The end of summer is in sight — a fact that’s often a bittersweet realization after a season of beach trips, pool time, and parties with friends. But the great time that you’ve had over the summer doesn’t mean your skin and hair have enjoyed the season. In fact, chances are pretty good that some of the sun, saltwater, and chlorine you’ve soaked up this summer have done damage to your skin and hair. That’s true even if you’ve done your best to keep your skin calm while traveling, or if you’ve ditched the hair products that are bad for your health.
Read on to learn our best damage control techniques to ensure that, whether you’re undoing some bad choices you made this summer or learning how to do better next summer, your skin and hair stay safe and in good condition while you enjoy the season.
1. Prevent sunburn and sun damage
The most notorious drawback of summer is increased sun exposure. Excessive sun exposure increases your risks of skin cancer and premature aging. While our personal tolerance for sun exposure varies, experts recommend a maximum of 15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure before 10:00 a.m. or after 2:00 p.m. every day. Even when it’s cloudy or rainy — you should protect your skin with a sunblock that offers protection from both UVA and UVB rays. In order to prevent sunburns, skin pigmentation, wrinkles, and skin cancer, you should always apply sunscreen. You can use both a moisturizer with SPF as well as a dedicated sunscreen to double up on your protection and keep your skin not only protected, but hydrated as well.
2. Exfoliate to encourage cell turnover
It’s difficult to completely avoid skin damage during the summer. So encourage cell turnover by using an exfoliant with salicylic or glycolic acid. The Mario Badescu team explains a chemical exfoliant will not only loosen dead skin cells, but will also encourage cell turnover. That means your skin will better be able to shed damage, and will be clearer and less congested (a major plus if one of your biggest skin concerns is preventing breakouts). Because the ingredients in some exfoliants can increase your sensitivity to the sun, it’s a great idea to reserve salicylic or glyoclic acid for use at night. Exfoliating a couple of times a week will help your skin shed buildup and slough off sun damage, leaving it healthier.
3. Don’t forget sunscreen needs to go beyond your face
Most people realize they need to apply sunscreen on their face, arms, legs, and back, if those areas are exposed. But there are plenty of areas that we forget to adequately protect. Make sure that you apply sunscreen to your ears, neck, décolletage, hands, and feet. Especially if you’re walking on the beach, you need to make sure your feet are protected. You should reapply sunscreen often to your feet and legs, since it will wash off in the water, or rub off thanks to the sand or your sandals.
4. Pair your sunscreen with antioxidants
Making sure that you’ve always applied (and reapplied) sunscreen is a challenge. But your sunscreen can get a boost if you look for skin care products with antioxidants. As the Paula’s Choice team reports, antioxidants are types of molecules that can prevent some types of cell damage, including damage that’s caused by sun exposure and pollution. They do this by protecting your skin against free radicals, which are unstable, destructive molecules that form due to factors like unprotected sun exposure or use of irritating ingredients. Free radicals damage healthy cells, but antioxidants stabilize free radicals to help repair damage that’s already been done and protect against environmental free radicals. Furthermore, research shows that antioxidants can improve cell function, increase collagen production, improve elasticity, create healthier skin cells, and reduce sun damage over time, so now is as good a time as any to add them to your skin-care routine.
5. Treat broken capillaries
For some people, sun exposure can cause broken capillaries (in addition to sunburn, skin cancer, and wrinkles). You may be relieved to learn that, despite the name, they aren’t actually broken, but are superficial blood vessels that are permanently widened. Your best bet, of course, is to guard against their appearance by wearing sunscreen. But if you notice broken capillaries, there are ways to treat them. You can look for skin-care products with niacin (or take niacin orally), and continue to wear sunscreen to prevent more from popping up. If they’re really a big problem, you can consult with your dermatologist about laser treatments.
6. Prevent breakouts
With all of the sunscreen and moisturizer you’re using on your face, neck, shoulders, and back, it’s not uncommon for breakouts to happen during the summer. the heat often makes you sweat more, which can mix with the makeup, dirt, or bacteria on your face to clog your pores and cause pimples. Make sure you’re using the right kinds of makeup for acne-prone skin, and experiment to find a sunscreen that won’t exacerbate any existing skin problems. As much as you can tolerate it, go minimal with your summer makeup routine, which will make it easier to reapply sun protection and avoid feeling like your face is caked with too much product.
7. Guard against heat rash
It’s not just the sun that can damage your skin. Hot weather on its own can lead to heat rash, which is caused by blocked sweat ducts that keep your perspiration trapped. Miliaria crystallina (clear heat rash) presents as clear blisters that look like sweat and appear when you sweat a lot in the sun. Milaria rubra (red heat rash) is caused by sweat that’s trapped skin, which causes it to become inflamed and itchy. To guard against heat rash, you should exfoliate the skin on your body either physically, with a scrub, or chemically, with a skin-care product that contains glycolic acid. To treat heat rash that’s already occurred, wash with a gentle cleanser and apply a hydrocortisone cream.
8. Hydrate your skin to prevent razor burn and ingrown hairs
If you’re spending a lot of time at the beach or the pool, you may be shaving a lot more often than you typically would in a season when you’re covering up with jeans and long-sleeved shirts. Guard against razor burn and ingrown hairs by using a hydrating shaving cream, and following up with an inflammation-calming lotion after your shower. Make sure to replace your razor or razor head regularly, so that you aren’t irritating your skin with dull blades.
9. Protect your scalp
While you might be great at applying sunscreen to every inch of your skin, chances are good you’re neglecting your scalp. You can use a makeup wedge to apply sunscreen along your hairline and in your part, or you can wear a hat if you don’t want to risk getting sunscreen in your hair. And while you’re at it, you can apply a UV protection spray to guard your hair and your part from the sun, which brings us to our next point.
10. Protect your hair against the sun, too
Most people don’t think about protecting their hair from the sun. But just like your skin, your hair also needs some love. Look for hair products with UVA and UVB protection (there are many mists that are easy to apply without messing up your style). Or if you find yourself on the beach sans hair products, you can even apply regular spray sunscreen, which will be easy to remove from your hair with a quick shower. And if you’re spending your time at the pool instead of at the beach, saturate your hair with regular water and apply conditioner before jumping in the pool to minimize the risk of the chlorine stripping ymoisture and color.
11. Use a leave-in conditioner to combat dryness
With saltwater and chlorine to contend with, your hair may end up getting much drier over the summer than you’d expect. Combat dryness by treating your hair with a leave-in conditioner, which will keep it soft, shiny, and frizz-free without getting greasy. Particularly if you’re coloring, or otherwise chemically treating your hair, you’ll need to pay attention to your hair’s needs throughout the summer. If it’s particularly dry or damaged, cut back on heat styling as much as possible, and remember to be gentle with your hair when it’s soaked at the pool or the beach. Hair is particularly fragile when it’s wet, so be patient about detangling and drying to avoid breakage.