“I’m not sure how much longer I can live down here,” said my Yankee father on the phone a few weeks ago. “The temperatures in San Antonio are truly unbearable.” The Texas heat is a topic of conversation he complains about every summer, but serious threats to leave the Lone Star State after almost twenty years are a relatively new one for my dad.
This year, even my mother, a Texas native, is having a hard time coping. “Our pool is too hot to swim in,” she complains to me on a phone call while I look out my window at a sunny, 81-degree day in New York City.
My parents have officially swapped out their tanning oil (I know . . .) for actual sunscreen this year, as the effects of extreme heat start to absolutely fry their skin. And unfortunately, a sunburn is just one of many skin issues that can develop under extreme heat.
But don’t sweat it—we asked a dermatologist, a celebrity aesthetician, and a registered nurse to map out all the skin issues that can occur under extreme heat, how to cope with them, and which products work to put out the fire.
With a lot of heat comes a lot of sweating. And you can bet that breakouts on your chest and back will start popping up after sweating under the Texas sun. To avoid this, try to stay out of the sun, don’t use heavy, pore-clogging sunscreens (sprays are more lightweight), shower right after getting really sweaty, and avoid sitting in wet clothing. “Heat and humidity can affect our oil-production levels and contribute to congestion and breakouts in the skin,” explains Jenny Abraham, a registered nurse and the CEO and founder of Face to Face Spa, in the Houston and Austin areas. “Regular, gentle exfoliation can help keep your skin clear all summer long.”
Abraham loves using a liquid exfoliant from Glo Skin Beauty to treat breakouts and prevent them from developing on the face and body. “The Hydra-Bright Pro 5 Liquid Exfoliant [$50, amazon.com] is designed for all skin types, including dry and sensitive. The Beta-Clarity Pro 5 Liquid Exfoliant [$88, amazon.com], on the other hand, is more purifying, making it a great match for combination and oily skin,” she says. Abraham recommends using one of these two to three times per week, depending on your skin type.
It’s also a great idea to incorporate a cleanser with acne-fighting ingredients into your skin-care routine. Suneel Chilukuri, a board-certified dermatologist and director of cosmetic surgery at Refresh Dermatology, in Houston, is a big fan of using the PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash ($9, amazon.com) on both the face and the body; it contains 10 percent benzoyl peroxide to kill acne-causing bacteria and prevent breakouts.
Eczema flare-ups don’t just occur in frigid temperatures—extreme heat can just as easily cause your eczema to make a scene on your skin. “When you’re really hot, a lot of times people jump in and out of a pool during the summer,” says Dr. Chilukuri. “And when the chlorine evaporates, it can actually lead to micro tears in the skin, causing greater itchiness, rashes, and eczema.” This can also occur when you’re sweating more, which pulls water out of the skin and leads to eczema flare-ups.
The best defense against eczema in the summer is to use a body cream that keeps skin hydrated without leaving it super greasy. Dr. Chilukuri recommends the Epionce Enriched Body Cream ($42, amazon.com) for his patients with eczema because it contains soothing ingredients like safflower seed oil, rosa canina fruit oil, and zinc pyrithione. Apply to the areas on your body where you know you get flare-ups, like on the hands, behind your knees, or inside your elbows.
Commonly found on babies, heat rash is an annoying skin condition that can affect adults, too, and it gets even worse under extreme temperatures. “Keep in mind that a heat rash occurs when sweat—which usually evaporates—is trapped in the skin, so ideal clothing would be loose and lightweight in order to prevent friction,” explains Abraham. “If you are experiencing a heat rash, try to limit physical activity, which promotes sweating when you are in hot, humid climates, and seek shade when possible.”
According to Dr. Chilukuri, the simplest way to treat heat rash on your body is to apply an ice pack to the affected area. “Also, Sarna Sensitive anti-itch lotion [$10, amazon.com] works great to provide itch relief throughout the day,” he says. Keep your Sarna lotion in the fridge and apply it to your skin three to five times per day. “It’ll immediately cool your skin and lower the histamine response,” he explains.
