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5 summer skin problems: How to prevent them

Warmer weather means we’re spending more time outdoors enjoying the sun and some of our favorite activities. But, an increased exposure to the sun and heat without proper precautions, or a lack of awareness of what can wreak havoc on your skin, can quickly take the fun out of summer.

“We see the same skin conditions in the summer months we’d see and treat throughout the year, but certain conditions worsen or are more likely to flare-up during the summer,” said Melissa Koopmann, dermatology physician assistant with Marshfield Clinic Health System.

Common conditions dermatology providers see and treat in warmer months include sunburn, acne, melasma, heat rash, poison ivy and skin cancer.

adult playing with dog in lake could cause summer skin problems
An increased exposure to the sun and heat without proper precautions, or a lack of awareness of what can wreak havoc on your skin, can quickly take the fun out of summer.

Sunburn: Avoiding direct sun exposure is key

“Prevention is most important when dealing with sunburn. Seek shade when possible, use sunscreen that’s at least SPF 30 and reapply your sunscreen every two hours,” Koopmann said.

She also encourages wearing hats, sunglasses and UPF protective clothing, which protects against both UVA and UVB rays.

If you do get a sunburn, cool compresses, aloe vera and ibuprofen may help with some of the pain or stinging sensation.

Acne: An increase in sweat increases chances for breakouts

“If you are dealing with acne, you may see it worsen in the summer. Everyone’s sweating more, which causes skin irritation,” Koopmann said.

When your sweat mixes with the oils on your skin, it can clog your pores. For those who have acne-prone skin, this can mean more breakouts.

Avoid sweaty conditions as much as possible and staying diligent with your skin care regimen to help aid in prevention. If you are noticing more breakouts and your current skin care regimen is not effective, see a dermatology provider for further treatment and recommendations.

Learn more about skin care after exercise.

Melasma: Sun exposure can make the condition appear darker

Melasma is a skin condition that causes patches and spots that are darker than your natural skin tone. Sunlight causes the skin to make more pigment and brings color to the surface of the skin, which can darken melasma or cause new patches.

It’s important to be diligent with sunscreen use and avoid the sun, if possible. If prevention isn’t enough, patients can meet with their dermatology provider to discuss topical medications and treatments.

Heat rash: Heat-induced condition can cause prickly rash

Blocked sweat glands can cause rash and tiny, itchy bumps on your skin. To help prevent heat rash, it’s recommended you try to avoid sweating profusely by wearing lighter clothing and less layers, avoid going outside in the hottest parts of the day and keeping your skin cool.

If you do notice heat rash, cool showers or over-the-counter hydrocortisone may help with the itching.

Here’s a treatment guide for plant rashes.

Being aware of your surroundings also is important

As we spend more time outdoors, the chance for rashes caused by poison ivy or oak increases.

“The best thing you can do for yourself is understand what these plants look like to prevent exposing yourself to them and developing an itchy rash,” Koopmann said.

The rash is caused by the sticky, long-lasting oil called urushiol that’s left behind when your skin makes contact with the plants. Avoid these plants when possible, or keep your skin covered to avoid direct contact.

Increased sun exposure can mean an increased risk in skin cancer

Skin cancer can develop on skin exposed to the sun. Reduce your risk of skin cancer by limiting or avoiding exposure to UV sun rays. Check your skin for any changes or things that look abnormal.

“When discussing prevention, it’s most important to wear sunscreen. Apply it 30 minutes before going outside and reapply every two hours, or even sooner if you’re sweating or swimming,” she said.

She also stresses knowing your ABCDEs of skin cancer and how to spot abnormal moles.

  1. Asymmetry. The shape of one half does not look like the other.
  2. Border. Watch for uneven or jagged borders.
  3. Color.  Moles that have multiple shades of brown or black, or are several colors, should be examined.
  4. Diameter. Watch for moles that are larger than six millimeters in diameter, or the size of a pencil eraser.
  5. Evolution. Is anything significantly changing in color, size or appearance?

Koopmann says it’s important to watch for moles that stand out or look slightly different compared to other moles. This includes dark moles that may look black in appearance and non-healing pimple-like growths.

“Summer is a great time to do a skin check on yourself, as we have more skin exposed,” she said. “Do a thorough check, and I recommend checking your skin once monthly and seeing a professional if anything has changed.”

Talk with your doctor if you find skin conditions that concern you.

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