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June 2011
Screen Your Skin This Summer
Dr Ravi K Joshi
Summer heat can cause different dermatological conditions as well as can exacerbate many other skin problems. 

We have gone through a long and harsh winter this year. And before we know, another temperature has set in! Summer affects us in different ways, and here we are checking out its impact on our skin.

What are the effects of summer on our skin?
  • Some of the common conditions encountered due to heat/sun are:
  • Sun burn
  • Pigmentation/tanning
  • Freckles
  • Milliums or colloid milliums
  • Exacerbation of acne
  • Sun induced rashes/dermatitis
  • Solar induced prurigo/itching
  • Solar urticaria
  • Hydroae vacciniforme/ Chicken pox like rashes on face
  • Boils
  • Fungus infection especially in groin and other flexures
What steps can we take to prevent these effects?
  • Most importantly, avoid exposure to direct rays of sun, which are between 10am to 3pm.
  • These effects can be minimized by using sunscreens, by wearing loose and cotton clothes for better aeration, head covered with caps, hats, turbans, scarves or using umbrellas.
  • Keep cool to reduce the sweating.
  • Take bath if possible twice daily to have groin and other folds clean, which will reduce the chance of infection.
  • Using microcrystalized dusting powder, which is quite soothing and absorbs sweat.
  • Consume at least 6-8 glasses of water to hydrate the skin during summer. Fruit juices and other beverages should be additional.
What are the main considerations in the selection and application of sunscreens?
  • Make sure the sunscreen brand offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Sunscreen should be PABA free.
  • Offers an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 25 or higher. If the skin is of sensitive type, one should go for higher SPF for adequate protection.
  • Preferably waterproof sunscreen, if one is too sweaty, or at the pool or beach.
  • If you have sensitive skin, look for hypo allergic sunscreens to reduce irritation.
  • When applying, don’t forget other exposed areas in addition to face.
  • Apply sunscreen 20 to 30 minutes before sun exposure.
  • Reapply every 2-3 hrs if continuing moving around in the sun.
  • Wearing UV protective eyeglasses also helps to reduce eye pigmentation.
  • If there is a tendency for inflammation of the lips/dermatitis/chelitis, then use sun balm with sun protective factor of 25 or more
What steps to take if our face is excessively oily?
  • Wash the face 2 to 3 times a day with cold water, but do not use soap frequently, as it can deplete the skin of its natural beneficial skin ingredients.
  • Humidity boosts oil production, so wipe face with a toner as needed. Rose water is a good alternative to the commercial available products.
  • Weekly clay mask will draw out impurities from skin.
  • If needed, topical Vitamin A or retinoid preparations are quite useful mode of treatment, but for that you need to consult a dermatologist.
What is prickly heat and how to tackle it?
 
Prickly heat is also called miliaria ruburm and is the retention of sweat as a result of occlusion of eccrine sweat ducts. It is common in hot and humid climate. Common symptoms include pruritus, erythematous papules with pricking and burning sensations. There are 2 other types of miliaria called M. crystillina and M. pustulosa, presenting as tiny water blisters and red pustular eruptions respectively.

Causes of Prickly heat
 
The main cause of prickly heat is over exposure to the sun and inadequate sun protection. Usually when skin is in contact with harsh ultraviolet rays for more than 15minutes, it leads to prickly heat.

It is most common in infants and newborns as they are particularly vulnerable to prickly heat. Their sweat ducts are not mature, which makes it easier for the moisturizer to be trapped.

Home Remedies for Prickly heat
  • Do not let perspiration dry on your skin, as this can lead to further clogging of skin pores and rashes. Wipe away with a clean towel or handkerchief and keep skin dry.
  • Apply cold compresses to take heat out.
  • Avoid using greasy moisturizers to hydrate the skin, as those can trap heat and cause more discomfort.
  • Aloe Vera gel is a highly effective remedy to soothe the prickly heat, as it has anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Lavender and chamomile are two excellent essential oils to give relief from stinging and burning sensations of prickly heat.
  • Honey also cools and calms the affected area and replenishes natural sugars lost in sun exposure.
  • Watermelon, pineapple or cucumber, help replace the lost fluids because of their high water content.
  • Fresh mint or lemon tea can frequently be consumed because of its cooling properties. Mint tea helps reduce body temperature and takes heat out.
  • Cooling baths containing oatmeal or cornstarch are very beneficial to alleviate the symptoms.
If you keep in mind the above-mentioned measures, hopefully you should be able to avoid any untoward effects of summer on your skin. Enjoy the season.

Dr Ravi k Joshi is Senior Consultant Dermatologist, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, Delhi

    
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