Five tips for summer-safe skin
Gearing up for a summer of camping, swimming, beachcombing and hiking? With a little planning, you can also be prepared for a summer of safe skin, thanks to some tips from Dr. Rex Ugorji, a dermatologist with Adventist Health Hanford.
The sunscreen secret
Most people know to use sunscreen. But to avoid a painful sunburn, Dr. Ugorji offers one little secret: “You must reapply every two hours,” he says. He adds you should reapply sunscreen every time you come out of the water.
“UV rays are coming from above and reflecting from the water,” he warns. “You’re getting hit twice.”
He also recommends using clothing and a broad-rim hat to protect you and your kids from the sun. “Go Indiana Jones style this summer,” he says.
Leaves of three
More subtle than the danger of sunshine, toxins from plants like poison oak and poison ivy can create similar discomfort—including inflammation and blisters—when their toxic oils touch your skin.
Avoiding poison oak and poison ivy are the first steps to keeping your skin safe. Three ways to steer clear of these noxious natives include:
- Make sure you know what these plants look like before venturing near the woods
- Remember the old phrase “leaves of three, let it be”
- Wear long sleeves and pants in the woods and gloves while you garden
Be especially careful about burning poison oak and poison ivy in campfires or burn piles. “Smoke carries the toxin,” Dr. Ugorji explains. “People get really bad allergic reactions in their lungs this way.”
If you do get into toxic plants and find yourself suffering from a rash, wash carefully with cool water and soap to keep the toxic oil from spreading. Then apply hydrocortisone cream twice a day.
Dr. Ugorji suggests you see your doctor if:
- More than 3 percent of your skin is affect by the rash
- You have swelling, pain, pus or a fever
- The rash doesn’t respond within two weeks to home treatment
Dr. Ugorji notes that prescription topical cream is better than what you can buy at the store. Some people require a prescription for oral medication to get the reaction to resolve.
When bites bug you
Avoiding bug bites and stings is not unlike staying away from poison plants. Dr. Ugorji again recommends long sleeves and trousers. He also suggests covering up with a good bug repellent.
Another important step is to check your clothes, yourself and your family regularly for ticks. These little black bugs feast on your blood by attaching to your skin. They like to hide in dark places like:
- Hair and hairline
- Belly button
If you find a tick attached to your skin, remove it carefully. Then watch the area for any sign of a bullseye-shaped rash, which could indicate the start of Lyme disease. If a rash appears, be sure to visit your primary care provider right away.
An over-the-counter antihistamine can reduce the itchy reaction that comes with bee stings and many bug bites. Calamine lotion or a paste of baking soda mixed with water may bring some comfort too.
When summer burns
Campfires and barbecues are fun and delicious parts of summer—until a fire-hot marshmallow slithers out of your s’more and burns your skin.
If the worst happens and you find yourself with a minor burn, Dr. Ugorji offers several tips to help you heal more easily:
- Put the burned area in cold water immediately.
- Apply pure petroleum jelly—not lotion—to the damp burn.
- Leave any blisters in place to act as a natural bandage.
Burns that cover more than a few square inches of skin, leave your skin charred or white, or show signs of infection like pus or fever need to be seen by a physician.
Gentle skin care for any season
Dr. Ugorji tells his patient to follow a simple skin care regimen to keep their skin healthy any time of year:
- Shower in lukewarm water no more than once a day for five to 10 minutes.
- Use a nonscented soap and wash with your hand—no sponge or washcloth.
- Pat your skin with a towel until damp, not dry.
- While your skin is still damp, cover your skin head to toe with pure petroleum jelly, except use a facial lotion on the face.
- Moisturize again a second time each day, and keep lotion handy if you wash your hands a lot in your job or going about your day.
- Launder your clothes in a hypoallergenic, fragrance-free detergent, and avoid fabric softeners entirely.
- Use forearm-length gloves while doing dishes.
Stay safe to keep summer fun
In addition to keeping your skin safe, Dr. Ugorji wants everyone to get enough water and watch out for heat exhaustion. “Sunscreen isn’t enough. You need to take time out of the sun,” he says. “You need to protect your brain from overheating.”
Sun, plants, bugs and barbecues are all part of summer. Taking a few steps before you head into the great outdoors can help keep your skin safe, comfortable and ready for a whole season of fun.