Effective strategies for preventing acne and sunburn during summer, tips on most suitable sunscreen options | Health

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By Mahtab Ahmad


Seasonal shift plays an important role on human skin and as India belongs to a tropical climate zone, changes in skin and risk of developing skin diseases are seen mostly during shift to summer months. Heat and increased humidity make the human skin sweatier and at a risk of being easily macerated.

Effective strategies for preventing acne and sunburn during summer, tips on most suitable sunscreen options (Image by Freepik)
Effective strategies for preventing acne and sunburn during summer, tips on most suitable sunscreen options (Image by Freepik)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Susmit Haldar, MBBS, MD, DNB, Consultant Dermatologist and Honorary Director at Calcutta Skin Institute in Kolkata, shared, “Increased maceration leads to breach on continuity of the skin and invites bacterial and fungal skin disease like, Furunculosis, Carbuncle, Folliculitis, Dermatophytosis (Ring Worm Infection), Candidiasis. These diseases involve different parts of body, especially the body folds where moisture is trapped due to constant covering by clothing. Infections can be transmitted and further spread to individuals living in an over-crowded place and to people having poor personal hygiene.”

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She revealed, “Sunlight is also a threat to human skin, causing different types of photo-related skin diseases. Acne, Polymorphic Light Eruption, Lichen Planus Pigmentosus, Herpes Simplex Labialis, and Sun tanning are a few to name. Sunburn does not usually occur to Indian skin because of abundance of pigment (melanin), but can often be seen in individuals who are devoid of pigment (e.g. vitiligo). Heat stroke is related to a rare skin condition, called Miliaria Profunda, where sweat secretion is completely blocked due to blockage of the sweat duct in deeper level. We see very often the less severe variant of Miliaria (Miliaria Rubra or ‘Ghamori’) in summer, mostly in hot humid weather.”

Offering strategies for preventing acne during the summer season, Dr Rajat Gupta, MBBS, MD (Skin), FIADVL, FEADV (Europe), Consultant Dermatologist, Cosmetologist and Laser Surgeon at Max Smart Hospital in New Delhi, asserted that it includes skincare routines and lifestyle adjustments. He advised, “In summers it is important to use gentle cleansers and light weight moisturisers. As Occlusive oil based moisturisers and make ups can easily clog the pores making skin acne prone. Wearing breathable cotton clothes and taking bath after your work out and gym session is a must to prevent body acne. Also this is the season when diet should not be neglected, staying hydrated, applying non comedogenic sunscreen and eating healthy diet helps great deal in acne.”

Discussing the seasonal shift and its impact on skincare, Dr Swayamsiddha Mishra, MD-DVL, Consultant Dermatologist and Cosmetologist at All About Skin Clinic in New Delhi, said, “Seasonal shifts, particularly the transition to summer, brings longer days, increased outdoor activities, and higher temperatures, which can exacerbate various skin conditions. Indian skin types are more prone to tanning than sunburn due to the higher melanin content in the skin which provides a protective barrier against ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Increased ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure during summer can cause photodamage, leading to erythema, hyperpigmentation, melasma and accelerated cutaneous aging. Increased sunlight sensitivity due to certain medications, autoimmune disorders may result in redness, swelling or blistering over sun exposed areas precipitating photosensitive reactions.

She added, “Elevated ambient temperatures and humidity levels enhance sweat gland activity resulting in excessive sweating, which can clog pores to cause or exacerbate acne or pimple breakouts. Blockage of sweat ducts can lead to heat rash/miliaria. Warm and humid conditions can favour fungal growth particularly in skin folds & sweat prone areas. Jock itch or ringworm present as red itchy rashes in groin, inner thighs, buttocks. Athlete’s foot manifests as itching, redness & a scaly foot rash. Intertrigo & pityriasis versicolor are the other fungal diseases commonly encountered in summers. Furthermore, trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL) may increase, causing skin to dehydrate. Understanding these common summer skin issues and implementing preventive measures can help maintain healthy skin during the hotter months. Consulting a dermatologist can facilitate early diagnosis and faster management of the skin ailments.”

Bringing her expertise to the same, Dr Nidhi Jindal, Consultant Dermatology at New town AAI in Kolkata, said, “Skincare regimen is a must for healthy and radiant skin. This needs to be curated according to an individual’s skin. The regime needs to be altered with temperature and humidity. Your skin can be oilier and experience frequent breakouts in warmer months, hence the need for gel base products and lotions. Increase in temperature and humidity enhances sebum and sweat production, which can clog pores. Acne breakouts can be prevented by adding cleansers with sebum reducers like salicylic acid to the daily regime. Sweat should be dabbed dry and not wiped off which might lead to breakouts. Wash sweaty clothes and hats before using. Use skin care products labelled as non-comedogenic or oil free.”

Given that increased sun exposure during summers makes us more prone for melasma, sun spots and uneven skin tone, Dr Nidhi Jindal suggested, “Use broad spectrum, SPF 30+, water resistant sunscreen. Wearing full sleeves clothes and broad brim hats definitely add value to using sunscreen. Hey, don’t forget to seek shade when possible. Damp and moist skin is a perfect breeding ground for fungus which can be prevented by following ways.”

