How to Stay Cool in Sweltering Summer Heat
The grass is always greener on the other side, and that’s especially true when it comes to seasons. During the winter, all you want is a warm summer day. But when the August heat hits, you remember how hard it is to look your best as your makeup slides south, your hair goes north, and your skin becomes a sticky oil slick. Real Simple consulted a team of health and beauty experts and busy women who live in the warmest climates for ideas on how to beat the heat and look good while doing so. After all, it’s summertime—and right now the grass really is greener.
How the Heat Affects You
“People in Chicago and New York suffer more in heat waves than people in Georgia do, because they aren’t used to the heat,” says Charlotte Grayson Mathis, M.D., an internist and a former senior medical editor of WebMD. Southerners also know what to do when the thermostat spikes: They stay indoors or in the shade during the hottest hours of the day, wear loose clothing and little makeup, and drink plenty of fluids.
Your body temperatures rises when outdoor temperatures go up, explains Mathis. To maintain a normal, comfortable temperature, your body needs to release heat through its pores. A little perspiration is good. Excessive sweating, however, can cause dehydration, which dominoes into a sour mood, irritability, and sluggishness. (In extreme circumstances, it can even make a person delusional.) That’s why it’s important to keep your body temperature down before you go outside. Not only will it help you look cool but you’ll also feel more comfortable once you’re out and about.
One trick to try: Place skin-care supplies in the refrigerator before hopping in the shower, suggests Joanna Schlip, a Los Angeles makeup artist. That way, after you’re dry, you can smooth on the cool products to refresh your skin. Or take it a step further: “One trick I learned is to put the metal jewelry I’m going to wear—my bracelet, necklace, and earrings—in the freezer before going to a fancy event,” says Lara Koslow, a real estate executive in Los Angeles. “The jewelry holds the chill for a while and keeps your skin cool.”
Stay Cool Tip 1: Do Your Hair First
Take a cool shower, rinse with cold water, and tackle your hair. “I always sweat when I blow-dry my hair in the summer,” says Elizabeth Schatz, a writer in New Orleans. “So I do my hair, take a minute to cool off, then do my makeup.” Try this strategy:
- If the bathroom is steamy from the shower, blow-dry your hair in another room. Then blast the back of your neck and body with the dryer’s cold setting to cool off. Or, better yet, just let your hair air-dry.
- Go light on hair products, suggests Carsten, stylist and owner of the Carsten Salons, in Arizona and New York City. “The heat always works against you. So there’s no point in using flat irons or rollers,” he says. Wear your hair naturally: If you have curly hair, use a light styling product, such as Aveda Be Curly Curl Enhancing Lotion ($23; aveda.com), to smooth down humidity-induced frizz. And if your roots tend to get greasy quickly, even after you’ve washed your hair, spray them with dry shampoo before drying, suggests River Lloyd, a hairstylist for the John Frieda Salon, in New York City. It freshens your roots and gives your hair hold. (RS pick: Klorane Dry Shampoo, $19.50; drugstore.com.) To keep straight hair smooth, use a dab of styling cream (one to try: Bumble and Bumble Grooming Crème, $29; bumbleandbumble.com).
- Get your hair off your neck. Otherwise, you might as well wear a wool scarf to that picnic. Twist longer lengths into an updo. Shorter hair should be trimmed during the summer so that ends don’t fall below the hairline.
- Do it after dark: Since even one blast of a blow dryer can leave you hot, consider washing and drying your hair at night, when it’s cooler outside.
Stay Cool Tip 2: Use the Lightest Skin-Care Products
The trick to keeping your skin dry and free of shine is to put as little on it as possible.
- Refresh your skin with a toner (or glycolic pads). Toners remove dirt and oil from the face, in addition to cooling it. But if you suffer from breakouts, wipe your skin with glycolic acid pads, which clean the skin and deep-clean pores, says Bruce Katz, a New York City dermatologist. (RS pick: AHA Glycolic Acid Pads 10%, $42; dermstore.com.) “In the summer, you need to have clean pores,” he says. “Blocked pores lead to breakouts when you sweat.”
- If you live in a wet or humid environment, abandon moisturizer altogether—or use it only around the eyes, where it’s usually most needed, suggests Patricia Farris, a dermatologist in Metairie, Louisiana. Use an eye gel, which is the lightest form of moisturizer. (RS pick: Fresh Lotus Eye Gel, $48; fresh.com, which contains cucumber extract to cool skin and relieve puffiness.)
- If you live in a drier climate (or have dry skin), moisturizer may be needed. To find one that won’t kick-start the sweating process, avoid emollients, such as lanolin, which obstruct the pores. Heavy moisturizers act like a sweater on your face, explains Katz: “Skin needs to breathe in order to regulate body temperature.” So look for a noncomedogenic moisturizer (one that won’t clog pores) that contains a humectant, such as hyaluronic acid or glycerin, which will attract moisture from the air to the skin. And use it only where necessary. (RS pick: Clinique Moisture Surge Face Spray, $22, clinique.com.)
