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HOW TO KEEP ACNE AT BAY IN SUMMER
Ah, summer. Warm weather and sunshine are just around the corner, and most of us can’t wait to hit the beach, cottage, or pool. Unfortunately, warm weather (and its friends, heat and humidity) and loads of sunshine can also mean we’re weeks away from the dreaded summer breakout.
Summer may have a lot of people breaking out their astringent toners and scrubs along with their flip flops. How do we avoid the dreaded summer acne, without scrubbing and drying our skin to death?
What Is It About The Summer?
There are a lot of reasons why summer can trigger more frequent and intense breakouts. The main one is simple: heat and humidity cause the skin to produce more oil. More oil can cause clogged pores, which turn into blackheads and acne.
Exposure to UV rays is also another culprit. Too much sun can cause the outer layer of the skin to thicken, so excess oil and dirt get trapped and promote bacteria growth.
Along with heat and intense sun comes exposure to pollution and free radicals. If you’ve ever seen a haze over the city on hot days (along with warnings about air quality), you’ll know that pollution tends to get trapped near the ground in warmer weather. This dirt and pollution ends up on your skin and needs to be cleaned off, or it can trigger acne as well.
But don’t assume summer heat means you need to use harsh products. Most people can benefit from a few gentle adjustments in their skincare routine.
You’ve probably heard this a lot, but I’m going to say it again: You should definitely be using sunscreen year round. After all, UV rays can damage your skin even on cloudy and cold days. However, the creamy, moisturizing sunscreen you were using during the colder months may not be the best for your skin in the summer. Using a sunscreen with a watery texture (sometimes labelled as “fluid”), and finding something that is non-comedogenic and oil-free can drastically reduce clogged pores and help your skin feel less greasy. Some sunscreens also contain anti-inflammatory and soothing ingredients like aloe and centella.
Washing your sunscreen off at the end of the day is also really important. Foam cleansers don’t always remove oily buildup and sunscreens, so make sure you double-cleanse, and use an oil or balm-type cleanser.
On days where you skin is feeling greasy and on the verge of breaking out, try using a clay product or clay mask. Kaolin clay (or white clay) is an especially gentle type of clay that naturally exfoliates, cleaning dirt and dead skin cells from pores. Clay is also absorbent, and helps to remove some of that excess sebum you may be producing due to the heat. An added bonus: it feels lovely and cool on inflamed skin!
Needless to say, when it gets hot, we all need to increase our water intake. As counterintuitive as it may seem, you don’t actually want to dry your skin out, even when it feels super swampy outside. Over-exfoliating and stripping oils from your skin can upset your skin barrier, causing it to flip flop from dehydrated to greasy (due to overproduction of sebum). Instead of using an astringent or alcohol-based toner which can strip your skin, look for a balancing toner to help maintain the pH of your skin while keeping your barrier happy.
Just like our wardrobes shift from cocoon-like coats to light linens in warmer months, you’ll want to keep your skincare layers light in the summer too. Heavy makeup and thick products prevent your skin from breathing, and can contribute to clogged pores, which lead to acne.
If possible, avoid wearing a full face of foundation, and opt for concealer on trouble spots, with tinted moisturizer or a light powder. Blur powder can also help to camouflage uneven skin tone and blemishes.
You’ll probably want to phase out heavy moisturizers as it gets warmer as well. A couple of layers of a hydrating toner may be all your skin needs on a humid day. For light moisture, try a spray-on essence. Many brands make sprays that both hydrate and soothe skin, and are easily applied wherever you are. Keep some in a small spritz bottle, stash it in your bag, and give your skin a boost if it begins to feel dry or irritated.
You may have heard that eating foods that are high in antioxidants (like blueberries or goji berries) will help your body to “detox” and improve your overall health. Well, antioxidants are also great for you skin. They are your skin’s defence against damage caused by pollution, sun exposure, and stress. How? By neutralizing nasty free radicals, which, among other things, cause premature aging. But what does that have to do with acne? One of those other things free radicals can cause is inflammation, often a precursor to breakouts (since it blocks up pores).
Luckily, it isn’t difficult to find products containing antioxidants. Ingredients such as citrus extracts, green tea extract, birch juice, and resveratrol are all high in vitamin content and antioxidants. These will help protect your skin from all that sun you’ll be getting!
Your skin changes as the weather changes - so should your skincare. The arrival of summer doesn’t have to mean the arrival of a season of acne as well. By lightening up your products and ensuring your skin is balanced and protected, you can get back to what’s important - enjoying the weather!