Hyperpigmentation (or brown spots) and skin concerns like melasma can be really difficult to avoid when it’s this hot out. “UV exposure can of course trigger hyperpigmentation or make it worse, but many people don’t realize that heat can as well,” explains Austin-based celebrity aesthetician Renée Rouleau. “This is because both heat and UV stimulate already overactive pigment cells.”
Rouleau is a proponent of vitamin C serums for hyperpigmentation and recommends her own Renée Rouleau Vitamin C&E Treatment ($70, reneerouleau.com) to her clients. “You can wear this serum under your daily sunscreen and, again, keep the skin covered with hats and clothing,” she suggests. It’s obviously very difficult to keep your skin from getting hot during extreme heat, so do what you can now for prevention, and wait for cooler temperatures to start working on really fading any new pigmentation.
Both heat and sun exposure can be a huge pain for folks who struggle with rosacea. “Since avoiding these triggers isn’t always possible during summer, try to stay away from the triggers you can control,” suggests Rouleau. “For many people, this includes spicy food, alcohol, and hot beverages. Also, avoid very hot showers or baths.” She also recommends avoiding stimulating skin-care ingredients, such as peppermint extract or vitamin B12, and anything with drying alcohols or high amounts of fragrance.
Abraham suggests her rosacea clients keep a cooling mist on hand—they can spray it onto their face and neck often throughout the day in order to keep skin cool and hydrated. “Glo Skin Beauty Phyto-Calm Flower Mist [$44, amazon.com] keeps skin cool and hydrated, while the added soothing ingredients—like rose water and chamomile—help reduce redness and inflammation,” she says.
For treating and preventing rosacea during the night, Dr. Chilukuri recommends using the Eucerin Redness Relief Night Creme ($10, amazon.com). It contains licorice root extract to help calm and soothe red skin. He also recommends his rosacea patients use the Hydrinity Restorative HA Serum with PPM⁶ technology ($120, hydrinity.com), which hydrates rosacea-prone skin without further irritating the face.
Accidentally getting a sunburn is probably the most obvious skin issue that can occur under extreme heat. The best thing you can do to prevent a sunburn is to avoid direct sunlight during peak hours (typically between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.). Of course, hiding inside isn’t realistic for everyone. “If you are outside, be sure to apply a generous layer of broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of thirty or higher to any exposed skin,” suggests Rouleau. “This includes your ears, hands, feet, and the back of the neck.” Opting for a sunscreen spray might make the whole application process a lot easier. Dr. Chilukuri is a big fan of the EltaMD UV AOX Mist mineral sunscreen spray ($43, amazon.com).
Aside from sunscreen, other protective measures include wearing clothing and accessories to protect your skin. Sporting a wide-brimmed hat and big sunglasses can help, but if you want to go even further, consider wearing a sun-protection shirt while under extreme heat. “I like to purchase inexpensive, long-sleeved sun-protection shirts with SPF in them for myself and my family at places like Marshalls, T.J. Maxx, or even Costco,” says Dr. Chilukuri. “I just use them for a season and then throw them away—my thinking is that the more times you wash them, it puts little microholes into the fabric itself, so the built-in SPF becomes less effective.”
If you do get a sunburn, Rouleau suggests avoiding skin-care products with physical scrubs, exfoliating acids, or retinol until the burn subsides. “Instead, focus on babying your skin with hydrating products and antioxidants,” she says. For sunburns on your face, use the Renée Rouleau Rapid Response Detox Masque ($66, reneerouleau.com) for soothing hydration. “You can also put this gel masque in the fridge beforehand for a cooling effect,” says Rouleau.
For sunburn on the body, Dr. Chilukuri recommends using Cortizone 10 ($8, amazon.com) on the affected area to decrease the inflammatory response. “If you can decrease the inflammation pretty quickly, there’s less chance of blistering,” he explains. “Also, it will decrease the chance of long-term skin cancer.”
He also advises using cool compresses on the skin to avoid any peeling. “After the compresses, I like to reapply the hydrocortisone, and then you can use just plain old-fashioned Vaseline [$5, amazon.com] on top for about three days,” says Dr. Chilukuri. “Nine times out of ten, you will have no blisters or anything like that.”
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