How to Treat Common Summer Skin Complaints

Try these smart solutions to the most common seasonal afflictions.



Photo by Patricia Heal

The issue: breakouts.
The solution: Keep those pores clear. “Avoid oil-based moisturizers and makeup,” which could potentially clog pores, says David E. Bank, a dermatologist and the director of the Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic & Laser Surgery, in Mount Kisco, New York. Choose oil-free lotions and a powdered mineral foundation instead. Exfoliate three to four times a week with a mild scrub or a washcloth, and after exercising (or on especially sweaty days), use a glycolic face wash, such as Peter Thomas Roth Glycolic Acid 3% Facial Wash ($33,, to keep skin clean.

The issue: shine.
The solution: Add a salicylic acid toner to your morning routine, right after you cleanse. “It minimizes shine by removing the dead, sticky cells from the top of skin that hold on to oil,” says Amy Wechsler, a dermatologist in New York City. To keep oil under control without stripping skin, look for a toner that contains either 0.5 percent salicylic acid or salicylic acid that is naturally derived. Try Burt’s Bees Natural Acne Solutions Clarifying Toner ($10,; it has salicylic acid from willow bark. Midday, sop up excess shine with a powder-coated blotting paper ( just dab it over makeup).

The issue: a painful sunburn.
The solution: The best defense is a good offense—use your sunscreen! But if you wind up red despite diligent application, relieve the discomfort by taking an over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, such as ibuprofen. You can also soothe the burn with a cool milk soak. Dilute a bowl of whole milk with some cold water, soak a washcloth in it, and apply for 10 minutes at a time. “The fat in the milk has anti-inflammatory properties,” says Wechsler. Applying pure aloe vera (from the plant or in a commercial gel) may also ease pain. Beyond that, treat your skin gently: Stop exposing it to the sun; apply multiple coats of a fragrance-free moisturizer (which won’t sting) daily; and when you start to peel, don’t pick. Expect your skin to heal in about 10 days.

The issue: brown spots.
The solution: Again, sunscreen is key as a preventive measure. If brown spots start to appear, the best way to fight them is to increase cell turnover by exfoliating regularly with a gentle scrub that contains alpha or beta hydroxy acids. Creams that contain soy, like Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer SPF 30 ($17,, may also help lighten existing spots. If you’re still seeing them after using over-the-counter products, consider talking to your dermatologist about a prescription-strength preparation with a mix of hydroquinone and a vitamin A derivative, like tretinoin, that encourages exfoliation.