While the monsoons bring a welcome respite from summer heat, they also pose a lot of challenges to healthy skin. The heat-induced rashes of summertime give way to the humidity-induced problems of the rainy season. If you are health-conscious and take a few simple precautions, you can save yourself a lot of misery over bad skin.
The biggest skin complaint during the monsoon has to be fungal infections. A fungus thrives in humidity -- wet skin folds rubbing against each other get macerated easily, providing easy entry to fungi and yeast. As a result, you develop itchy, circular, reddish, flaking patches on the body, especially in skin folds at the groin (Jock Itch), underarms and around the breast in women.
Fungal infections can also affect your feet, especially if you wear closed shoes all day. Staying dry is the best way to avoid them. Carry a set of dry clothes and footwear to the office and change immediately if you've gotten drenched on your way.
Once you are seated at your desk, take your shoes and socks off to allow air circulation around your feet. Wear sandals or floaters as far as possible. Use plenty of dusting talc to prevent accumulation of sweat and moisture in skin folds. Those prone to repeated fungal infections can use medicated powders like Absorb, Mycoderm etc.
Athlete's Foot is a combined bacterial and fungal infection that affects people whose feet stay wet for hours, especially after exposure to dirty water. Starting from the toes, the skin turns whitish or greenish, itches terribly and there may even be a foul-smelling discharge or pus.
Prevent this by thoroughly washing your feet with soap and hot water after wading through stagnant water and then dry them completely. If the water was particularly dirty, it's advisable after the wash to soak your feet for a few minutes in a tub of warm water with three or four cap-fulls of betadine solution added to it. This is a powerful Povidone-iodine based disinfectant and can also be added to the last few mugfulls of your bath water if you've had to battle through a flood like the terrible 20/7 ordeal back in 2005 -- in such cases, it's also recommended that you consult your dermatologist regarding an oral antibiotic.
Scabies is another common infection that preys on both children and adults during the monsoon -- it is caused by a mite infestation. If your child complains about a body itch that intensifies at night and you see a few red bumps or a rash on his/her hands, wrists, underarms, abdomen, groin and buttocks, then rush to the dermatologist -- this condition is highly contagious and invariably spreads to the family if not treated properly.
Sickly, dull, oily-looking skin is common during the rainy season. Nondescript itching also occurs occasionally. A few additional tips on how to keep your complexion glowing:Use a face scrub twice a week to exfoliate. Avoid heavy moisturising creams or oily foundations and cream-based colour makeup. Use a light mousse or a matte compact or simply a few drops of calamine lotion as a makeup base. A facewash containing alpha hydroxyl acid (like Ahaglow) helps to freshen the skin, but do not use it more than once a day. Use a toner each time you wash your face to close the pores and restore your skin's pH balance. Chemical peels (skin treatment performed by dermatologists) are also an excellent way to freshen up dull skin and the monsoon is the best weather for them -- there is no risk of sun exposure and sensitivity after the peeling session. There are a variety of peels available nowadays -- skin-lightening peels, acne peels, peels for sensitive skin, arginine peels for under-eye circles etc. Ask your dermatologist for details.
Have a healthy monsoon!
Dr Parul S Kolhe is an MBBS and holds a DDV and DNB in dermatology.
Photograph: Manpreet Romana/AFP/Getty Images