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Your skin is your shield against the environment. When excessive temperatures threaten to overheat your body, your skin protects the delicate inner organs and maintains a steady body temperature. However, in the process it bears the brunt of the heat and gets sunburned, tanned, wrinkled, blemished or damaged. Learning to protect your skin in summer is thus very important!
Half of summer-related skin infections would not occur if people maintained proper hygiene. Shower at least twice a day to prevent build-up of dried salts and sweat-induced bacterial growth. Do not over-use anti-perspirants as they not only clog pores but inhibit sweating, which is necessary to cool the body and eliminate toxins. Instead, use loose talc to absorb excess secreted sweat. Never spray deos on broken, irritated or sunburned skin. If you see a ringworm infection (circular red patches on the body that itch intensely), yeast infections (whitish macerated itchy skin, especially in boldily folds like the groin) or athlete's foot, consult your dermatologist immediately.
~ Sun protection
Second to moisturiser, sunscreens are the most ubiquitously used skincare product -- and also the most incorrectly used! Each brand contains different ingredients -- some are UBA-blocking agents, some for UVB, some are chemical sunblocks and others (like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) are physical sunblocks ie they form an opaque barrier against the penetration of UV rays.
Take help from a qualified skin specialist to choose the right sunscreen for you. Apply at least 10 to 15 minutes before sun exposure and always use generously. Being stingy with your sunscreen can drop its effectiveness by half! A 5-rupee coin sized blob is enough for your face; double that quantity for each arm. Re-apply every 2-3 hours. For swimming or the beach, use a waterproof sunblock and reapply each time you towel yourself dry. Sunscreens can protect from sunburns, blemishes and skin aging due to UV exposure, but do not completely prevent a tan. Physically blocking the sun with an umbrella, a wide-rimmed hat and sunglasses will prevent tanning.
~ Antioxidants (the internal sun protectors)
Oxidative damage by ultraviolet radiation can be mitigated by adequate intake of antioxidants. You can take them naturally in fresh salads and brightly-coloured fruit. Mangoes in this season and papayas are rich in carotene, sweet limes and lemons are packed with Vitamin C and iced tea is rich in flavonoids -- all excellent sources of antioxidants. If 'rabbit food' is not your thing, ask your doctor to prescribe some antioxidant capsules for you.
Sweating makes us forget just how much we need moisturisers. Heat saps moisture from the skin, leaving it dry and rough. You must use light, water-based moisturisers instead of oily ones each time you wash your face. Drink two-three litres of water daily to stay well-hydrated.
~ Makeup rules for summer
Keep it light! Layered foundation not only drips with sweat and looks patchy, but clogs the pores and aggravates pimples. Go for sheer loose powders and powder bronzers instead.
~ Emergency solutions
Apply icepacks and a layer of chilled calamine lotion (Markal, Calosoft etc) for an acute sunburn. If really painful, you can also mix in some Fluticasone cream (Flutivate cream). For heat rashes (prickly heat) again calamine lotion works well. Take some Vitamin C as well -- a 500 mg tablet daily for 10 days or so -- and wear loose clothing. If the conditions persist, consult a dermatologist. Tan removing treatments are also available nowadays. Mild tans can, however, be remedied at home with cucumber slices or tomato pulp applied for 10 minutes daily. Never try to bleach a sunburned area of the skin or you'll end up causing irritation.
Follow these simple rules and your skin will remain your best asset this summer!
Dr Parul S Kolhe is an MBBS, DDV and DNB in dermatology.
Photograph: Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty images
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