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12 Summer Skin Problems You Can Prevent

12 Summer Skin Problems You Can Prevent

An itchy rash or sunburned skin can quickly sideline summer fun. You can help keep your days carefree and easygoing by learning how to prevent these summer skin problems.

summer skin sweat

1.    Acne breakouts: When sweat mixes with bacteria and oils on your skin, it can clog your pores. If you have acne-prone skin, this often means breakouts.

Dermatologists recommend the following to help prevent acne:

  • Blot sweat from your skin with a clean towel or cloth. Wiping sweat off can irritate your skin, which can lead to a breakout.
  • Wash sweaty clothes, headbands, towels, and hats before wearing them again.
  • Use non-comedogenic products on your face, neck, back, and chest. The label may also say “oil free” or “won’t clog pores.”

You’ll find more ways to prevent breakouts at:

Acne (click on tips) or call Dr. Glenn I. Goldberg in Laguna Beach, Ca.

summer skin swim

2.    Dry, irritated skin: When outdoor air is hot and humid, you can still have dry irritated skin. The biggest culprits are spending time in the sun, pool, and air-conditioning.

If your skin starts to feel dry and irritated despite the humidity, try these tips:

  • Shower and shampoo immediately after getting out of the pool, using fresh, clean water and a mild cleanser or body wash made for swimmers.
  • Apply sunscreen before going outdoors, using one that offers broad-spectrum protection, SPF 30+, and water resistance.
  • Use a mild cleanser to wash your skin. Soaps and body washes labeled “antibacterial” or “deodorant” can dry your skin.
  • Take showers and baths in warm rather than hot water.
  • Slather on a fragrance-free moisturizer after every shower and bath. Moisturizer works by trapping water in your skin, so you’ll need to apply it within 5 minutes of taking a shower or bath.
  • Carry moisturizer with you, so you can apply it after washing your hands and when your skin feels dry.
  • Turn up the thermostat if the air conditioning makes your home too dry.


summer skin bike

3.    Folliculitis: Every hair on your body grows out of an opening called a follicle. When follicles get infected, you develop folliculitis. Infected hair follicles look like pimples, but they tend to be itchy and tender.

  • To reduce your risk of getting folliculitis this summer:
  • Immediately after your workout, change out of tight workout clothes like biking shorts and shower.
  • Stay out of hot tubs and whirlpools if you’re unsure whether the acid and chlorine levels are properly controlled.So many people get folliculitis from a hot tub that there is actually a condition called “hot tub folliculitis.”
  • Wear light-weight, loose-fitting clothes when it’s hot and humid.


4.    Infection from a manicure or pedicure:
Manicures and pedicures can leave your nails looking great, but they can also expose you to germs that can cause an infection.

You don’t have to give up manicures and pedicures. Taking some precautions can help you avoid an infection.

You’ll find out what dermatologists recommend at:

Manicure and pedicure safety

5.    Melasma:
Being out in the sun can make those brown to gray-brown patches on your face more noticeable.

There are things you can do to make it less noticeable even during the summer:

Melasma (click on tips)

6.    Poison ivy, oak, and sumac (rash):
Many people develop an intensely itchy rash when a substance found in these plants, urushiol, gets on their skin.

The best way to avoid this itchy rash is to learn what these plants look like and avoid them. You’ll find out how to identify these plants and protect your skin when you cannot avoid them at:

Poison ivy, oak, and sumac (click on Tips)

7.    Prickly heat (or heat rash): Blocked sweat glands cause this. Because the sweat cannot get out, it builds up under your skin, causing a rash and tiny, itchy bumps. When the bumps burst and release sweat, many people feel a prickly sensation on their skin.

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.


8.    Seabather’s eruption:
Also called pica-pica, this itchy rash develops in people who go in the Caribbean Sea and the waters off the coasts of Florida and Long Island, New York. You get it when newly hatched jellyfish or sea anemones get trapped between your skin and your swimsuit, fins, or other gear.

