Most of us tend to reflect upon summer in a fond light: lazy beach days, a bounty of festivals, and endless sunshine. But with higher temperatures also comes Mother Nature’s side effect—an overwhelming aggrandization of acne.
Whoever started the supposedly comforting advice that you’ll grow out of acne after those awkward teenage years is pretty misinformed. Adult acne is a very common issue, and although there is a profusion of reasons why acne may appear, the season is oftentimes the biggest miscreant. (Here are seven other sneaky reasons you’re having an acne breakout).
There are a variety of reasons why acne does tend to worsen in the summer. According to a recent survey from Differin, 56 percent of women ages 25-34 admit to wearing makeup to the beach or pool in the summer to cover up their acne. But you shouldn’t have to shy away from the water because of your skin, which means it’s important to understand why we get acne in the first place.
According to Dr. Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, board-certified NYC dermatologist and clinical instructor at Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine, “The pore gets clogged with dead skin cells, and those with acne have “stickier” skin cells which promotes clogging. The body makes oil on the skin called sebum. Interestingly, those who are acne-prone have more viscous sebum compared to non-acne folks (think honey consistency compared to olive oil), which promotes further occlusion to the pore.”
Thanks to the glorious heat, sweat, and humidity that our body produces excessively during those hotter months, the skin cells become especially stickier; that awful conglomeration of dead skin cells and sebum becomes trapped inside the pore, creating an oxygen-free environment where a naturally occurring bacteria, called P. Acnes, multiplies rapidly and results in inflammation.
Although we can’t teach you how to control the weather, there are ways to regulate summer acne and thwart its pesky persistence. We spoke with several dermatologists throughout the country to compile the best methods to keep those summertime pimples at bay—read on for their hottest tips and tricks.
Use oil-free sunscreen.
In the summer months, people tend to cake on SPF, and rightfully so. However, the slabs of opaque lotion that we smear all over our face is often overly oily, meaning your skin can suffocate from dead skin cells and clogged pores. That doesn’t mean you have to walk around looking like a tomato all summer long; if you want to bypass the acne and sunburn simultaneously, opt for sunscreens without the oil. “I’d recommend always using mineral-based sunscreens, such as zinc oxide and titanium oxide, for the best protection against the sun. Luckily, there are many new mineral formulas that are super light and also oil-free, so they will still provide broad-spectrum protection without causing acne,” said Dr. Christina L. Chung, director of the Drexel Dermatology Center for Transplant Patients. “Washing your face after sweating can help take off the layer of grease that clogs pores, but acne can also be triggered by mechanical trauma, so avoid washing your face too often or scrubbing too hard.” (Here are 13 face-washing mistakes you don’t realize you’re making).
Watch out for classic “summertime” foods.
We’re all guilty of this one; people often tend to increase the intake of sugary drinks, alcoholic beverages, and snack foods during the summer months. A big (and not commonly known) reason people break out in the summer is actually because of their diet. These sugary or high-glycemic foods cause a spike in insulin levels, which in turn increase sebum production and further clogging of pores. According to Susan Ciminelli, celebrity facialist and specialist in holistic health and beauty, “It’s very common for people to start eating barbecue foods, fried foods, and corned foods. This type of diet can bog down your colon. When your colon is congested your skin will break out. People also drink sugary sodas and alcohol as well as eating ice cream and fruits. While fruits are healthy, there are some fruits that are naturally high in sugar like stone fruits, cherries, and peaches. An alternative to stone fruits would be berries because they don’t spike your blood sugar levels. Taking berries, freezing them, and then pureeing them will turn it into the consistency of ice cream and can be a healthier alternative.” Here are nine foods you should never, ever eat at a barbecue.