When you’re looking good all summer in your favorite hot-weather outfit, the last thing you want to do is worry about blemishes and dark spots on your body. Unfortunately, as the temperature rises, more pimples start to pop up.

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It’s frustrating, especially when the season calls for shorts, swimsuits, and tank tops. But the good news is that you don’t have to go through your summer and cover up. Dermatologist Sean McGregor, DO, shares some do’s and don’ts when it comes to managing summer acne.

Why are the summer months more explosive?

If you have been battling acne for a long time, you may have noticed that they get worse in the summer. You are not the only one dealing with this. Dr. McGregor says recent studies have linked acne breakouts to warmer temperatures.

“Several studies have shown a correlation between the summer months and the development of acne. One of them even looked at Google trends to see if acne-related searches increased during the summer compared to other times of the year. But acne doesn’t get worse because of sun exposure. Most of the time, it’s associated with increased oil production, sweating, and more clogging of the pores that occur when temperatures are warmer. ”

Hotter temperatures don’t seem to stop us from applying sunscreen, lotion, body butters or oils to keep our skin glowing and moist. But when you mix up sweat, dirt, and other factors, that concoction can lead to more breakouts.

“During the summer months, increased perspiration can lead to clogged or clogged pores. But we do know that some sunscreens and moisturizers, especially those that are a bit thicker, can contribute to congestion and further acne development. ”

Acne is a multifactorial condition. It can be affected by a number of hormonal and androgenic factors present in your body. It also thrives in areas of your body where there is increased oil production in your pores. Dr. McGregor says that the triglycerides in these areas feed bacteria and this can cause more forms of inflammatory acne. But it all starts with blockages in the pores and the formation of microcomedones, which are tiny pimples that can cause larger breakouts.

Summer acne treatment

You’ve seen the ads—and the multitude of acne products in stores. With all the options available, there must be an over-the-counter solution that works for your acne, right?

It depends.

If you’re dealing with milder forms of acne like blackheads and whiteheads, Dr. McGregor says the first options, or what you find at the drugstore, can help. Most of these products are salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide based. You can even find acne products that were previously only available by prescription in stores. Adapalene (Differin®) is one of them.

Use foaming cleanser

“I usually recommend a foaming cleanser during the summer months. During the winter months, switch to a creamy cleanser or moisturizer to help hydrate skin and prevent dryness caused by colder weather.” Dr. McGregor added that this is not necessarily a rule of thumb. Your cleaner options may vary depending on your skin type. If you need help figuring out which cleanser is best for you, a dermatologist can help.

Avoid heavy creams or lotions

Of course, no one wants dry skin during the warmer months. However, Dr. McGregor says that what you use in the winter can make your skin worse in the summer.

“In winter, you can use heavier lotions, creams and moisturizers to combat some of the dryness you experience in colder temperatures. During the summer months, you’ll want to switch to lighter moisturizers or more watery sunscreens to help prevent pore clogging.”

Remove dirt and sweat

No one wants to be a hot, sticky, smelly mess all day. So those brutal summer days might call for a shower or two. Dr. McGregor says you should wash away sweat and dirt, but don’t overdo it.

“I generally recommend showering or washing your face after exercising or being outdoors and sweating. Twice a day is the maximum per person. During this time of year, many people want to exfoliate and wash their face more often, so I see a lot of skin irritation. It doesn’t necessarily cause acne, but at the same time, washing and scrubbing tends to irritate the skin and this can make acne treatment more difficult. My recommendation is twice a day, beyond showering and washing your face. This includes after a workout or long periods in the sun. ”

Avoid acne

It doesn’t matter if you’ve watched hundreds of hours of acne removal videos. To preserve your skin, take action when those pimples pop up. All that squeezing and digging action can lead to more inflammation, scarring, or infection.

“Everybody does a little bit of bathroom surgery at some point, right? I sometimes do ‘acne surgery’ like plucking and other things in the hospital when topical treatments aren’t 100% effective. But at home, you may not think about the bad effects of squeezing pimples. With acne, there is a possibility of scarring when you manipulate the skin. Pigmentation changes (where you end up with lighter or darker areas) or infection can also occur.”

What causes maskne?

While this summer looks different from last summer, one thing may not change. With new COVID-19 variants floating around, some of us have decided to wear our masks. You know what that means – maskne is back with vengeance this summer. So, what have we learned in the past year about maskne?

Dr. McGregor breaks it.

“Maskne is a subset of what is known as mechanical acne, a form of acne caused by friction or pressure on the skin. We see this a lot with repeated use of things that come in contact with the skin. Masking can weigh on the skin and add extra moisture and moisture to the lower half of your face. That kind of environment can cause obstructions in the pores and the growth of microcomedones, potentially creating more bacterial overgrowth in the sebaceous unit (hair shaft, hair follicle, sebaceous gland). oil and muscle that helps the hair to stand). ”

To prevent masking, Dr. McGregor recommends washing your face twice a day with a gentle cleanser to help remove any build-up. And of course, always wear a clean mask.

Masks can also trigger rosacea flare-ups, and they may not necessarily respond to over-the-counter treatments. If you find yourself struggling with rosacea or acne, contact a dermatologist for help.

Are expensive acne products better?

Unnecessary. While claims of clear skin in a few weeks seem to justify the pricier price tag, you don’t have to spend your life savings or your first baby to get effective acne products. You can find good products at very reasonable prices. And if you need acne treatment products from a dermatologist, your insurance may cover it.

Give your acne products time to work

When you’re trying to get rid of acne blemishes, patience should never be part of the equation. But Dr. McGregor says it’s important to give any product you use time to work.

“Give it about three months. Acne treatment can be a bit slow and like watching grass grow, but I usually give it about three months or so to work. And it’s also a good time frame for your dermatologist to assess whether something is working.”

Can sun exposure to treat acne cause skin irritation?

Some acne products have warnings on the packaging that encourage consumers to protect their skin if out in the sun. Dr. McGregor says that while we get the impression that the sun can make things worse, the irritation occurs mostly because of the product being used.

“Most of the irritation we see is from the actual treatments themselves. They cause a lot of dryness and that is really what we are trying to achieve to reduce what is known as follicular hyperkeratosis or oil production by using these products. It is not true that these products contain ingredients that make the skin sensitive to the sun. What happens is usually skin irritation. ”

Dr. McGregor adds that retinoids like tretinoin (Retin-A®) can be inactivated by sunlight. Adapalene (Differin®) is a retinoid that isn’t very affected by the sun, but he says traditional retinoids are generally recommended at night.

And again, if your acne doesn’t go away, talk to a dermatologist

Instead of spending a small fortune on everything that promises to clear up acne on your face or body, consider talking to a dermatologist if things don’t improve.

“Dermatologists are experts in the skin, hair, and nails. We have a basic understanding of the skin and the pathophysiology that contribute to acne. If you’re experiencing acne and aren’t getting it under control with your current regimen, see a dermatologist.”


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