Natural skincare products on a grey background

Looking after your skin is massively important. However, sourcing the right products for your skin type can be challenging – particularly if you’re uncertain of what category you fall under. Throughout your life, your skin will go through multiple changes; whilst you may have suffered from oily, acne-prone skin as a teenager, you may now be noticing dryness. Although age plays a factor in this, so do the seasons, so you should make sure that you’re catering to your skin’s needs over the course of the year.

As the weather begins to warm up, a variety of different factors can alter your skin. Increased exposure to the sun, bugs and insects, in addition to a change in humidity, can alter the appearance of your skin. In this guide, we’re going to take a look at some of the causes of changes to your skin and how you can combat them. From natural remedies to expert advice, find out more below.

Sun damage

Sun cream and after sun on the beach

No matter what age you are, looking after your skin is essential. However, this is even more important during the summer as the sun’s harsh UV rays can cause lasting damage, even penetrating your skin through thick clouds.

There are myriad benefits that accompany spending time outside, so when the weather begins to heat up, spending time in your garden or at a park is a wonderful afternoon activity. With this in mind, you’ll need to ensure that your skin is properly prepared, and that means beyond just a quick slather of an SPF.

Medication

We spoke to Emrys from the cruise travel blog Cruise Hive who informed us that: “Many older people don’t realise how the sun can impact their skin. This is especially true when taking more medication as they get older as this can cause more sensitivity to the sun.”

Prescription medication, particularly serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can cause your skin to change, making it more prone to bruising. Additionally, if you’ve started a recent course of antibiotics, or regularly need to take ibuprofen, your skin can become increasingly sensitive to sunlight. This means that you are at a higher risk of sunburn, something which can be incredibly uncomfortable.

Although prescription medication and antibiotics can cause changes to your skin, putting you at risk of sunburn, antihistamines can also have a similar impact. During summer, many people experience hay fever or similar allergies due to spending more time outside, with an antihistamine recommended to reduce symptoms. However, this medication can cause skin sensitivity and photoallergic reactions, including blisters and hives when exposed to the sun. To avoid this, opt for an antihistamine without the ingredient diphenhydramine. 

Antihistamines can also be recommended to combat the pain felt as a result of sunburn, so it is important to look for options without diphenhydramine. There are a variety available over the counter which include active ingredients such as cetirizine, loratadine and fexofenadine that have minimal photosensitivity side effects. Additionally, as the active ingredient, diphenhydramine, has a sedative effect, these alternatives are often better for use during the summer.

Skin cancer

Not only can sunburn be painful, causing your skin to feel hot and appear red, but frequent bouts over long periods of time can increase the risk of skin cancer. This is a result of damage to your skin’s cells and the levels of ultraviolet radiation that are absorbed. If you have experienced regular sunburn over the course of your life, you’re more at risk, so taking preventative measures is best.

According to Cancer Research, 44 people are diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer each day, making it the 5th most common cancer in the UK. Fortunately, there are many things that you can do to help lower the risk of diagnosis. Making changes to your diet, such as increasing the number of antioxidants that you eat, can help decrease the number of free radicals present. Free radicals are a result of UV exposure and can cause inflammation, whilst also changing your skin’s properties. Skincancer.org mentions that “dermatologists more now than ever advise patients to feast on foods high in these nutrients. Many also suggest applying topical products containing them, including sunscreens.”

SPF

The easiest way to prevent sunburn is by applying SPF to your face and body each day. This is important not only when the sun is shining but throughout the year. In winter, a lower level SPF can provide you with the right level of protection, but this should be increased during the warmer months to achieve the desired results. Emrys, from Cruise Hive, agrees and shared this with us: “It’s always important to increase the SPF level and expect further oily skin compared to winter due to the increase in humidity.”