Stay Cool Tip 3: Adopt a Heat-Resistant Makeup Routine
Under a blazing sun, a full face of makeup is like an ice cream cone: It quickly turns into a runny mess. Follow these suggestions and your makeup won’t slip or slide.
- Spot-apply concealer instead of foundation to cover a blotch or blemish, says Schlip.
- Use powder. Dusts on bronzer like Physicians Formula Solar Powder Bronzer SPF 20 ($13; ulta.com) to soak up oil and provide subtle color.
- Go easy on color cosmetics. Heat makes blood rise to your cheeks, so you don’t need to add much color to your skin, says Taylor Babaian, a makeup artist for the Cloutier Remix, in Los Angeles. If you want a hint of color, use a stain, tint, or liquid blush that won’t run or smear. (RS pick: Benefit Cosmetics Liquid Benetint, $30; ulta.com.) Coat lips with a light balm or gloss.
- Skip the eye shadow, because it often creases or runs in the heat. Use a kohl liner to accent your eyes, suggests Rebecca Restrepo, a makeup artist for the Wall Group, in New York City, who uses Guerlain Loose Powder Kohl ($38; nordstrom.com). “Women in India have used kohl liners for centuries,” says Restrepo. “Kohl really stands up in the heat.” Finish your eyes with water-resistant mascara. (RS pick: Maybelline Lash Discovery Waterproof Mascara, $9 at drugstores.)
Stay Cool Tip 4: Dress in Breathable Clothing
It’s hard to get dressed up when the weather report is calling for a meltdown. But with a little planning, you can wear something comfortable and beautiful.
- Dresses and skirts are cooler than pants, since they allow air to circulate to your skin and heat to waft away.
- Choose clothing in light colors, which reflects sunlight.
- Wear natural, breathable cotton, which wicks sweat away from the body. Avoid synthetic fabrics, which often constrict airflow and hold heat close to the skin.
- Skip hosiery if you can. That may not be possible in a corporate setting, but at business-casual or more creative offices, bare legs should be acceptable in the summer.
- If you worry about wet marks on your clothes, wear patterns rather than solids.
- Wear strappy or open-toe sandals that allow your feet to breathe.
Stay Cool Tip 5: Keep Your Body Fresh and Dry
Once you start sweating, it’s often hard to stop. To halt the cycle, use a strong clear antiperspirant to avoid sweat marks or chalky white residue on your clothes. (RS pick: Secret Flawless Clear Antiperspirant & Deodorant Crystal Clear Gel, $6.50 at drugstores.) Also run deodorant along the bottoms of your feet to prevent stickiness and blisters. If you sweat easily, try a stronger salve, such as Certain Dri (about $6 at drugstores), an over-the-counter prescription-strength roll-on that’s formulated to treat excessive underarm sweating.
- Protect your skin with sunscreen, such as Kinesys Performance Sunscreen Spray ($19; kinesys.com). This clear, oil-free mist feels like water, dries quickly, and leaves a matte finish. “A sunburn impedes your body from getting rid of heat—another reason to avoid a burn altogether,” says Katz.
- Lightly dust loose powder on areas that tend to perspire, such as the décolletage and the back. “Powder is a southern girl’s best friend,” says Farris. (RS pick: Origins All and Nothing Loose Powder, $27.50; origins.com.) A thin veil of cornstarch powder on your body and feet will absorb sweat and make you feel dry.
- If you start feeling warm, run your hands under cold water, suggests Mathis. Then place your cool wrists on the back of your neck to soothe your skin before perspiration begins.
Keep Your Cool All Day
- Pack a to-go kit: Tote a bottle of water, and add a wide-brimmed hat and a pair of sunglasses to keep the heat off your head and shoulders, suggests Mathis. A paper fan may also come in handy. Then stow a pack of blotting papers to wipe away shine. (RS pick: Shiseido Pureness Oil Control Blotting Papers, $18.50; sephora.com.) If you sweat a lot, take a small package of tissues, which are best at removing significant moisture. And Sally Firth, an American respiratory therapist who has lived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, swears by antishine lotions. “Foundation just melts away here,” she says. Try a mattifier such as Vichy Normaderm Total Mat Anti-Shine Mattifier ($25; vichyusa.com).
- Eat more often—but eat less. Spicy foods, protein-laden meals, and creamy ingredients can raise your body temperature and send you into a metabolic overdrive, says Joy Bauer, a registered dietician in New York City. So it’s best to steer clear of heavy meals and go for fruits and vegetables, which are saturated with water and help keep your body hydrated and comfortable.
- Avoid salt, alcohol, and caffeine. All of these dehydrate the body. Caffeine also constricts blood vessels, which hinders the body’s ability to cool itself, says Mathis. Instead, sip water or an energy drink, such as Gatorade, suggests Bauer. “In extreme heat, these drinks replace lost fluids, glucose, and potassium.”