How to Look After Your Skin in Summer

Summer sun and temperatures are beloved because they provide you with the opportunity to spend more time outdoors doing the things you love. However, the sun and temperatures come at a price and it is your skin that pays that price. Sun damage can lead to premature aging of the skin, wrinkles, marks, dry skin, and even skin cancer over time. The hottest season of the year requires careful thought for your skin even as you enjoy the heat and freedom of summer.


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    Understand how the summer sun impacts your skin. It's important to know how the sun's rays impact your skin, especially when you're seeking to cut through the hype on cosmetic labels. The following basics should assist your understanding:[1]
    • Ultraviolet A (UVA): The longest wavelength of the sun, this one penetrates the dermis, your skin's deepest layer. Sun damage can activate free radicals and promote skin aging.
    • Ultraviolet B (UVB): This wavelength penetrates the skin's upper layer, the epidermis. These rays cause sunburn, allergic reactions and skin cancers. After six times of being burned, the skin has double the risk of developing a fatal melanoma.[2]
    • Ultraviolet C (UVC): Generally these rays are filtered by the ozone layer and they're the most damaging rays.
    • Scratch Test (ST): Sometimes if you scratch your skin with a back of your heel, the test will reveal your sensitivity.
    • Infra-red (IR): This is the "heat" from the sun and too much can negatively impact collagen, elastic and your immune system.
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    Wear sunscreen but only after assessing the need and doing your own research. Not all sunscreens are made alike – some provide a physical barrier (minerals) while others provide a chemical barrier that absorbs ultraviolet rays. SPF stands for "sun protection factor" and indicates the length of time you can stay in the sun; you calculate the SPF by the number of minutes you can stay in the sun without burning normally.[3] (For example, if your skin turns red after 10 minutes in the sun, a sunscreen with SPF of 15 should allow you to spend 150 minutes in the sun.) However, concerns have peaked about what is in your sunscreen and just how effective sunscreens really are. Many sunscreens penetrate the skin and add to the chemical overload that your body is already subjected to with daily modern living.[4] There is no consensus that sunscreens work and there is no proof that higher SPF sunscreens are any better than lower level SPF and they may simply contain more chemicals, thereby increasing your exposure. And getting a false sense of security about your ability to stay in the sun all day because you're wearing sunscreen is unhelpful and can result in damaged skin – indeed, some scientists worry that this false sense of security coupled with inferior UVA focused sunscreen use has actually promoted skin cancers in recent times. Thus, "how" you treat sunscreen as a skin protectant is not very important – sunscreen should be used only as one part of your approach to guarding your skin during the summer; it cannot be the only method and it isn't foolproof.
    • If sunscreens trigger sensitivities, breakouts and other skin problems for you, switch from chemical sunscreens to mineral sunblocks (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) to see if this improves things for you.[5][6]
    • If you have oily skin, don't use an SPF higher than 20; doing so risks overloading your skin with chemicals and more oil.[7] (Indeed, it's recommended that whatever your skin, you think twice about high SPF values on sunscreen products.)Special sunscreens are formulated for oily skin. Look at sunscreen packages carefully and see if they are labeled "Oil-Free" or "Non-Comedogenic" so they won't clog pores or cause excess oil.
    • Unfortunately it isn't as simple as walking into your local drugstore and choosing a sunscreen you like the smell of or the price they're sold at. You do need to do some online research on the chemicals each sunscreen contains and make an informed decision about the brand you choose. See the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database for information about each sunscreen on the market. It is at: and click on the tab that says "sun". At least you can make an informed decision by doing your own research here; don't trust the manufacturer's claims alone.
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    Stay out of the sun between the hours of 10am and 3pm. The hottest part of the day during the summer is the most damaging time. Don't stay out in the sun for long periods of time around the hottest hours; the longer you're outside, the longer your skin is exposed to the radiation. Get your exercise and activities done in the earlier, cooler hours, or in the later, cooler hours of the day.
    • Note that some latitudes advise staying out of the sun between 11am and 4pm. Know what is advised for you particular location and err on the side of being cautious either side as well as during the hours suggested.
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    Wear protective clothing over your skin. A lot of clothing in outdoor stores and fashion stores has a UV protection rating and some clothes are impregnated with a UV-absorbing colorless dye.[8] The UV protection rating is a good indicator of how clothing can act as an excellent barrier against the sun's rays. Cover up as much skin as you can, using lightweight fabrics when it's really hot and uncomfortable. Choose fabrics that won't itch, scratch, or overheat you and prefer light colors over dark ones, to keep the heat level down.
    • Wear a hat. Your facial skin will benefit enormously from a permanent ring of shade over it in the heat of the sun.
    • Wear sunglasses to protect your sensitive eye skin (and eyes). Eyes are prone to melanomas and cataracts, and the sensitive skin around your eyes is prone to fast aging.[9]
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    Ditch the obsession with a tan. Sunbathing or using a solarium increases your chances of damaging your skin and getting skin cancers. Moreover, sunbathing will add a good 20 years to your age by dehydrating and wrinkling your skin.[10] Do you really want that?
    • Be careful with fake tan; these products contain a lot of chemicals that aren't necessarily good for your skin or your whole health. Again, check the EWG Skin Deep website to see how they rate the various products.
    • Black skin is vulnerable to sun damage too; Iman says that she is two shades darker during summer than in winter and says that even though you may not be able to see the damage, it is still there.[11]
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    Give your skin a break. By watching the weather over summer, you can work out the days when you won't need to slather on the chemicals, such as when it's pouring with rain or it's a very overcast day.[12] Be sure to pop on your hat and cover clothing as usual because UV rays still penetrate the clouds; you can at least allow your skin a break from the sunscreen.
    • If you're going on holiday and you're driving, then take your makeup off before you leave as it gives your skin time to breathe.
    • Leave your makeup off as often as possible while on vacation. This is a great opportunity to let your skin breathe and be free from the chemicals in cosmetics.
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    Rinse skin after swimming. This is especially important when you've been swimming in chlorinated environments as the chlorine can dry out your skin and for some people it can even result in an allergic reaction.[13] Besides, it's a lot nicer to smell neutral rather than of chlorine!
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    Avoid spraying perfume on your skin in the sun. The psoralen in perfume (especially in citrus perfumes) can permanently stain your skin when they react with the sun. During the summertime, it is recommended that you spritz your clothes with your fragrance rather than your skin.[14]
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    Drink plenty of water. Hydrated skin is better skin and it's easy for skin to become parched during the summer months. Dehydration results in dry skin, frown-lines, spots, a sluggish complexion and a lack of "glow".[15][16] Drink water regularly throughout the day, preferably between meals (drinking during meals can dilute the nutrients from food).[17] Water will both hydrate your skin and flush out toxins that can mar your complexion.[18]
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    Eat healthy foods. A healthy skin comes from eating well and summer is the ideal time to make dietary changes for the better. Cut down on sugar and refined processed foods which create unbalanced blood sugar levels and therefore contribute to premature aging.[19] Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, in salads, steamed, raw, or as part of a recipe dish. Choose from the rainbow of fruit and vegetable colors to ensure that you're getting all the antioxidants and nutrients your skin needs. A diet rich in flavonoids will help to ensure a healthy and glowing skin.[20] And include whole grains in your daily diet too, including the ancient grains.
    • Yogurt is a healthy addition to your diet; just be sure it's sugar free and natural.
    • No-fat or low-fat diets will cause your skin to dry, wrinkle and age.[21] You need essential fats in your diet to keep your skin moist and supple. The answer is to exclude unhealthy fats (hydrogenated, trans fats, and heat or light damaged fats) from your diet but to keep using healthy fats daily. Nuts and seeds and fresh fish are excellent sources of good fats.[22]
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    Examine your skin regularly. At least one a month, perform a "mole patrol" to check for signs of sun damage on your skin. Be especially alert to moles that have changed shape or size or that hurt, itch, or bleed.[23]


