Summer heralds the arrival of sweat, lack of energy, dehydration, seasonal diseases, harsh sunburns, deep tanning, and myriad skin and hair problems. With blazing heat, the body’s first defense organ, the skin, and hair take the onslaught of the scorching sunrays. Summer’s heat and humidity are merciless. We wonder how to beat the summer monster and find out ways in which we can keep our skin healthy, fresh, vibrant and glowing this summer. As a practicing dermatologist, summer heralds a different kind of skin problems that flock my clinics in Mumbai. Let us witness a few of these skin problems and also how do we combat them:
Skin tan and burn: A suntan is actually the body’s defense mechanism against strong sunlight and the visible evidence of damage to the skin on exposure to direct sunlight. It varies with skin type – fair-skinned people get more sunburn whereas those with a darker complexion get more tanned. The ultraviolet radiation in sunlight burns through the outer layer of skin and causes serious damage which shows up as patches of red patches, darkened skin peeling away and also causes itching.
Solutions for Suntan and Sun burning: Avoiding sunlight by applying a sunscreen of min 30 SPF. Better solution is taking oral sunscreen Polypodium leucotomos once or twice a day. In addition use umbrella, hats and broad-rimmed sunglasses. For itching, take an allergic tablet during the night for a week along and apply a very mild steroid lotion at bedtime.
Prickly Heat: Excessive sweating and increased dead cell turnover blocks the sweat glands and causes a rash-like picture commonly known as ‘prickly heat’ especially in the folds of the skin where the sweat accumulates and maybe also on the back. This leads to itching and small red boils. How to avoid Prickly Heat or Solution for Prickly Heat: Having cool showers, wearing loose clothes, putting talcum powder after a bath, applying calamine lotion on the rashes. Also 1000mg of Vitamin C tabs taken for 1 week helps. If the rash is very bad, a mild steroid lotion can be used at night for a few days.
Acne: Aggravation of acne (pimples) as the heat, humidity, dead skin cells and oil tend to clog the pores thereby leading to comedone (blackheads) formation and then acne. Oily skin people are especially prone to getting acne aggravation. Solutions for Acne Problems: Consult a dermatologist for the need for antibiotics. Use salicylic acid containing face wash (Saslic foam) Apply a ‘mud-pack’ once a week to absorb the oil. Few sessions of acne laser help in a dramatic reduction of acne.
Rosacea: This is characterized by red and inflamed skin especially on the cheek, chin and frown areas of the face. The rash can also lead to tiny boils on the cheeks and maybe even to severe acne if left untreated. The skin is very oily and gets thickened. Solutions for Rosacea: Avoiding sunlight, using a soap-free face wash (Epishine), good gel sunscreen (Zscreen), reducing stress with yoga, meditation, having an antacid or aloe vera juice in the morning on an empty stomach. Meterogyl gel/brimonidine gel applied at night on the red areas help to reduce redness. However, IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) is very helpful for Rosacea.
Fungal infections of the skin: This is very common in the hot and humid weather. The fungus thrives in the humid weather and areas where there is less aeration as in the folds of the skin especially in people who wear tight clothing, shoes the whole day long and especially more in diabetics. Solutions for Fungal Infections of the Skin: Having a shower more often, using an anti-fungal dusting powder in the body folds after a bath and applying an anti-fungal cream at bedtime on affected areas. Consult a dermatologist for oral antifungals if the infection is severe.
Photodermatitis: Some suffer from direct allergy to sunlight called photodermatitis whereas there are few conditions that get aggravated by excess sun exposure, called photo aggravated dermatosis. Even after a few minutes of UV exposure, they suffer from an itchy rash, redness, boils and even swelling. Solutions for Photodermatitis: Application of emollients, skin sootheners, mild steroids, and even oral antiallergics and antioxidants help. But of course, avoiding the sun and proper sun protection is a must – sunscreens, hats, scarf, cap, hand gloves, umbrella help in sun protection
Dandruff: Dandruff is a result of over-secretion of oil on the scalp mixed with increased dead cell turnover, sweats and the pollution around. This leads to a ‘scale’ formation on the scalp which is not only unhygienic but can also lead to mild hair fall, itching and eventually pimples on the forehead and back. Solutions for Dandruff: Washing your hair often in summer using a medicated shampoo containing 2% ketoconazole and ZPTO (zinc pyrithione) If resistant dandruff, use a coal tar containing shampoo once a week. Also you could try home remedies like lemon juice or curds on scalp before washing the hair. Apply fenugreek (methi) seeds paste on hair for 20 min and wash.
Body Odour: This is a characteristic unpleasant body smell which is not only due to increased sweat accumulation but also due to bacterial decomposition of the same. This could be quite an embarrassing condition for many. Solutions for Body Odour: Use loose, cotton clothing. Have a shower 2-3 times a day. Use a medicated soap like dettol especially in the body folds. Use an anti-fungal powder and deodorant in the body folds. Vinegar wash of body folds help in reducing odor. However, aroma oils mixed with bathing water is very helpful.
Photoaging: When sunlight penetrates your skin, free radicals are created, these form collagen and elastin to collapse. This is what can form wrinkles, age spots, and drooping flesh. Solutions for Photoaging: When your skin suffers damage from the sun, the best way to reverse the effects is antioxidants. Antioxidants work to battle free radicals and can be found in high amounts in Glutathione and C. A good way to fight off early signs of aging is by using products that have Alpha Hydroxy Acids, Pycnogenol, Vitamin C and or Vitamin A. Consume large amounts of water.