9 Hacks for Your Most Common Summer Skin Problems
Find some sweet relief so you can enjoy the weather without rashes, itches, and burns.
You know you should apply—and reapply—sunscreen if you’ll be outdoors, but sometimes you still get too much sun. If you do end up with a painful sunburn, first things first: Get out of the sun. Soaking in more rays, even over the next few days, will just make the damage worse, says board-certified dermatologist Kally Papantoniou, MD, FAAD. As soon as you can, rub on some hydrocortisone ointment. “It won’t help so much immediately, but in a couple hours it will help soothe the burn,” she says. You might have heard to use aloe vera on sunburn, but watch out for gels containing alcohol, which could irritate the sensitive skin. Instead, stash your favorite gentle moisturizer in the fridge and rub it in to soothe and heal, suggests board-certified dermatologist Ivy Lee, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at UCLA. “It doesn’t have to be aloe vera,” she says. “Just something they like the feel of so they can help hydrate the skin and help repair the skin.” Beyond that, hands off. Popping your blister or exfoliating the peeling skin will just aggravate the area and take it longer to heal, she says. Here’s how dermatologists change up their skin care for spring and summer.
As if needing hair-free skin every day wasn’t bad enough, more shaving also means you’re more likely to get razor burn, especially in the bikini area. To reduce irritation, use a fresh razor blade and a good shaving cream instead of regular bar soap, says Dr. Papantoniou. You’ve probably heard to shave in the opposite direction your hair grows, but that actually puts you at risk of getting more ingrown hairs, says Dr. Lee. “If you need to repeat passes, that’s totally fine, but it’s a lot less irritating to go with the grain,” she says. After you’re done, clean the area with a little rubbing alcohol, says Dr. Papantoniou. Then rub sensitive-skin deodorant on the area, which is a wacky but effective way to prevent red bumps, she says.
Don’t even think about itching that bug bite. Scratch it open, and the bite will take longer to heal and could leave a dark brown mark when it’s gone. “The more you scratch, the more itchy it will become because the more you damage it, the more sensitive the nerves become,” says Dr. Papantoniou. Instead, use a cooling gel or anti-itch spray, or hold an ice pack over it while you distract yourself, she says. (You could also try one of these natural remedies for mosquito bites.) If you’re generally sensitive to bug bites, take an allergy medicine like Claritin throughout the summer, she says. It won’t help your current itch, but your future reactions won’t be as bad. Make sure to avoid these things dermatologists never let touch their face.
Poison ivy rash
Spreading poison ivy is annoyingly easy—even touching something else that touched the plant could give you a rash. As soon as you think you’ve been exposed, take a shower and wash your clothes and other items that could have the plant’s oily, rash-inducing resin on them. Just avoid scrubbing or too-hot water, which could irritate the rash even more, says Dr. Papantoniou. Once you’ve dried off, rub on a hydrocortisone ointment, and apply twice a day until the rash is gone. As tempting as it is to scratch, resist the itch. “If you have a really miserable area that’s terribly itchy, you can put a cool compress on it,” says Dr. Papantoniou. She also recommends caladryl lotion or an allergy medication like Benadryl, Claritin, or Zyrtec to reduce overall itchiness. Remember to check out how to identify poison ivy so you can avoid it in the first place.
Hot tub rash
There’s a hidden danger lurking in your hot tub. If Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria are living in the water, you could end up with hot tub folliculitis. If you develop itchy, acne-like bumps all over your body after a soak in the Jacuzzi, head to the dermatologist, who can prescribe oral medication for the infection, says Dr. Lee. In the future, make sure to keep the chlorine levels and pH levels in check to kill the bacteria.
Hot tubs aren’t the only risk for infecting hair follicles in the summer. Hot days mean more sweating, and bacteria love sweaty skin. Those bacteria feeding on the sweat and dead skin clogging your pores could cause tiny pimple bumps at the hair follicle. Scrubbing the area with a benzoyl peroxide wash could help the bumps clear up slowly and stop new ones from forming, says Dr. Papantoniou, but you can ask your dermatologist for antibacterial lotions to help it clear away even faster. In the future, use a sunscreen designed not to clog pores all over your body, not just your face. Also, shower as soon as you can after sweating, and never re-wear your gym clothes. “Even if it doesn’t smell bad, there’s bacteria on it and sweat that can clog pores,” says Dr. Papantoniou. Here are sunscreens dermatologists actually use on themselves.
Bacteria cause folliculitis, but clogged pores can give you inflammation without the infection. As long as you stay out of the head and humidity, a heat rash will usually go away on its own, says Dr. Lee. Wear looser fitting clothes to avoid friction against the sweaty spots, and stick with moisture-wicking fabrics when you work out. To relieve the itch, rub on a cortisone cream, says Dr. Papantoniou. “I’d do cream over ointment because you don’t want to clog the pores even more in that area,” she says.
A vaginal yeast infection can happen any time of year, but skin yeast infections are more common in the summer. Yeast thrives in warm, moist, skin-on-skin areas, like beneath the breasts or belly folds. Keep it away by towel-drying well after a shower, says Dr. Papantoniou. “Don’t rush to get dressed and leave these areas wet,” she says. Also, use a makeup brush to dust anti-fungal powder over the trouble spots, says Dr. Lee. If you do get a flare-up, a powder won’t help, so use an anti-fungal cream instead, she says.
Summer heat makes it even more likely to get the itchy, peeling skin between your toes. Rub an OTC anti-fungal cream between your toes, says Dr. Papantoniou. It could take a couple weeks for the Athlete’s foot to clear up, so don’t give up if you don’t see immediate results. Keep it from coming back by putting anti-fungal powder on your foot and in your shoe. If you have particularly sweaty feet, change your socks during the day and reapply the powder, says Dr. Papantoniou. Don’t miss these things dermatologists do every summer, that you don’t.