As the weather changes and the warmer months arrive, the needs of your skin also change. Since your skin is the main protective barrier between your body and the environment, when the environment changes, your skin must be given the tools to adapt and the support it needs to stay healthy and radiant.
- Protect your precious skin from ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Sun protection is the ultimate anti-ager. When exposed to UV rays, your skin responds by producing melanin to temporarily darken the skin in an attempt to protect it from the damage. Unfortunately, this tan is a warning sign that permanent damage is occurring, which will remain long after your tan fades. Freckles, although adorable in children, represent the first sign of sun damage. In adults, these brown spots on the face, chest, arms and hands are often called “age spots” or “liver spots,” but they have nothing to do with age— and have everything to do with the amount of time your skin has been exposed to the sun. UV radiation is a major cause of accelerated aging as evidenced by increased wrinkles, brown spots, enlarged pores, broken blood vessels, cellulite appearance and sagging. Spending all those hours in the gym to tone your muscles isn’t going to pay off if you lose the elasticity and tone of your skin. Look for sunscreens containing zinc oxide and at least SPF30+. Apply every day to face, neck, chest and hands before leaving the house and wear protective hat and clothing as much as possible. Sun avoidance is the most effective and least expensive cosmetic tip. Don’t forget eyes and lips— wear a hat, sunglasses, and lip SPF when outdoors.
If you like the look of tanned skin, choose a self-tanner to apply at home. These topical creams, lotions or towelettes contain DHA, a sugar molecule that bronzes the top layer of the skin, which is why thicker areas of the skin, such as palms, soles, elbows and knees uptake more of the product. Self-tanners work best when the skin is exfoliated prior to using. The browning effect occurs within a few hours and lasts about 7-10 days, gradually fading as those layers naturally exfoliate. Spray tans are fine, also, as long as you avoid inhalation and DHA can be toxic to your lungs.
- Exfoliate more – skin in the summer tends to be more hydrated, oily and acne-prone. Use this time to properly exfoliate the dead adherent layers from your skin. If done without aggravating the skin, you will stimulate new skin formation and a fresh glow.
How to exfoliate: For the body, use a body brush or exfoliating scrub in the shower and hydrate immediately upon exiting. For your face, look for a cleanser with salicylic or glycolic acid and use a Clarisonic or Philips VisaPure Advanced for gentle and effective exfoliation. I recommend applying a cleanser directly to your face and neck and then wetting the device and cleansing for two full minutes. Avoid harsh, cheap knockoffs over-the-counter and avoid harsh scrubs, as these will tear the elastic tissue in your skin and leave red blotches.
Dr. Haley’s favorites – (body) CeraVe SA cream, which has a ceramide-rich moisturizer with salicylic acid to both exfoliate and hydrate; Replenix Body Lotion, which has ceramides for hydration, caffeine for cellulite reduction, and retinol to reverse sun damage and help rejuvenate the skin. (face) SkinCeuticals Purifying or LHA Cleanser or SkinMedica AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser.
- Nutrition – Eat sun protective-foods and hydrate. Many of the healthy nutritional choices you make for your body will also benefit your skin. Consuming antioxidants found in berries, pomegranate, turmeric, tomatoes, carrots and green tea can internally protect your skin from UV damage. The phytonutrients present in colorful, real food will also impart a natural rosy glow. Add as many colors of the rainbow to your plate daily, and remember that real food from nature will always provide your body and skin with more benefits than anything packaged. In addition to the multitude of phytonutrients found in fruits and vegetables, look for astaxanthin, a fat-soluble pigment found in microalgae (chlorella, spirulina), salmon, trout and shrimp. Wild sockeye salmon has the highest concentration of this amazing, powerful antioxidant. Astaxanthin has been shown in multiple studies to improve skin health.
Avoiding sugar and high-carbohydrate, processed foods (which quickly convert to sugar in the body) is one of the most important things you can do for your skin. When blood sugar levels are high, a chemical reaction called glycation occurs. This excess sugar binds to collagen and elastin in the skin (and other organs) and forms AGEs (advanced glycation end products), making these proteins become rigid. These rigid molecules become dysfunctional and lose their elasticity— the result is sagging, sallow skin with coarse wrinkles. Sugar and carbohydrates also cause low-grade inflammation, leading to acne breakouts and facial redness.
As the weather heats up and you are sweating more, you may need more water to stay hydrated. Since water is used in the process of removing toxins from the body through sweat and the kidneys, it is important to drink enough water to keep your body hydrated (urine should be clear).
- Supplement wisely – See my previous article for a deep dive into nutraceuticals for acne and anti-aging. When the sun is strong, daily use of a supplement containing natural Polypodium leucotomos, such as Heliocare or Sunsafe Rx, will naturally and internally protect the cells from UV-induced DNA damage.
- Dress appropriately – When the weather gets hotter, friction on the skin combined with increased sweating can cause folliculitis and breakouts. Sweat is one of the mechanisms our body uses to purge itself of toxins, so avoid anything that doesn’t allow sweat to freely flow. Wear breathable clothing and moisture-wicking clothing to prevent friction and excess moisture. Don’t sit in your sweaty clothing for long periods of time; shower off after your killer workout and put on some loose clothing.