The larvae are as small as a speck of pepper, so you won’t see them in the water. You can, however, prevent this rash if you:

  • Stay out of infested water. When the water is infested, you may see a sign that tells you to stay out of the water, or you may hear about someone who recently developed an itchy rash after being in the water.


9.    Sun allergy:
You can develop hives (an allergic skin reaction) when you’re in the sun if you:

  • Take certain medications
  • Have a sun sensitivity (usually runs in the family)

If you have an allergic reaction to the sun, you’ll see red, scaly, and extremely itchy bumps on some (or all) bare skin. Some people also get blisters.

To prevent an allergic skin reaction:

  • Check your medication container (or ask your pharmacist) to find out if it can cause an allergic reaction when you go out in the sun. Medications that can cause an allergic sun reaction include ketoprofen (found in some pain meds) and these antibiotics — tetracycline, doxycycline, and minocycline. If the medicine can cause a reaction, stay out of the sun.
  • Protect your skin from the sun. You can do this by seeking shade, wearing sun-protective clothes, and applying sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum protection, water resistance, and an SPF of 30 or more.

10.    Sunburn: Getting sunburn can spoil summer fun and increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Here’s what you can do to prevent sunburned skin:

  • Seek shade.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, long sleeves, and pants when possible.
  • Apply sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum protection, SPF 30+, and water resistance.

You’ll find more tips to protect your skin from the sun at Prevent skin cancer.


11.    Swimmer’s ear:
When water gets trapped in your ear canal, you can develop an infection called swimmer’s ear.

You can prevent this infection by keeping your ears dry. Here’s what dermatologists recommend:

  • Wear ear plugs while swimming.
  • Never clean your ears with cotton swabs because these can push earwax and dirt deeper into your ear canal and irritate your ear.


12.    Swimmer’s itch:
Also called clam digger’s itch, this itchy rash appears after wading or swimming in lakes, oceans, and other bodies of water. You get it when parasites in the water burrow into your skin, causing tiny red spots on areas that your swimsuit didn’t cover. Sometimes, intensely itch welts (hives) and blisters appear.

Children are especially susceptible because they tend to stay in shallow, warmer water.

You can prevent swimmer’s itch by taking the following precautions:

  • Stay out of infested water. When the water is infested, you may see a sign that tells you to stay out of the water, or you may hear about someone who recently developed an itchy rash after being in the water.
  • Briskly rub your skin (and your child’s skin) with a towel after getting out of the water. The parasites start to burrow when the water on your skin begins evaporating not while you’re in the water.

Caution: If your skin stings with brisk rubbing, stop. You (or your child) may have seabather’s eruption.

When to call a dermatologist

While these summer skin problems can dampen your fun, they’re usually not serious. Most go away in a few days to a few weeks. If a rash or other skin problem lingers or worsens, you should call your dermatologist’s office.
If you don’t have a dermatologist, you can find one at Find a dermatologist.

References
Khachemoune A, Yalamanchili R, et al. “What is your diagnosis? Seabather’s eruption.” Cutis. 2006;77:148, 151-2.
McMichael A, Guzman Sanchez D, et al. “Folliculitis and the follicular occlusion tetrad.” In: Wolff K, Goldsmith LA, et al. In: Bolognia JL et al. Dermatology. (second edition). Mosby Elsevier, Spain, 2008: 517-9.
Wolff K et al. Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine (seventh edition). McGraw Hill Medical, New York, 2008:

  • Daly JS. Scharf MJ. “Bites and stings of terrestrial and aquatic life.” 2048-9.
  • Elston DM. “Sports dermatology.” 877.
  • Lim HW. “Abnormal responses to ultraviolet radiation: Photosensitivity induced by exogenous agents.” 828-32.
  • Mauro TM and Goldsmith LA. “Biology of eccrine, apocrine, and apoeccrine sweat glands.” 730.

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