SPF is the easiest way to avoid sunburn, so purchasing a quality moisturiser for your face, as well as a sun cream with an SPF of over 50, is vital. This is because it can block out the harmful UVB and UVA rays. According to sensitive skin specialists Psico, “80% of UVB rays can reflect from surfaces such as ice, snow, and sand and increase UV exposure, whilst UVA rays can penetrate through glass, such as your car window”. So, although it is important to wear some form of protection whilst outside, remember that you’re also putting yourself at risk when driving.

Your sun cream needs to be applied each day. However, if you’re swimming or feel as though it may have rubbed off in some parts, make sure to top it up. It is recommended that you apply an SPF 15 minutes before heading outside to give your skin time to soak it up. Not only will this mean that you’re protected once you step outside, but it also means that you should feel less sticky!

We asked Emrys what go-to products you should purchase: “I would always recommend Vaseline Aloe cream even when not in the sun; it doesn’t just help repair sun hit skin but also moisturises as normal. I actually use it daily and it’s great for any season.”

Insect bites

Unbranded skincare products and a pinecone

Bites and stings are never pleasant. However, you’re more at risk of a painful surprise during the warmer seasons. Not only can these hurt and look unsightly, but some can cause lasting damage and disease. From wasps and bees to ticks and flees, the first step is to identify what it is that has bitten you.

Depending on the type of bite, you may experience a number of different symptoms, including rashes, swelling and pain. Most of these side effects will subside after taking an antihistamine or applying a bite cream, but some, such as a circular rash from a tick, may be cause for concern.

Mosquito

In terms of bites, a mosquito bite is perhaps the most common and, as a result, they can be the easiest to identify. Due to the absence of teeth, a female mosquito will pierce your skin, sucking blood from two tubes to feed and provide protein to her eggs. During this process, mosquitos will use their saliva as an anticoagulant, which makes it easier to draw out blood. This can lead to blister-like swollen patches that may be itchy.

Although male mosquitos rely on the nectar of flowers for food, female mosquitos require the nutrients from your blood. Using their maxillary palp to detect CO2 from our breath, they can drink up to three times their own weight in blood. This means that they will feed on you until they are full, hibernating for several days afterwards.

There are more than 3,500 different species of mosquito all over the world. Although a mosquito bite isn’t normally harmful, some can carry disease and viruses, such as Malaria, Zika and yellow fever. Therefore, if you’ve travelled to a tropical area recently, it is best to have your mosquito bites checked to rule these diseases out.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the best way to prevent mosquito bites is by using an insect repellent and to install screens on your windows and doors to keep them out of your house. Additionally, The Broke Backpacker recommends purchasing a mosquito bracelet, as the lavender and citronella-infused material repels them or mosquito-proofed clothes to pair with your women’s wide fit shoes for a summer-appropriate outfit.

Bees and wasps

During the warmer months, alfresco dining is often interrupted by the presence of bees and wasps. A sting from both is similar, although identification can be helpful, especially in the case of anaphylaxis.

Wasps thrive in the warmer weather, with many dying throughout the winter months. Those that survive are fertilised to become queens, who will soon build their own communities from the eggs that are hatched. Despite living in colonies composed of self-contained communities, wasps do not swarm. Instead, according to deBugged, the “venom in wasps contains a pheromone that causes other wasps to become more aggressive”, so swatting near other wasps can cause anger.

Although wasps and bees are likely to avoid you, a sting from one of these can cause short-term pain and irritation. Once stung, venom is emitted resulting in a raised area of skin, with a white mark visible at the sting site. Those stung will feel a burning sensation and sharp pain, although this typically subsides after a couple of hours.

Stings do not normally cause any lasting damage, although large local reactions can occur, which means that you may have experienced an allergic reaction to the venom. In these instances, extreme swelling will occur, and you may feel nauseous. Despite being allergic, a large local reaction doesn’t lead to anaphylactic shock and any discomfort can be eased by an antihistamine.

When stung by a wasp, if you have difficulty breathing, dizziness, or swelling in the throat, emergency attention is required. The Mayo Clinic suggests that if you have experienced anaphylaxis from a wasp or bee sting before, you have a 30-60% chance of anaphylaxis again.