  • Not every skin needs moisturizer. If you do use it, and it contains SPF, check the EWF Skin Deep site for comments on its safety. You might also like to consider a moisturizer that contains antioxidants for added help for your skin.
  • A water based moisturiser rich in vitamin E will help your skin heal and repair itself from your day out at the park or beach
  • While the sun is also an important factor, wrinkles and aging have a large genetic component. An element of realism and acceptance is required when it comes to skin aging. Up to 80% of premature skin aging is the direct effect of the sun.
  • If you have dry skin and a dry house, boost the humidity levels indoors over summer to help ease the dryness.
  • Stress harms skin;[24] use summer to find new outlets for your stress and to learn ways to overcome stress in your life. Make the most of any breaks you get over summer!


  • Note that there are many concerns about a lack of vitamin D due to wearing too much sunscreen and not getting enough sun time. Use your common sense and don't stand in the sun when it's at its most damaging but allow yourself a little sun time each day. It's important not to overdo anything!
  • Sun beds can be dangerous and can damage your skin as the rays on a sun bed are much stronger than the sun at midday.
  • See your doctor if you have any concerns about the condition of your skin after being in the sun. It is better to be reassured than to be shocked by an ignored skin problem turning out to be untreatable.
  • If you have sensitive skin, the sun itself may be a trigger for skin problems, as well as sunscreens, fragrances, cosmetics, etc.[25] It is recommended that you boost your immune system with a multi-vitamin if going on vacation and you have sensitive skin, as you'll be exposed to different foods, sun levels, water, temperatures, and chemicals in the new environment.[26]

Things You'll Need

  • Hat, sunglasses, cover-up clothing
  • Sunscreen (as researched by you) or sunblock (ditto)
  • Water
  • Nutritious food

Sources and Citations

  1. Marie Claire, Health and Beauty, p. 144, (1997), ISBN 0-86411-682-9
  2. Marie Claire, Health and Beauty, p. 144, (1997), ISBN 0-86411-682-9
  3. Marie Claire, Health and Beauty, p. 144, (1997), ISBN 0-86411-682-9
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