Protect your skin from the sun

The summer sun can be very harsh on the skin. A proper full-body care regime will allow you to enjoy the bright side of the hot season

Young lady applying sunscreen in summerIn summer, the temperatures soar and so do skin problems. The summer sun makes us sweat more and tans our exposed skin. The sweating causes itches and various skin infections. Some people even develop dark brown pigmentation, freckles, wart-like growths on cheeks and neck [known as Dermatosis Papulosa Nigra or DPN], prickly heat and sun allergies. For those with an oily skin, acne becomes a huge concern. Blackheads, white heads and pus boils trouble quite a few teenagers. Smoking and excess coffee intake dehydrate our skin making signs of ageing and skin darkness more pronounced. With a little extra care, you can prevent the problems and actually enjoy the summer.

Skin essentials

Ideally, the skin should have a slightly acidic pH ranging from 5.4 – 5.9. When pH is outside this zone, it can interfere with normal skin functions, such as protection against bacteria and ultra-voilet rays, and repairing itself. Hence, using a good sunscreen becomes very important. Apply an even layer of sunscreen about 20 minutes before going out in the sun over your face, neck, upper back, arms and feet to prevent tanning, pigmentation and freckles. Normally, an SPF [sun protection factor] of 15 is good enough for our Indian [wheatish] skin. While swimming, beach outings, or playing golf, however, use a higher SPF of 30. Higher the SPF, oilier the sunscreen becomes. Hence, the method of application is also important: just spread the lotion on the skin without rubbing or massaging it vigorously. If you tend to sweat profusely and can't reapply the sunscreen, use a broad-rimmed hat or cap, or an umbrella for extra protection.

To remove the tan, you can even opt for a tan remover. The ingredients to look out for in a good tan remover are hydroquinone, arbutin, lactic acid, glycolic acid and kojic acid. Apply a thin layer of the remover on your face, neck, arms, back or feet to bring back the original skin colour. If it doesn't yield results, consult a dermatologist who will analyse your skin condition and its response to medication. Frequent travel increases the chances of acne with blackheads and pustules, which are common in adults as well as teenagers with oily skin. The dull look is a common complaint along with chapped dry lips due to dehydration of the skin. A good cleanser, toner and sunscreen will keep skin clean and healthy. Benzoyl peroxide or clindamycin gels are a quick fix for active acne, while a good lip balm can soothe those chapped lips.

Hair concerns

Most of us opt for a short hair cut during summer for easy manageability. Whether your mane is short or long, it needs extra care or else it gets dehydrated and frizzy. Washing your hair frequently will make it look limp due to increased humidity. Curly hair becomes unmanageable and results in hair fall. Using a mild protein shampoo with conditioner can prevent a bad hair day. Using hats or scarves is also a good option.

Dense hair growth in body folds causes increased sweating leading to rashes and body odour. Body odour, which occurs due to breakdown of dead bacteria in the sweat also lowers our confidence. Dark patches due to friction of skin could be lightened by using skin fading creams at night. Using anti-fungal powder during the day will reduce friction and, fungal and bacterial colonisation thus preventing infections and body odour. The best prevention would be to reduce or eliminate body hair. You can either do it at home, or opt for professional procedures.

A few home remedies

If your skin gets tanned, an easy home cure for oily skin would be to rub a mixture of curds and gram flour [besan] with a dash of lime. For dry skin, mix some papaya pulp with milk or cream [malai] and leave the paste on the dark areas for 10 minutes before bath, twice or thrice a week.

For treating pimples, apply a paste of fuller's earth [multani mitti] or masoor dal powder mixed with a tablespoons of curds and few drops of lemon juice, on your body before bath. Keep it on for 10 minutes. This helps control the oiliness and acts like an antiseptic, thus reducing the occurrence of pimples.

Grated cucumber mixed with gram flour makes for an excellent refreshing mask for tired and strained eyes. Leave it on closed eyes for 10 minutes and wash off.

Dermatologist to the rescue

If natural remedies are not serving your cause, visit a dermatologist for further treatment. He could recommend glycolic peels, which involve usage of sugarcane extract and are safe and effective for all skin types.

Also called as fruit peel or lunch-time peel, glycolic peels take hardly 15 – 20 minutes to be done. They help in removing tan, acne and post-acne pigmentation, fine lines, open pores and give the skin an even tone. Freckles get lighter with this peel, but do not go completely. The skin gets a natural glow and clarity in just 6 – 8 sessions. This treatment can be performed on the face, neck, arms and the back. Each session is done at an interval of 15 days.

To remove dead skin cells, smoothen out rough skin, reduce acne scars and open pores, a microdermabrasion procedure commonly called as skin polishing is very effective. This would take about half an hour and can be done every 10 – 15 days. For the DPNs, a procedure called radiofrequency is recommended, where the brown wart-like growths on face and neck are cauterised with heat energy.

Tips for working people

  • Use anti-fungal powder with anti-perspirant deodorants, if you sweat a lot and have skin infections.
  • Wear light-coloured cotton clothes to keep your body cool.
  • Keep wet tissues or a hand towel handy if you have to travel frequently.
  • Keep your feet clean; use antifungal powder in between toes if you have to wear closed shoes and socks. A good suggestion is to keep a pair of formal shoes just for office use while you wear open shoes during travel.

Summer make-up

  • Use a light moisturiser after you've cleansed and toned your skin and before you dab some water-based light foundation
  • Apply loose powder all over your body with a large powder brush to give a matte look and absorb sweat
  • Avoid using a lip liner as it may smudge or get wiped off unevenly with sweat
  • Use bright, light shades of blush; they are refreshing to look at on a sunny day
  • Opt for natural nude shades in lip colours. Prefer fruity to matte finish
  • Use eye pencil instead of liquid eye-liner
  • Dark, earthy shades of eye shadow on eyelids with gold bronze shades over the upper brow area gives the eyes a smoky look, highlighting them.

Thirst bursters

Drink plenty of water regularly to flush out toxins from your system and to make up for the water you lose to sweat.

Water-based mocktails, tang, and fresh limewater are good thirst quenchers, if you find drinking plain water difficult.

Eat light fruits and vegetables like watermelon, oranges, sweet lime, apple, tomatoes and cucumber to bring down the body temperature and prevent dehydration. Avoid heavy meals as they may cause acidity and reflux gastritis. Small frequent meals with yogurt and buttermilk help avoid indigestion.

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Preeti Savardekar
Preeti Savardekar is a consultant dermatologist and cosmetologist. She holds a masters degree in dermatology. She teaches at a coaching institute in Mumbai and is also the panel expert for skin for a well-known channel. Her interests include music, writing and spreading knowledge and healing the world.