures. If you're one of these people, you might want to change your mind because this non-sweatiness has its downsides too! You can develop prickly heat, or heat rash, from your skin trapping sweat right underneath its surface.
However, don't rejoice just yet if you're on other other extreme side of the spectrum. Prickly heat can also affect people with over-active sweat glands, because sweat ducts can become overwhelmed by excessive sweating and also become clogged.
Prickly heat is incredibly uncomfortable, and just like folliculitis, it often appears in areas of the bodies that sweat a lot yet are constricted by clothing. Note that infants and young children are highly susceptible to this skin condition, so for those with kids at home, be on the lookout for any changes in their skin.
Preventive measures that can be taken against prickly heat include:
- Using a cooling powder in areas of the skin that get sweaty quickly and are underneath clothes (think, inner thighs/the groin area, chest and breasts, the buttocks, and so on).
- Not wearing clothes that don't allow sweat to evaporate. Cotton and linen pieces should be your regular OOTDs.
- Avoiding hot showers/warm baths. This can be counterintuitive as a lot skin conditions are treated by applying heat, but not heat rash. A cool shower can lower skin temperatures, thus signaling your sweat glands to stop producing sweat.
We associate summer with sweating and oiliness, but did you know that it could be a season for dry skin and scaly patches, too?
We know; it seems like we just can't win by living in a tropical country that either makes you too sweaty or causes noticeable dryness, but there are at least many practical and cost-effective ways to deal with both conditions. We tackled problems relating to sweat above, so now it's time to look to other side of spectrum.
There are three main culprits for dry skin and the scaly patches it causes: excessive sun exposure without sunscreen use, dehydration, and staying in front of a fan or in an air-conditioned room for too long (and for pool-lovers, excessive exposure to chlorine).
There are pretty obvious ways to deal with this, but some not-so obvious tips and tricks we'd like to share with you:
- We love our electric fans and AC units as much as you do. But one way to stop them from drying out your skin while you use them all throughout the day is to have humidifier a turned on and near you, simultaneously.
- Water is the best hydrator, but you can have fun with this! Enjoy some frozen fruit, a smoothie, or a fruit juice to meet your hydration needs. The best hydrating foods and you can snack on or turn into a beverage are coconut (buko juice, yum!), watermelon, strawberry, cantaloupe and honeydew, pineapple, and oranges. (At the same time, steer clear of salty food. Too much sodium in the body can dehydrate you).
- Once more, do not neglect sunscreen. Sunscreen is your first defense against skin damage caused by harmful UV rays, especially when you can't avoid being outside (or intentionally choose to be outside). The sun doesn't just wreak havoc on skin pigmentation, it also makes skin susceptible to water loss by eroding its upper layers that hold onto moisture. Your skin won't be able to reap the benefits of the hydration-boosting properties of even the best skin products out there if it is damaged.
There you have it!
Hopefully these easy to remember summer skin practices help you have skintastic summer!
Opening images from Unsplash