Summer Skin & Hair Woes: Sneaky Ways the Season Can Mess With Your Looks
Posted by Jen Moses on Jun 15th, 2016
With its sunny days, sandy beaches, and poolside sips, it’s easy to love summer. Unfortunately, the warm-weather season can also wreak havoc on skin and hair, making us want to hide indoors instead of soaking up the sun.
Thankfully, there are easy solutions for summer’s most common conditions. We turned to two leading dermatologists, Omaha dermatologic surgeon Dr. Joel Schlessinger and NYC dermatologic surgeon Dr. Sejal Shah, for quick fixes to the season’s biggest beauty woes.
The occasional swim probably won’t harm your skin, but spending more time than usual in the pool might leave you flaky and dry. Chlorinated water zaps skin of natural moisture, and repeated exposure can lead to a red, itchy rash. It also strips hair of natural oils, causing the hair shaft to become drier and more porous, particularly if it’s been chemically treated. Exposure to chlorine can also cause red eyes and irritation.
Quick Fix: “There isn’t a way to completely avoid dry skin if you’re swimming in a chlorinated pool,” Dr. Schlessinger says. “But showering immediately after you swim can limit the effects of chlorine.”
He suggests following your shower with a moisturizing body lotion to prevent dryness, and if irritations or symptoms worsen, to see a dermatologist who might identify underlying skin conditions. Dr. Schlessinger also recommends protecting your eyes with goggles to avoid infections, and using eye drops afterward to flush out chlorine.
Best Solution: If you know you’ll be spending a lot of time in the sun, it’s important to protect your hair before, during, and after exposure. Look for treatments that shield against chlorine and UV damage, which can lead to dull, thinning, and dehydrated hair.
Dr. Schlessinger recommends René Furterer’s haircare line, which was developed to repair damage caused by sun, salt, and chlorine. He adds that a swim cap is the best way to protect your hair. Look for one made of silicone, which is lightweight, breathable, and won’t pull on your hair as much as other materials.
If left uncovered, your scalp is at risk for a sunburn, especially if your hair is parted. This area, along with your ears, is highly sensitive to sun exposure and rarely gets the SPF protection it needs.
Quick Fix: “Wash your hair with cool water and use a moisturizing shampoo to minimize flaking,” Dr. Schlessinger says. “Avoid dandruff shampoos as the actives in these might cause even more irritation.”
Following the wash, apply an aloe vera treatment to sunburned areas to calm and soothe the skin.
Best Solution: The best way to prevent a sunburned scalp is to cover your bases. Apply a broad spectrum sunscreen to exposed areas and reapply every two hours. If you don’t like the feel of liquid sunscreen in your hair, Dr. Schlessinger recommends a powder sunscreen like Colorescience Sunforgettable Mineral Sunscreen Brush, which has SPF 30.
And don’t underestimate the power of covering up.
“I love the idea of hair sunscreen, but the best protection possible is still a hat,” he says. “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. Staying in the shade or under an umbrella can also help prevent a sunburned scalp.”
Peeling is the body’s natural attempt at shedding damaged skin cells that could become cancerous. Although it’s best to avoid getting a sunburn, there are things you can do to help your skin heal.
Quick Fix: Take a cool shower or bath to soothe your skin, then apply an aloe vera treatment to hydrate and minimize peeling. Reapply daily until your skin is healed.
If you are likely to burn, Dr. Schlessinger recommends taking Advil or Aleve. “These will help you avoid a worse burn,” he says. “However, these need to be taken within approximately four to six hours of sun exposure to work.”
Best Solution: Avoid sunburn with regular sunscreen application and protective clothing. If you feel your skin start to tingle or see signs of redness, get out of the sun as soon as possible.
“It only takes 10 minutes of intense sun exposure to lead to a burn,” Dr. Schlessinger says. “But it can take anywhere from four to six hours for sunburn symptoms to show. If your skin looks pink by the pool, you could have a much more serious burn later that night.”
Alcohol dehydrates the body, making skin look red, blotchy, and bloated. It also prevents the production of vasopressin, an antidiuretic hormone that the body uses to absorb water. This causes your kidneys to work twice as hard to remove excess water from your system, leaving your organs, including skin, dehydrated.
Having a cocktail by the pool is even harder on your body. When you’re in the sun, your body creates more perspiration to cool down. Alcohol’s diuretic effect causes your body to lose the water you get from a drink rather than absorbing it. If you don’t replenish the water you lose through sweating, you’ll become even more dehydrated.
Quick Fix: Alternate every alcoholic drink with a full glass of water to help stay hydrated.
Best Solution: There isn’t a surefire way to prevent bloating as you drink alcohol, but there are things you can do to minimize it. Avoid carbonated drinks like beer, champagne, cider, or any cocktails with soda.
“Fizzy drinks increase the amount of air you swallow, which contributes to bloating,” Dr. Schlessinger says. “This also happens when you drink through a straw. Cocktails with added salt, or even appetizers with a high salt content, can also lead to bloating, as sodium causes water retention.”
One more danger of drinking in the sun? The margarita. Dr. Schlessinger told us that spilling lime juice on your skin can cause berloque dermatitis or phytophotodermatitis, also known as “lime disease.” Lime juice can cause a chemical reaction that makes skin hypersensitive to sunlight. Symptoms can include itching, burning, stinging, and large blisters on the affected area.
Sunglasses are essential for protecting your eyes and surrounding skin from harmful rays. However, they often sit in the same place every day, coming into contact with the same areas of skin. As oil, dirt, and bacteria accumulate and clog pores, you may notice breakouts in these areas, the most common being between eyebrows and along the bridge of the nose. Thicker frames tend to touch more skin, so you may even see blemishes appear on the tops of your cheeks.
Best Solution: Regularly clean lenses and frames to avoid breakouts. Antibacterial wipes work well, as does soap, warm water, and a dry cloth. Dr. Schlessinger also suggests cleaning the less obvious parts, like earpieces and nose pads, which also come into contact with skin and hair oils, and to be aware of only touching frames where they don’t touch skin.
“All in all, sunglasses are a huge positive, so I would wear them even if they can cause some issues,” he says. “But make sure you reapply sunscreen while doing so.”
To avoid repellents with toxic ingredients, you may have turned to a mix of essential oils to keep bugs at bay. Unfortunately, these DIY blends don’t always work for everyone, instead leaving you covered in bites.
Quick Fix: The first goal is to relieve itching, redness, and swelling. “Apply ice to the bites, but never more than 15 to 20 minutes at a time,” Dr. Shah says. “Elevate the area if possible, take over-the-counter antihistamines, and apply hydrocortisone cream.”
Best Solution: Look for products registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Considered safe and effective, these products will have an EPA registration number on labels.
“It’s important to note that some ingredients are approved by the EPA for safety, but are exempt from registration, so they’ve not been evaluated for effectiveness,” Dr. Shah says. “These include many natural ingredients such as citronella, and soybean, peppermint, and geranium oils.”
Additionally, all repellants are not made equal — different ones protect against different insects. “It’s important to choose a repellent that protects your skin against what you need protection from,” Dr. Shah adds. “Mosquitos, ticks, fleas, biting flies, etc.”