How to Treat Common Summer Skin Complaints
Try these smart solutions to the most common seasonal afflictions.
The issue: hard-to-protect parts.
The solution: No matter how careful you are, it’s difficult to keep some spots sufficiently doused with sunscreen. For your scalp, covering up with a hat is your best bet. Look for one with a wide brim to shield not just your scalp but also the tops of your ears, which are a common skin-cancer site, says Joel L. Cohen, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Colorado. While it isn’t a substitute for sunscreen, sun-protective clothing can help shield your shoulders, back, and chest on long days spent outdoors. Look for a UPF rating on the tag, which measures how much UVA and UVB rays penetrate a fabric and reach the skin. (It’s more convenient than mummifying yourself in towels.)
The issue: heat rash.
The solution: To quickly calm those little pink bumps that pop up mostly on the chest, the neck, the back, or the abdomen in response to high temperatures, stand in front of an air conditioner or a fan. Cornstarch powder or a cool-water soak can also help alleviate the redness.
The issue: saggy skin.
The solution: For skin that has seen its share of the sun or that starts to look weathered halfway through summer, topical retinoids, such as prescription Retin A, are the best treatment, says Cohen. “Used regularly, they help stimulate collagen production,” he says, “which can degrade from free-radical damage induced by UV exposure.” And though topical retinoids can make skin more susceptible to burning, Cohen says that if you use them at night and wear sunscreen during the day, you shouldn’t have a problem. Over-the-counter–strength retinol products, such as RoC Multi-Correxion Skin-Renewing Serum ($28 at drugstores), may be less irritating than the prescription versions. If your skin is very sensitive or dry and you can’t tolerate retinoids or retinol, try a moisturizer that lists peptides as a primary ingredient, such as Olay Regenerist UV Defense Regenerating Lotion SPF 50 ($30 at drugstores) or L’Oréal Paris Youth Code SPF 30 Day Lotion ($25 at drugstores). These amino acids may soften fine lines without irritation. Newer to the scene are products with growth factors (one to try: Neocutis Bio-Gel Bio-restorative Hydrogel, $98, amazon.com). These substances, sometimes listed as “growth peptides” on the label, “can trick your skin into acting like younger cells,” says Bank, and stimulate new collagen growth.
For sunscreen suggestions and other skin care advice, see The Best Sunscreens (and Summer Skin-Care Tips).