7 Tips for Making Summertime Acne a Breeze

June marks the official start of summer…and, perhaps not coincidentally, also Acne Awareness Month. That’s because acne is often worse in the summer, when heat, humidity, and sweat stimulate the skin’s production of oil and sebum—causing oily skin, blackheads, and breakouts. Heat and humidity also contribute to acne mechanica, which can develop when the skin is exposed to excess heat, or when it is irritated by the friction of clothes or athletic equipment under hot, humid conditions.

But fear not! A few simple changes in your skincare routine can help minimize acne problems all summer long.

  1. Keep your skin clean.
    The first step in your skincare routine should be gently cleansing your face twice daily. I recommend a foaming cleanser because the foaming action loosens dirt and clogged pores easily, without scrubbing. You might also choose a product with salicylic acid, which is a great acne-fighting ingredient.If your skin gets exceptionally oily or sweaty during the day—say, after a workout, or other sweat-producing activity—you can add a third cleansing, but don’t wash your face too often. That will only break down the skin’s protective barrier, contributing to dryness and irritation, which ultimately can worsen breakouts.
  2. Use an astringent or toner.
    After washing, apply a cooling astringent, which removes excess oil from the skin’s surface and also serves to close and tighten the freshly washed pores. If your skin tends to dryness, choose a hydrating toner, rather than a drying astringent. Murad’s Hydrating Toner, for example, rehydrates and refreshes skin while restoring its natural pH balance. Glycolic acid-containing pads are another option for great pore-refining benefits.Whatever astringent or toning product you choose, it should leave your skin feeling good. If it burns, choose one with more soothing ingredients: cucumber, rose, chamomile, etc.
  3. Apply your acne medication.
    There are many over-the-counter acne medications with ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, which are both effective at fighting blackheads and whiteheads, with good anti-inflammatory properties. Once or twice a week, you might also try a peel or mask. These exfoliate the skin, removing the dirt and bacteria that can lead to breakouts, and are also soothing and hydrating, reducing irritation and inflammation, discoloration, and even scarring.
  4. Apply a lightweight moisturizer.
    Unless you have exceptionally dry skin, you can probably use a lighter moisturizer in the summer than you do in winter. Don’t skip the moisturizer altogether, though, even if it seems counter-intuitive to moisturize already oily skin. That’s because acne medications—and many astringents—will dry your skin. Choose a moisturizer that is labeled noncomedogenic, which means it doesn’t clog pores. (Bear in mind, however, that not all noncomedogenic moisturizers are labeled, so if you’ve had good luck with one, it’s probably OK to continue with it.)
  5. Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen
    Many acne medications, including those with retinol or benzoyl peroxide, make your skin more susceptible to sunburn, so religious use of a sunscreen is essential! Without it, you risk sun damage, premature aging, wrinkles, and skin cancer. Again, choose a noncomedogenic, oil-free sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Also consider a sunhat, long sleeves, and other protective clothing.
  6. Eat your water! And your sunscreen!
    In the summer, this is easier than ever when so many water-rich fruits and vegetables are plentiful. Hydrating your skin from the inside-out and locking the moisture in with a topical moisturizer provides the double protection your skin needs to function optimally. Two of my favorite hydrating foods are watermelon and pomegranates, which also increase the effectiveness of sunscreen!
  7. Manage your stress.
    You’ve probably noticed that your skin tends to break out on those days when you least want it to: the day of a big interview, an important first date, your wedding (!), or other “command performance.” That’s due to stress—and managing stress is a lifetime practice. You know the strategies: eat healthily, get plenty of sleep and exercise, practice gratitude and other positive self-talk, journal your feelings, and do what nourishes you.
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