There are a lot of brilliant things about summer, like sunny days, boozy slushies, rooftop parties and trips to the beach. There isn’t that much to complain about. (You will never hear us whining about how hot it is.)
In the beauty department, however, there are a few pesky annoyances that come with summer. In the winter, our skin care concerns are all about dry skin, dry skin and dry skin. In the summer, we have to deal with razor burn, ingrown hairs, heat rash, bug bites and, of course, sunburn. These skin issues are a small trade-off for the long days and balmy nights, but that doesn’t mean you need to accept them. With a good regimen, you can say goodbye to these skin care woes the way you said goodbye to your trench when it warmed up. Here’s how to treat (and prevent!) your worst summer skin issues.
Prevention: We’re all familiar with that annoying, itchy feeling from razor burn. Celebrity dermatologist Dr. Karyn Grossman explains that it is caused by not using enough lubricant while shaving. To prevent razor burn, say no to dry shaving, no matter how rushed you are. Grossman also says you shouldn’t only rely on the moisturizing strips on razors. You need to use a good amount of shaving cream, too. After shaving, she suggests using an aloe gel or 1 percent hydrocortisone cream to soothe skin. Another tip is to try shaving at night. Your pajamas won’t irritate your sensitive skin the way your tight clothes will.
Treatment: When razor burn does happen, Grossman says to use aloe gel or hydrocortisone cream to soothe the affected area.
Prevention: Ingrown hair is razor burn’s equally nasty cousin. It’s caused when the hair follicle gets trapped under the skin and coils up, producing a bump, according to dermatologist Dr. Debra Jaliman. The good news is that preventing ingrown hair is pretty simple. Jaliman suggests that you use a cloth or a loofah to exfoliate your skin on a regular basis. If you can, Grossman recommends using a razor that doesn’t give you a super close shave. She explains, “If the hairs are cut off below the skin, they are more likely to not grow out than if they are already above the skin.”
Treatment: Unfortunately, some of us are more prone to growing hair than others so a bump can still happen. In those cases, you can treat ingrown hair with hydrocortisone cream or Tend Skin’s The Skin Care Solution ($21.24). If your grown hair looks infected or tender, book an appointment with your derm right away. Grossman states that they have special instruments for removing ingrown hairs. Do not try to do it yourself at home.
Prevention: Sunburn is the biggest summer skin care concern, according to esthetician and Cultivar founder Clara Williams. The critical thing is to avoid them altogether and that comes with being diligent about applying sunscreen regularly. Read: Every couple hours or immediately after swimming or sweating, according to Williams. And don’t skimp on the product. The equivalent of a shot glass of sunscreen is required to cover your entire body. (Check out our list of best sunscreens here.)
Treatment: If you do happen to get sunburned, Williams suggests taking an oatmeal bath to soothe your skin and lower your body temperature. When you get out of the bath and your skin is still damp, apply a lightweight, natural moisturizer that does not contain fragrances or petroleum (petroleum-based products can actually trap in the heat, making you more uncomfortable). You can also use aloe, but Williams says to ensure that you use pure aloe. Aloe formulations can contain alcohol, which would cause further irritation and dryness. Ouch.
Don’t forget about internal treatments. Ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatory drugs will help keep swelling down. And drink lots of water to rehydrate and keep your body temperature down.
Prevention: There’s nothing like heat rash (aka prickly heat) to ruin your nice time outside. There are several different triggers, according to Grossman. Some people get it from sun exposure, while others get it when they sweat. It helps to know what your specific trigger is, but in the majority of cases, staying cool and out of the sun will prevent those itchy red bumps from appearing.
Treatment: Williams says that a cool bath and getting enough hydration can soothe heat rash. If that isn’t enough, Grossman suggests trying an over-the-counter hydrocortisone product.
Prevention: Mosquitoes, wasps, bees, ants. Bugs may be small, but they can irritate you and your skin. Prevention is obviously the best way to go. When it comes to mosquitoes, try to avoid being outside around dawn and dusk when they are most active. Williams loves using essential oils to prevent bug bites. She shares one of her favorite DIY recipes: “I often just gently steep a handful of fresh herbs (mint, lavender, rosemary, even lemongrass) in a cup of water for 5 to 10 minutes. Strain the herbs and pour into a clean spray bottle. Add a half to one cup of witch hazel, depending on desired scent strength. Keep this mixture in the fridge and always do a fabric test before using widely.” For store-bought options, Jaliman says to look out for bug sprays that contain DEET, like OFF! FamilyCare Insect Repellent I Smooth & Dry ($6.69).
Treatment: If you get stung by a bug, you need to remove the stinger. After you extract it, wash the affected area with soap and cool water. Williams also recommends putting ice on the area to reduce pain. You can also use a paste of crushed garlic or baking soda and water. To treat bites internally, Jaliman adds that you can take a Benadryl. If you notice a large amount of swelling, you have difficulty breathing or you suspect an allergic reaction, go to the emergency room immediately. If you know that you are allergic, make sure that you always have an EpiPen with you.
For mosquito bites, avoid scratching or picking them. Williams notes that you can apply a mix of fresh aloe and crushed mint to soothe your skin. A hydrocortisone cream will also do the trick.