If you live in a temperate climate, different times of year seem to come with different skin woes. In the winter, many people find that their skin feels dry, cracked, and more sensitive. In the warmer months, on the other hand, when the air becomes more humid and the sun is more powerful, a whole new slew of summer skin issues crops up.
Not to mention, since people tend to spend more time outdoors during the summer months, bugs and other outdoor pests can also contribute to some not-so-fun skin situations, says Dr. Marisa Garshick, M.D., F.A.A.D., New York City-based dermatologist and member of The Vitamin Shoppe Wellness Council.
So, what do you do when these common summer skin issues have you itching, burnt, or feeling downright uncomfortable? Follow this expert advice.
Sunburn is one of the most common summer skin issues—and probably one you already anticipate, given that the warmer months mean stronger UV rays, more outdoor activities, and increased sun exposure, notes Garshick.
“Sunburn can appear as redness of the skin that may blister, flake, and feel warm to the touch, tender, or itchy,” she says.
To prevent sunburn as well as long-term sun damage caused by excess sun exposure, Garshick recommends wearing a broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen and making sure to reapply every two hours. If you wind up developing a sunburn, apply an aloe-containing gel, take ibuprofen, and, most importantly, avoid additional sun exposure for at least a few days.
This type of skin irritation tends to crop up as a result of rubbing or friction. It often appears red or discolored and is more likely to occur in areas that are in close contact with other areas of skin, fabric, or moisture, such as the thighs, breasts, buttocks, and underarms, explains Garshick. “Chafing tends to be more common in the summer months given the combination of heat and moisture,” she says. “It’s more common when sweat is present, so those who exercise in the summer may be more prone to it.”
If you’re dealing with chafing, Garshick recommends applying a barrier cream to minimize the potential for rubbing. (Check out PROVAULT Anti-Chafe Skin Glide.) Avid exercisers and heavy sweaters should also change out of any sweaty clothing (and ideally shower) ASAP to minimize further irritation.
3. Bug bites
The summertime is practically synonymous with bug bites, which often appear as red bumps that are quite uncomfortable and itchy. Wearing long pants and sleeves as well as using bug spray can help, but may not be enough to completely ward off these pests, Garshick says.
Read More: Natural Ways To Repel Bugs And Soothe Bites
“After a bug bites you, your skin responds with an inflammatory reaction, which contributes to the redness, swelling, and itching that may occur,” she explains. “Although bug bites will often subside on their own, it can help to use a topical steroid cream or an anti-itch lotion to calm the skin.” (You can also try a couple of natural soothers, like honey, aloe vera, and paste made with ground oats.)
4. Poison ivy dermatitis
Though poison ivy looks harmless, it contains a sap called urushiol that can cause a delayed hypersensitivity reaction that can show up on the skin as red patches (sometimes in a linear pattern) that ooze or blister, explains Garshick.
Poison ivy tends to have three leaflets with a middle leaf that’s much longer than the two on the sides—and the surface of the plant can be quite glossy, per the American Museum of Natural History. If you think you were exposed to it, Garshick recommends washing your skin with soap and water and throwing any affected clothes in the washing machine. “If poison ivy dermatitis develops, it can be treated with topical or oral steroids, but it’s best to speak with a dermatologist to determine the best treatment,” she says. “Other gels or creams that cool and soothe the skin, such as aloe, can be applied to calm the itching.”
5. Tick Bites
Like poison ivy, ticks generally become a more common concern in the warmer months, notes New York City-based dermatologist Richard Torbeck, M.D. Since your likeliness of being exposed to a tick increases with the amount of time you spend outside, he recommends familiarizing yourself with any ticks that might inhabit your region.
The northeast, midwest, and some parts of the southwest tend to be the most populated with ticks, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, Torbeck warns that these patterns are shifting rapidly with climate change, allowing ticks to increase the range of their domain.
Tick bites can lead to Lyme disease, which can make you quite sick, so it’s important to respond as soon as possible if you’ve been affected. The CDC recommends using fine-tipped tweezers to remove the tick and then following up by applying rubbing alcohol to the affected area. It’s also a good idea to call your healthcare provider, who can let you know what symptoms to look out for and create a game plan should any pop up.
6. Dry skin
Believe it or not, dry skin can be surprisingly common in the summertime—especially if you spend a lot of time with your air conditioning on blast. “AC increases dry air in our home or workplace, which acts as a convective cooling measure to draw away heat,” explains Torbeck. “However, this cooling can also remove some of the natural moisturizing factors on the outer layer of our skin and impact the skin’s delicate barrier.” If this occurs, you may experience dry, flaky skin, eczema, or even psoriasis. Luckily, treatment is simple, he says: Just apply moisturizer often and avoid washing the skin too often (more than once a day), as this can strip the skin of its natural oils and worsen already dry skin.
When to see a doctor
While many summer skin issues are nothing to worry much about, it never hurts to check in with your doctor if you’re unsure of your symptoms, are uncomfortable, or have an issue that isn’t improving or going away, Garshick says. “Many summer-related skin changes, while not necessarily harmful, can be addressed or managed,” she notes. “A doctor can help to evaluate them and determine the best treatment.”