Is your skin ready for summer?
By now you’ve reorganized your closet and swapped out your wool socks for wedges. You’ve stowed bottles of burgundy to make room for sparkling rosés. Just as your wardrobe and eating habits need to adjust for summer, so does your skin care regimen. A change in weather, after all, can alter your skin as dramatically as it alters your mood.
Many experts say that the first step in readying your skin for its summer debut is exfoliation.
“Like spring renews nature, you need to renew your skin and get rid of dead skin cells that build up so it can breathe,” says Lissy Jensen, an aesthetician who owns Salon Nordic Skin Care on Newbury Street with her sister Laila. “Your skin is a detox organ, along with the liver.”
It’s important to remember that “skin care” is all-encompassing, not just a matter of face.
“A lot of people overlook total body exfoliation. I recommend dry-brushing every morning to exfoliate,” says Laura Benge, national spa director for Exhale, referring to a brush with firm bristles. “It kick-starts everything: It increases circulation and helps drain the lymph system, which helps your body get rid of toxins. And it’s less mess than exfoliant.”
Any mention of summer skin care ultimately becomes a discussion about sunscreen. This year, there’s lots to discuss because the FDA instituted new labeling regulations for sunscreen manufacturers last winter. “Water resistant” has universally replaced “waterproof,” and labels now indicate how much time protection lasts — 40 minutes or 80 minutes — if you’re swimming or sweating. The term “sunblock” is officially obsolete.
“Nothing truly, completely ‘blocks’ out sun. Now everything is labeled ‘sunscreen.’ You won’t find any creams labeled ‘sunblock,’ ” explains Emmy Graber, assistant professor of Dermatology at Boston University School of Medicine and director of the BU Cosmetic and Laser Center. But that isn’t the only change the new regulations bring.
“Products that protect against the two UVA and UVB, different types of ultraviolet rays, are termed ‘broad spectrum.’ They’re both harmful: UVA is more responsible for aging of the skin and UVB causes more burns. The SPF number only reflects UVB protection, so it’s misleading to just go by SPF number. Look for 30 SPF or higher, but also get one labeled ‘broad spectrum.’ ”
Another thing to consider when buying sunscreen? Avoid aerosol. Though it sounds like a Lucy Ricardo-caliber debacle, Graber warns that people often make the mistake of spraying aerosol products in the wind. She notes the FDA is investigating effects of aerosol fumes, so if you must use aerosol, spray on your hands when applying to the face. Dr. Graber is also quick to remind people not to forget to apply sunblock to the tops of their ears, an area she often sees affected by skin cancer. One more common blunder: If your lip gloss doesn’t have SPF (again she recommends at least level 30), it can actually absorb the sun’s rays.
While the sun causes a host of problems, humidity comes with its own share. Humidity opens pores, leaving skin more susceptible to grime and dust, which can clog pores. Nevertheless, experts say, washing your face more than usual isn’t always helpful. Violet Mkhitaryan, owner of Violet Skin Boutique in Brookline, says using masks is critical in the heat. It’s a one-stop-shop for cleaning, cooling, hydrating, and tightening pores and giving the skin a lift. This summer she’s using a formula she designed with jasmine, cherry blossoms, and herbs.
When it comes to soap and moisturizer, most experts recommend using a lighter product in warm weather. But even in summer a little oil can be a good thing for skin.
“It can take a while to convince people who always use oil-free products, but a little oil actually helps keep skin under control,” says Pete Dziedzic, who owns skoah Boston in the South End and is preparing to open a Newbury Street location. “If you have oily skin, be careful with oil-free products. A little oil maintains skin’s natural levels; if you dry out your skin, it’ll hyper-produce oil.”
And if the sun does get the best of you, Mkhitaryan has a remedy anyone can try at home.
“A plain yogurt mask for 30 minutes will take away a burn’s discomfort, she says. “It’s better to use yogurt that’s not fat-free. Lactic acid is a natural acid that soothes. Wash it off, but don’t use soap. Then moisturize with a cream that isn’t oil-free.”