Ticks

When bitten by a tick, the insect embeds itself into your skin, meaning that they are often still attached by the time you notice. According to Daniel Cameron, ticks rely on human blood in order to advance to the next stage in their lives, so they will attach themselves to you, burying their head beneath layers of your skin. Starting off as a tiny larva, adult ticks can grow up to the size of a sesame seed, making them easily identifiable.

A tick bite isn’t normally painful; however, they may appear red and feel itchy. Although a tick bite can be harmless, they also can carry Lyme Disease, which Tick Talk Ireland describes as the fastest-growing vector-borne infection in the world. After being bitten by a tick, if you experience flu-like symptoms, a ringed-rash and fatigue, it is best to consult a doctor as these are symptoms of Lyme Disease.

Summer skincare recommendations

Three bottles of oil used in skincare

Changes to your skin are often easy to manage, especially if you know how to combat them. Throughout summer, there are a number of different products that you can incorporate into your routine in order to minimise the appearance of fine lines, prevent dryness and improve elasticity. However, it is important to first identify areas that need improvement in order to ensure that you’re using the right products for your skin type.

Retinol

Otherwise known as Vitamin A1, retinol is a fantastic product to use for the stimulation of new skin cells. Stylecaster mentions that “they help to fade dark spots resulting from photo-ageing, hyperpigmentation, hormonal changes, and blemish scars”, so adding these ingredients to your skincare routine can come with a wealth of benefits.

Summer is the perfect time to start using a retinol serum or cream, as your skin may take a while to adapt to the ingredient. The warmer weather can lower the risk of dryness, a side effect you may experience when you start using the product. However, retinol can increase sun sensitivity, so it is important to pair with a high SPF. As a result, using retinol at night is the best way to add this to your skincare routine and avoid using if you have sunburn.

Vitamin C

Exposure to the sun can increase melanin production, leading to dark spots, but using products with Vitamin C can help to avoid this. B-Glowing attributes this to it “reducing the oxidation of existing pigment, preventing it from getting darker”. Working to minimise dark spots, you can also see a reduction in fine lines thanks to its anti-ageing properties, as well as the appearance of scars being reduced. Plus, it’s an antioxidant so this also helps in fighting free radicals.

Vitamin C should be applied in the mornings before your SPF, as this allows it to soak directly into the skin. A serum or cream is the best way to do this, as they are often thicker, so more moisture can be locked in.

Glycolic Acid

Glycolic acid is another ingredient that should appear in your summer skincare routine. As the weather warms up, your skin’s oil production can increase. However, if you’re not frequently exfoliating, this can lead to an excess of dead skin cells and clogged pores.

Although oil production is often associated with shiny skin, the absence of exfoliation in your routine can lead to dryness and dullness. Glycolic acid is, therefore, a perfect product to use as its particles are smaller than similar ingredients, allowing it to penetrate deeper beneath the skin’s surface. Candy from the website Academy by Candy informs us that as with any harsher product, this needs to be paired with an SPF to prevent skin damage.

“Thinking your skin will be more sensitive if you use your products in the sun is a common misunderstanding. The truth is that it is even more important to have peels and continue using your products during summer because you want to counteract damage sun is doing. Your peels actually give the skin a sun-protection factor as well as reverse the damage caused by the sun.”

Summer skincare advice

Whether you’re planning a couple of day trips to enjoy with your friends and family or seeking some summer sun abroad, making sure you’re protected from the sun is essential. In order to keep your skin feeling and looking great, make sure to follow the advice listed below:

  • Always wear SPF with high coverage.
  • Reapply your SPF throughout the day, especially after swimming.
  • Wear a hat to avoid sun damage to your scalp.
  • Swap out heavy-duty winter moisturisers and opt for something lightweight.
  • Stay out of the sun between its hottest hours to avoid burning.
  • Be cautious of combining medication with sun exposure