Summertime and living is easy? Well, not if you’re prone to pimples, as many can attest. While summer brings with it longer days and more time outdoors (hello, beautiful sunshine!) it also comes with sweat, humidity, and the oh-so-dreaded breakouts. Experiencing a higher level of acne breakouts during the summer is extremely common on both the face and the body. While the flare ups are undoubtedly annoying, it is also very treatable. Since June is Acne Awareness Month – and the official start of summer – The AEDITION spoke with leading dermatologists for tips on how to treat and prevent summer breakouts from head to toe.
What Causes Acne Flare Ups in the Summer?
“Heat and humidity cause increased sweat and oil production in the skin leading to clogged pores and increased breakouts,” says Morgan Rabach, MD, a New York City-based board certified cosmetic dermatologist. While the culprits behind those comedones and cysts are primarily rising temperatures mixed with humidity, your skincare routine may not be helping matters. “The use of winter skincare, such as oil-based emollients, can be too thick for summer months,” explains board certified dermatologist Amy Spizuoco, DO.
Treating Acne In The Summer
Don’t let this trifecta of heat, humidity, and occlusive beauty products undermine your lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer (while lathered in sunscreen, of course). Here are five ways to beat summer breakouts.
1. Change Your Skincare
Just like you put your turtlenecks and sweaters away for the summer, you should move your winter skincare routine into semi-retirement. “You should use lighter, water-based ‘lotions,’ not oil-based ‘creams,’” Dr. Spizuoco says. Humectants like hyaluronic acid (HA), for example, offer hydration without the risk of clogging pore — especially when paired with clarifying products.
Dr. Rabach suggests using a cleanser with salicylic acid (we’re fans of the La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser) to break down impurities followed by a toner (like Glossier Solution) to dry up oil. Gentle-yet-effective exfoliating products are also key. “Exfoliators with alpha and beta hydroxy acids and retinoids can help,” she says. Retinol, one of the most common forms of vitamin A, increases cell turnover and decreases the likelihood of acne (in addition to treating fine lines and wrinkles), but it can increase sensitivity to the sun. If you’ve never used a retinol before, consider waiting until fall to introduce and try AHAs and BHAs instead.
When it comes to applying both the morning and evening skincare routines, layer your products by their weight starting with the lightest (toners and serums) and building up to the heaviest (lotions and sunscreen) before proceeding to makeup.
2. Swap Out Your Sunscreen
Speaking of sunscreen, it’s a non-negotiable. But, for those with acne-prone skin, the idea of slathering on a greasy SPF sounds anything but enjoyable. Dr. Spizuoco suggests using an oil-free sunscreen (try Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40) and washing your face, chest, and back more frequently to prevent breakouts. Powder-based sunscreen formulas, like the Brush On Block Translucent Mineral Powder Sunscreen, can also provide a lightweight option for touching up (and mattifying!) the skin.
3. Update Your Makeup Routine
We recommend approaching your aesthetic needs by season, and beauty products are no exception. “Mineral makeup is best to prevent breakouts,” Dr. Spizuoco says, adding that you should avoid using “heavy, thick products” during the warm-weather months. High quality mineral makeup (bareMinerals, Jane Iredale, and PÜR to name a few) is usually free of oil, fragrance, wax, and other additives that clog pores. As for the products to avoid, steer clear of any ingredient that might cause irritation such as fragrance, emollients, and sulfates, which will only further aggravate the skin.
4. Drink More Water
It may seem counterintuitive, but oily skin does not equate to hydrated skin. In fact, dehydration can lead to increased oil production and, in turn, more breakouts. From a dry scalp to flaky knees, the water intake — or lack thereof — shows up on the skin. Staying hydrated is a requirement year-round, but increased sweating in the summertime makes compliance particularly important.
5. Don’t Forget Your Body
Summer breakouts aren’t limited to your face, and there are plenty of products available to help treat body acne. “Fruit enzyme and salicylic acid washes can help keep pores from getting clogged,” Dr. Spizuoco shares. Chest and back acne are normal and can often be treated with exfoliating bodycare (AmLactin, Clinique, Herbivore, and Paula’s Choice are great over-the-counter options) and more frequent showers. If the condition proves more difficult to treat, “oral antibiotics prescribed under the care of a board certified dermatologist” will likely do the trick, Dr. Rabach says.
How To Prevent Summer Breakouts
It’s far easier to prevent breakouts than it is to treat them, so Dr. Spizuoco recommends having a plan of attack to help the skin adjust just in time for summer’s heat and humidity. “Avoid using products with fragrances,” she explains. Though aromatic beauty products sound lovely, the added fragrance can cause rashes, itchiness, and hives. Changing out of sweaty clothes as soon as possible is a good way to prevent body acne, as is finding the right balance between keeping the skin clean and overwashing. Too much cleansing can be counterproductive. “Avoid exfoliating too often, which can lead to mechanical acne caused by friction and irritation,” explains Dr. Spizuoco. “Keep skin hydrated but not overly moist.”
An increase in oil production and sweat during the summer causes clogged pores that need to be treated differently than how they would be during the cold, dry months. Taking a more seasonal approach to both your beauty and skincare routines, cleansing often, and staying hydrated are just a few of the ways to keep skin clear and radiant year-round. Acne and breakouts do not discriminate by age, race, or gender, and consulting with a board certified dermatologist can ensure you are on the right treatment plan for your skin concerns.
All products featured are independently selected by our editors, however, AEDIT may receive a commission on items purchased through our links.
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