Everything You Need To Know About Acne In Summer

Acne is a common skin condition which can become more problematic in the summer. To understand how to minimise any flares in the summer months, it’s important to understand some basic principles behind the cause of acne.

What causes acne?

Acne is a multifactorial condition – meaning that there are multiple factors that come into play that eventually lead to the inflammatory spots seen on the skin. One of the key risk factors is having naturally seborrhoeic (oily) skin. This means our skin pores are more susceptible to becoming clogged with sebum (natural skin oils) and keratin (dead skin). Secondly, we all have a naturally occurring bacteria called P.Acnes that is found on our skin. However, this bacteria thrives in oily environments – which is why this naturally occurring bacteria can then become problematic if you are prone to developing acne, as both sebum and bacteria create a perfect environment for inflammation and acne to develop.

Is acne worse in the summer?

The summer months can be particularly challenging for acne sufferers and here are some of the key reasons why:

  • Humidity and Sweating

Increased humidity leads to excessive sweating which contributes to an overall even greasier environment on the skin surface. Sweating can lead to further blockage of follicles and alongside the already greasy environment, P.Acnes can multiple rapidly resulting in further inflammation.

  • Follicular occlusion

In humid and sweaty conditions, clothing that remains in direct contact with the skin can cause occlusion of hair follicles (which we have on most parts of our body). This direct skin contact can not only exacerbate acne but causes generalised skin irritation which is why many of us experience a ‘heat rash’ in summer months, with acne-like lesions arising on other parts of our body. A good example of this is seen in those whom regularly go to the gym and do not immediately shower/change clothes afterwards.

  • Sunscreen and make-up application

It is well known that higher UV levels mean that regular broad-spectrum sunscreen use is needed. This is because protection against UVA/UVB rays is very important. However, this can be a difficult balance for acne sufferers. Sunscreens can have a greasy texture that can lead to further clogging of the pores and a ‘heavy’ feeling on the surface of the skin. However, there are now numerous acne friendly sunscreens that are oil-free and designed to be non-comedogenic – meaning they are designed to minimise acne breakouts. There are also tinted sunscreens available which may give you the confidence to apply less foundation and make-up.

Top tips for minimising acne in summer

1. Cleanse your skin twice daily with water and a cleanser that suits your skin. Be aware that soaps and cleansers containing alcohol can irritate and overly dry the skin, which may lead to sebum production.

2. Avoid over-exfoliation. This should be minimised to once-twice a week, as excessive exfoliation can cause irritation and lead to further acne breakouts.

3. Use oil-free and non-comedogenic makeup and sunscreen. You may find using a tinted sunscreen means you need to apply less foundation which can often clog skin pores. The fewer layers of makeup you apply, the better.

4. Wear loose airy clothing. Natural fabrics such as cotton are much less likely to exacerbate any follicular occlusion.

5. After going to the gym get changed and shower immediately afterwards.

6. Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated is key for an overall healthy body and mind and that includes your skin!

In summary, although acne can become more troublesome in summer you can take control to minimise it and our team are always on-hand to help with any questions you may have.

Dr Noha Elshimy
Dr Noha Elshimy
Dr Noha Elshimy graduated from the University of Birmingham with honours and two distinctions. She is currently undergoing her specialisation in dermatology in the UK. Through her training, she wholly appreciates both the physical and psychological impact that dermatological conditions can have on patients. She has a passion for teaching others and has been regularly involved with teaching medical students from the local university.
Originally published July 10 2018, updated April 10 2019

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