6 Tips to Keep Your Skin Fresh & Healthy During Summer
by Karen Laforet RN, MClSc-WH, CNHC(c), VA-BC, CVAA(C)
Our skin is the body’s largest organ. As we age, our skin changes too and those changes are directly impacted by the years of sun exposure. Changes in humidity, dehydration, and skin dryness may show signs of aging well beyond our chronological age. There are things you can do to keep your skin looking and feeling better. Follow the six skin care tips to protect your body and maintain quality skin health:
Contrary to popular belief, your skin get dry in the summer. Dry skin is prone to itching and skin breakdown. To avoid this, use a moisturizing cream or lotion on your skin every day.
Creams, an oil in water base, tend to feel greasy and heavy during warmer weather. Lotions on the other hand, have a higher water content resulting in a feeling of lightness and coolness on the skin. The choice is up to you. What is most important is to use a moisturizer on all your skin—every day.
Use a moisturizing body wash or skin cleanser rather than soap. Many bar soaps and body washes contain ingredients that dry out your skin. Avoid these if possible.
Lastly, take lukewarm showers for no longer than 10 minutes. Hot water and long showers remove the skin’s natural oils contributing to further dryness.2. Use sunscreen to defend against radiation exposure
Sunscreen is the number one product that reduces effects of sun-induced aging. The message is clear—wear sunscreen every single day—365 days a year.
There’s a number of conflicting messages regarding sunscreen: What SPF? When to apply? Where to apply? How much to use…it is rather confusing. Here are some guidelines from the Canadian Dermatology Association (CDA):
- Use a minimum SPF 30 strength lotion, cream or spray. Any form will do so long as it is one that you will wear—every day. Plan on trying a few of them until you find one that meets your needs.
- Apply 15 – 30 minutes before going outside and reapply every two – three hours depending on your activities.
- Remember to cover all the hard-to-reach places: tops of your feet, backs of your ears, parts in your hair. Don’t forget your lips—they get sunburnt too. Use a lip balm with SPF 30 protection.
- Children under one-year old should be kept out of the sun. If they are outdoors, a wide-brimmed hat, protective clothing, and sunglasses are recommended. Be sure to ask your pediatrician before using sunscreen.
- Rule of thumb for applying sunscreen: Cleanse, apply any medicated lotion/cream, moisturize, then protect (sunscreen). Layering order does depend on what type of sunscreen you use ― powder or lotion. Powder goes on last and may be applied on top of makeup.
Check our Sunscreen FAQ for more information.
3. Avoid dehydration
While this might sound obvious, too many miss it. If you want to stay hydrated, you need to drink water—not juices, alcohol or caffeinated drinks—water. The other drinks are dehydrating (so long iced coffee…sigh…). Many people say they don’t like the ‘taste’ of water. One of my thirst-quenching drinks is water with a slice of lemon and fresh mint. Adding fresh fruit is a yummy and healthy way to flavour your water. Remember—the more you sweat, the more water you need to drink.
4. Wear Protection
Sunscreen is not the only protection for outdoor exposure; clothing and eyewear are essential to protecting one from ultraviolet radiation.
If at all possible, stay out of the sun from the hours of 10 – 4 pm. If you are involved in any outdoor activities, make sure to wear protective clothing and sunglasses. Research confirms prolonged UV exposure may lead to cataracts. Try to stay in shaded areas—it reduces the UV exposure.
Protective clothing includes a wide-brimmed hat, gloves, full sleeves and full leg pants.
Ultraviolet risk increases as one nears the equator and, surprisingly (I didn’t know this) in the snow. Did you know that snow reflects up to 80% of the sun’s rays resulting in a double dose of radiation? If you are doing winter sports protection is critical.
5. Know your medications
A number of medications may change how your body reacts to heat and sunlight. Some medications decrease the body’s ability to sweat. Perspiration (sweating) is one of the body’s natural responses to cool the body. Without this protective mechanism, you may be at risk for heat stress or stroke. Other medications may increase your sensitivity to UV rays, called photosensitivity. Serious skin damage such as blisters, skin rash or swelling can occur in these cases. Make a date with your pharmacist to review your medications and potential risks during the summer months.
6. Keep your skin clean and dry
Humidity, moisture and/or friction from clothing or skincare products (e.g. wound dressing, ostomy appliance) may increase the risk of skin irritation. Ways to minimize this risk, in addition to the tips above, include:
- Wearing loose clothing made from breathable fabrics (e.g. cotton, modal, linen blends)
- Pat, don’t rub your skin after a shower and ensure all skin folds are dry before putting on your clothes. Limit the amount of layers you're wearing
- Reduce the amount of adhesive on the skin (e.g. using cotton wraps or other types of securement to keep your dressing in place). Ask your nurse for suggestions.
- If you are an ostomate, consider:
- Changing your flange/wafer more frequently (the material in the flange will ‘soften’ quicker in the heat; or
- Try a different appliance for the summer
- Keep plastic from the appliance off your skin (e.g. Stoma Cloak)
Following a few simple tips to protect your skin during the hazy, crazy days of summer will keep your body’s largest organ healthy and refreshed.
Now I’m off to find a shady spot where I can sip my lemon water and stay cool and dry…