The heat and humidity of summer can take its toll on your body and it can also be harmful for your skin if you don’t take the proper precautions.
Dr. Tanda Lane, of Lane Dermatology, recently answered some questions for the Ledger-Enquirer on summer skin care. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What are the most pervasive effects of the summer heat and humidity on someone’s skin?
Excess heat increases sweat production and the humidity hinders its ability to evaporate away from the skin. This means more oil is available to clog pores which can exacerbate acne. Also, extreme heat and humidity can facilitate bacterial infections such as impetigo and fungal infections like athlete’s foot or intertrigo, which are rashes seen in body folds. This is a time of year a lot of patients who battle those conditions become very uncomfortable.
What can people do to keep their skin healthy during this time of year?
Nothing is more important than wearing sunscreen (ideally, SPF 30) every day. Many dermatologists even recommend layering sunscreens with a chemical blocker first followed by a physical blocking sunscreen which contains zinc and/or titanium. This way the sun’s rays are primarily reflected away, but what does get through is then absorbed by the chemical sunscreen beneath. I also always recommend a sunscreen with antioxidants to counteract free radicals created by the sun’s rays. In addition to topical antioxidants, oral antioxidants such as Vitamin C, CoQ10, and foods high in antioxidants such as pomegranate and blueberries play a huge role in skin health. We now know that ingested antioxidants reduce inflammation, reduce free radicals and there is emerging data that they may even help stop pigmentation of the skin.
How does a person’s skin type (oily, dry, combination) affect how they should care for their skin in the summer?
All patients with dry skin should avoid harsh foaming cleansers which remove hydrating lipids from the skin. Hot water should be avoided and humidifiers are often helpful. We also recommend twice daily moisturizer application, preferably ones containing ceramides, or humectants which will pull water into the skin. Propylene glycol, urea, panthenol, lactic acid are all examples of humectants.
For oily patients, our goal is to reduce sebum production with retinoids such as retin-a and sometimes oral contraceptives and to unclog pores with retinoids, alpha and beta hydroxy acids.
Is there one product that everyone should use, regardless of skin type?
Sunscreens and antioxidants should be a part of every one’s routine regardless of skin type.
Are there any popular products or skin care routines that people should avoid?
Acne extractions should be avoided. Manipulating the skin to extract blemishes leaves the pores stretched, increases inflammation and increases the likelihood of scarring.
For the person who wants a low-maintenance skin-care routine, what is your best piece of advice?
A mild cleanser such as purpose or cetaphil at night followed by a moisturizer, then simply a splash of warm water in the morning with an antioxidant/sunscreen combination product.
Is there anything else that people should know about how to stay healthy during the summer?
I frequently get asked about the best way to treat a sunburn. It’s important to begin treating a sunburn as soon as possible. Take a cool bath, you can also soak a cloth in skim milk and ice and apply to the skin for 5 minutes, then apply a moisturizer to trap the water in your skin. Over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream and topical aloe are the best topicals; take either aspirin or ibuprofen to reduce the swelling, redness, and discomfort. Also do not treat with “-caine” products (such as benzocaine) as these are extremely common sensitizers of the skin.