Summer and skincare
Your guide to fabulous skin in the warmer months!
We all love summer but summer and skin problems go hand-in-hand. Skin conditions can be caused by gut health, foods and allergies but weather, pollution and other seasonal factors can also contribute to skin issues – particularly during the summer months.
It’s common to think of the colder months of winter as a time of year when our skin suffers. But summer has its own host of skin concerns including eczema, psoriasis and rashes. Factors such as allergies (different seasonal allergens are in the air), pollution, and changes in food and diet also contribute to different skincare needs during the warmer months.
Why you need to change your thinking about summer and skincare
A summer skincare routine will differ from your autumn and winter routine because of the weather changes which can bring about particular skin problems that you may not suffer so greatly with at other times of the year:
Eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, is an allergic inflammation of the skin that causes moderate-to-extreme itchiness and a red rash. Eczema is thought to be the body’s overactive immune response to irritants and allergens and is more common with people who have a family history of it. People who suffer from it report it being incredibly uncomfortable.
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that triggers the skin cells to turn over too quickly and leads to patches of itchy, flaky, thickened skin. For many people, summer is a time of reprieve from psoriasis since sunlight (and light therapy) is often a successful treatment for it. Additionally, many parts of the world are more humid during the summer months which helps sufferers.
What you need to know about summer and skincare
The key to understanding the effects of summer and skin problems is to identify what exacerbates a flare-up and limit your exposure to it. If you have a flare-up in the summer, analyse what new creams, lotions or soaps (including laundry detergents or dishwashing soap) may be the culprit.
Some people’s eczema or psoriasis gets worse with temperature changes, such as the extreme heat during the summer, so be sure to rinse your skin thoroughly after exercising or sweating and keep your skin clean and dry yet well-moisturised. It’s always best to use natural oils like coconut or olive oil. Try to avoid most of the commercial products that are loaded with synthetic chemicals, most of which can be irritating and are a frequent cause of summer and skin problems. Wear breathable clothing with natural fabrics, use a humidifier if you live in a very dry climate and invest in a high-quality air purifier in your home or office. Be sure to keep your home clean and try to prevent dust and dander build-up.
How can your diet relate to summer and skin problems?
Research has suggested that psoriasis could truly be a bowel issue and that certain flavonoids such as quercetin help prevent the absorption of toxins that can lead to psoriasis issues.1 Quercetin is found in foods like leafy greens, onions, citrus, many berries, apples and honey. It is also available as a supplement and is best absorbed when taken with the enzyme bromelain, found in pineapples. To control your body’s inflammation, include anti-inflammatory foods in your diet, such as cherries, fatty fish, green tea and dark chocolate – this is an essential step in healing inflammation is gut health.
How about stress and the effect on your skin?
Stress can overstimulate our immune systems and disrupt the hormonal balance in our body which can cause a flare-up of any underlying skin conditions. Take care of your mind and soul and, just as you would avoid physical irritants and allergens, prioritise and accommodate your lifestyle to promote wellbeing and positivity, and avoid unneeded stress or anxiety. There are situations that are inevitable or unavoidable (difficult workplace dynamics, relationship struggles) so it is important to have ways to care for yourself in order to cope with temporary stress-inducing periods of life. Yoga, meditation, regular vigorous exercise, healthy sleep and eating well are some essential components of self-care. Prioritising healthy friendships and relationships is another way to counteract stressful or negative people or situations in your life.
Practical steps for summer and skincare
- Keep aloe plants in your home. Not only are they easy to care for and nice for year-round greenery in your décor but they are also incredible humectants to rub on your skin.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Water is essential. You should not only drink plenty of water daily but also consume hydrating vegetables and fruits.
- After showering, lock in that moisture by applying a body lotion that contains natural oils or butters to your damp skin. Jojoba oil, shea butter and almond oil are all rich in nutrients the skin needs.
- If you live by the sea, take a dip! Saltwater can help psoriasis. Alternatively you can take an Epsom salt bath at home.
Make the most of the sunshine
Vitamin D is one of the most important vitamins (it’s actually a hormone!) for our immunity and mental health. Since the best vitamin D is produced when our skin absorbs direct sunlight (not through a window), it is a careful balance of getting enough sun exposure but not too much. Generally speaking, you should get 10 to 30 minutes of sun-skin exposure without sunscreen several times a week during late spring, summer and early autumn, in temperate zones. People with fairer skin may find it a bit difficult to do that without getting burned. People with darker skin may need longer or more frequent exposure.
Take advantage of the sunny fresh air during warm and sunny days by wearing shorts or a t-shirt during that 10-to-30-minute period. Wear a hat and sunglasses to protect your facial skin from damage and premature aging.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember when considering summer and skincare is to apply sunscreen. When you choose to apply a physical sunscreen (those that are known as mineral sunscreen—zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide), it blocks the damaging sun rays (shortwave ultraviolet) and does not contain toxic absorbable chemicals. Or if you are covering up with clothes, allow any psoriasis patches to be exposed for at least five minutes without sun protection. However be sure to avoid sunburns as that can exacerbate a flare-up. Always opt for physical—clothing or mineral—sunscreens as research by the National Ocean Service has shown they are better for coral reefs and other waterway ecological systems, and because nonmineral sunscreens can cause endocrine/hormonal disruption.2
Finally, take a personal inventory of your skin (doing this every season with your spouse or partner is helpful) and make notes—compare those notes from year- to-year to check for changes. Making this a regular part of your healthcare routine can help you identify any skin concerns that require more attention, such as the need to biopsy a mole or to identify lesions that should be watched carefully over time.
- Ely, P. Haines. “Is Psoriasis a Bowel Disease? Successful Treatment with Bile Acids and Bioflavonoids Suggests It Is.” Clinics in Dermatology, vol. 36, no. 3, 2018, pp. 376–389., doi:10.1016/j.clindermatol.2018.03.011.