Dos:

  • Keep skin dry always
  • Cleanse all body folds with soap during bathing
  • Dry all body folds including in between toes after bathing
  • Wear loose cotton cloths
  • Take shower after gym or workout session
  • Keep the diaper area dry, frequent changing of diaper is advised

Don’ts:

  • Scratch or rub
  • Wear tight nylon or polyester clothes
  • Neglect initial signs like red, scaly patches

By curated skin care you can maintain healthy and radiant skin throughout the year. According to Dr Kusumika Kanak, Consultant Dermatologist at Sahyadri Super Speciality Hospital in Pune’s Hadapsar, said, “The shift in seasons, specifically the rise in temperatures and humidity levels during summer, leads to an increased prevalence of various skin issues. This includes a higher occurrence of acne, sunburn, and fungal infections due to the environmental changes. Adjusting our skincare routines in light of this environmental shift in order to prevent and cure these skin conditions is essential.”

Summer time brings with it more humidity and moisture and temperature swings that can cause the skin to produce more oil, which aggravates acne. Dr Kusumika Kanak said, “Furthermore, excessive perspiration can clog pores with debris and oil, making acne worse and perhaps causing other skin problems. Additionally, it’s a period when we’re more exposed to UV radiation, which raises the possibility of sunburn and weakens the skin’s protective layer, leaving it more vulnerable to problems. Solutions for customised skincare are necessary to address these issues. Specialized skincare solutions, particularly sunscreens, play a crucial role in addressing the challenges posed by summer conditions. Sunscreens are essential for protecting the skin from harmful UV radiation, which intensifies during the summer months.”

To prevent acne during the summer season, Dr Kusumika Kanak suggested, “Individuals should implement specific skincare routines and lifestyle adjustments. It’s essential to use oil-free sunscreen, switch to lighter moisturizers, remove dirt and sweat promptly, avoid popping pimples, and maintain a consistent cleansing routine with appropriate products. Selecting the most suitable sunscreen formulations for summer conditions involves considering various factors. These include the SPF levels, ingredients, and application techniques to ensure optimal protection against sun damage. A broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, containing ingredients such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, is recommended. It should be applied generously and reapplied every two hours, or more frequently if swimming or sweating.”

Dr Kusumika Kanak added, “Few lifestyle adjustments and stress management can significantly aid in managing skin health during summer season. Keeping yourself hydrated, wearing protective and light clothing, and seeking shade during peak sunny hours can all help reduce the impact of high temperatures and intense sun exposure on your skin. By adapting these basic skincare and lifestyle practices to the changing seasons, we can better manage conditions like acne and protect our skin from the harsh effects of summer weather.”

Dr Rajesh Jaria, Consultant Internal Medicine at PD Hinduja Hospital and MCR in Khar, said, “Summer means an increased exposure to sunlight, itchy and painful rashes and an in general assault on the face of the skin. A combination of medical conditions of infective, allergic or injury related origin may be responsible. Acne is hair, sebum, and keratinocytes sticking together, preventing their usual shedding and addition of routine skin bacteria to this ‘stuck-up’ mixture, inducing a reaction called inflammation. Eventually this mixture swells, bursts and leaves behind a crater like scar. Increased heat induces increased sebum production and increased acne breakouts.”

Emphasising the need for specialised skincare solutions, particularly sunscreens, in addressing the challenges posed by summer conditions, Dr Rajesh Jaria highlighted how effective dermatological care becomes crucial during this time. He said, “Sun allergy, from direct exposure to sunlight causing hives, with UV light – A and B playing its role causing direct skin damage presents as a red, scaly, rash with itchy bumps. Sun sensitivity runs in the and in few, this can become permanent, or require prolonged specialized care to reverse. Heat (prickly) rash is from blocked sweat glands causing tiny bumps which eventually burst to release clogged sweat. The itch and discomfort can be intense.”

Offering strategies for preventing acne during the summer season, including skincare routines and lifestyle adjustments, Dr Rajesh Jaria emphasised the importance of proactive measures in managing acne effectively.

To prevent acne:

  • Wash face intermittently clearing grime and heavy makeup.
  • Do not pluck acne.
  • Blot sweat from skin – do not wipe skin as wiping can irritate skin resulting in a breakout.
  • Wash sweaty clothes, headbands, towels, hats before wearing them again.
  • Preferentially use non-comedogenic products on face, neck, back, and chest.

Dr Rajesh Jaria said, “Specialised skincare solutions, particularly sunscreens, do help. An oily acne-prone skin benefits from oil-free sun screen and a dry sensitive skin benefits from a sunscreen with hyaluronic acid, ceramides and other loss of hydration preventing content. The above applies to both sexes. Certain medicines can make one more prone to sun reactions. If familial, sun screens are mandatory – and should be 35 SPF and above. Medications that sensitize one to sun allergy reactions include ketoprofen, naproxen, tetracyclines, doxepin, dapsone and others. If a medicine one takes, can cause a reaction, one should stay out of the sun or protect skin by seeking shade, wearing sun-protective clothes, and applying SPF 30+ water resistant sunscreens. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, long sleeves and pants offer a physical barrier to sun exposure and are most effective. When possible, apply sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum protection. Anything you can do to stop sweating profusely will help reduce your risk.”

Tips that dermatologists offer to their patients to help them sweat less and thereby lessen their risk of getting prickly heat include:

  • Wear light-weight, loose-fitting clothes made of cotton.
  • Exercise outdoors during the coolest parts of the day or move your workout indoors where you can be in air-conditioning.
  • Try to keep your skin cool by using fans, cool showers, and air-conditioning when possible.



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