It is easy to forget your skin when thinking about the organs in your body, but the American Academy of Dermatology reminds us the skin is not only your largest organ, but it is also the fastest growing organ on your body. Your other organs are protected inside your body, however, your skin is exposed to the elements daily. It is vital to take care of your skin — and that involves being mindful of what you put on your skin.
We talked to two doctors to find out the right way to care for your skin during the summer months when you are exposed to more sunlight and even more sweat than usual.
HOW SWEAT AFFECTS SKIN
Our skin is constantly bombarded as it comes in contact with sunlight and pollutants in the air. More than that, as your own body produces sweat, it can also wreak havoc on your skin. According to the International Hyperhidrosis Society, roughly 5% of the population experiences excessive sweating daily and, of course, runners are even more prone to sweating as temperatures rise in the summer months. The increase in sweat can be problematic for your skin, causing everything from itchiness to breakouts.
“Perspiration can cause what we call heat rash,” explains Dr. Maryam Zamani, a leading Oculoplastic Surgeon and Aesthetic Doctor, and the creator and founder of MZ Skin. “[This is] where small bumps appear from the accumulation of sweat from the skin.”
In addition, Dr. Zamani shares you may notice acne breakouts, folliculitis — when the follicle gets infected, feeling itchy and tender and looking like a potential spot — and even an increase in sun allergies for those taking medications or who already have sun sensitivity.
Of course sunburn and skin cancer caused by prolonged sun exposure are also a concern during the summer months, so understanding how to take care of your skin is essential. You want to maintain a proper skincare regimen year round, however, during the summer months, taking sweat into consideration takes priority.
CARING FOR YOUR SKIN
Whether you run or not, you want to have a skincare routine, but on days that you hit the roads, track or trails, you want to pay special attention to certain areas of your skin. According to Dr. Steven Wang, co-founder of Dr. Wang Herbal Skincare, those include the forehead and temples on your face, as well as chest and back.
“The easiest thing to do is wipe off excess sweat in the inner arm, neck and chin where sweat accumulates the most,” he shares. “In the morning [or] prior to the run, use a gentle cleanser then consider using sunscreen with at least SPF 30. Afterwards, wash the face with a gentle cleanser or soap and water. Follow up with moisturizer or [serum, such as] our Nourishing Youth Serum.”
In addition, Dr. Wang encourages showering and changing out of your sweaty clothes as soon as you can after a workout. He also says to beware before wearing a headband. Check that it has sweat-wicking properties or it may trap sweat and cause skin irritation.
NEVER LEAVE HOME WITHOUT THIS
One of the most vital pieces of skincare is sunscreen. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “about 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.” Understanding how sunscreen works to protect your skin can serve as a great incentive to wear it daily.
“SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and works as an equation to determine the amount of UV radiation it would take to burn the skin without sun protection,” explains Dr. Zamani. “So, if it takes light skin 10 minutes to burn and you use an SPF of 15, it would protect you for approximately 15 minutes if the sun protection is used correctly. Sunscreens today generally protect against UVA and UVB and are often contain chemical actives.”
Dr. Zamani adds that it should be used consistently and re-applied as needed, so carrying sunscreen with you is ideal. Additionally, it should be applied as the last part of your skincare routine, under makeup. If you are looking for specific recommendations to make sure you have the right level of SPF, Dr. Zamani shares some of her favorites.
“I recommend using an SPF like EltaMD SPF 46 for the face, which is transparent with zinc oxide or Heliocare 360 Gel Oil-Free SPF 50, which also combines antioxidants like [vitamins] C and E, and also helps regulate oil production so one appears less oily,” she shares. “In general look for alcohol-free and oil-free SPF. Mineral and physical sunscreens like zinc oxide and titanium help absorb excess skin oils.”
If you regularly see a dermatologist, they will often include a sunscreen in your daily regimen, some of which are prescribed. If you already have sensitive skin or are prone to breakouts no matter the time of year, getting your skin checked regularly and working with a doctor to properly care for your skin is recommended.