Strategies for Sultry Times

Straight answers to your questions about face, body, and hair care for the steamy months

Beautywise - Strategies for Sultry Times - Hair

Ray Kachatorian

The rich face cream you use to moisturize your skin in the winter is too heavy for hot summer days. And if it isn't already, sunscreen should become your number-one summertime accessory. Hair care needs a change, too, since winter's shampoo might not offer enough protection from the sun, saltwater, and chlorine. And there's more. Here, we answer your questions about warm-weather beauty.

My job keeps me inside most of the day. Do I still need to use sunscreen?

Yes. If you're already in the habit of applying sunscreen to your face in the morning, you're off to a good start. But it's not enough if you'll be out during the day, says Martin Weinstock, M.D., Ph.D., chairperson of the Skin Cancer Advisory Board at the American Cancer Society. You should also apply sunscreen to other exposed areas (face, hands, forearms, etc.), even if they'll meet the sun for only short periods. Everyday activities―running errands around town, sitting in traffic, eating lunch at an outdoor cafe―can add up to more sun exposure than you might think.

Besides the skin cancer risk, sun damage leads to premature aging, uneven skin tone, dryness, and acne. So be safe: Every day before getting dressed, apply a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher that shields exposed skin from both uv-a and uv-b rays. Look for ingredients such as Parsol 1789, titanium dioxide, or zinc oxide. If you have sensitive skin, choose a gentle or sensitive-skin version; opt for oil-free sunscreen if clogged pores and acne are a problem. If you'll be swimming or playing sports (or perspiring a lot for any reason), use a waterproof or water-resistant formula, and reapply every two hourseven these will wear off. If you'll be in the sun for longer periods of time, apply sunscreen all over your body, because normal clothing provides only minimal protection.

People prone to skin cancer (perhaps your family has a history of the disease, or you have skin that burns easily) should consider using sunscreen with an SPF of 35 to 50, says Conway Huang, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Or they can try clothing designed with added SPF. Huang says these products offer significantly more protection from UV radiation than normal clothing. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends Coolibar's line of clothing, hats, and swimwear; these garments block 98 percent of ultraviolet rays.

Should I use a moisturizer in the summer, when my skin is oilier?

Yes, but start with an antioxidant serum. "When worn under your moisturizer, antioxidants penetrate the skin to help block out harmful sun rays, even after your sunblock has worn off," explains dermatologist Linda Franks, M.D. Also, swap heavier winter creams for a lighter moisturizing lotion. For day, be sure your moisturizer contains SPF 15 or higher. For more prolonged exposure to the sun, top it with a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, Franks advises, even though it may seem like a lot.

If your skin is oily even after you've switched to a lighter moisturizer, Franks suggests using an alcohol-free toner in the morning and evening after washing with your regular cleanser. If you're prone to breakouts, choose one with salicylic acid, like L'Oreal Pure Zone Pore Tightening Astringent ($7.99).

Finally, don't neglect your lips. "The skin there is thin and vulnerable to sun damage," Franks says. Safeguard it with balm containing SPF 15 or higher. A lipstick or gloss containing protection is fine for normal days, but if you're hitting the beach, top it with sun-blocking balm.

What can I do when the heat irritates my skin?

Since the sun can strip skin of moisture, bathe in tepid water (hot or cold water can be drying), and use a moisturizing body wash. If the red bumps of heat rash are a problem, use a mild antibacterial cleanser, which will fight the bacteria that builds up in sweat glands and causes the rash. Finally, while your skin is still damp, moisturize with a lightweight, emollient lotion.

My hair gets dry this time of year. How can I protect it?

Sun, surf, and chlorine can strip natural oils from your hair and wreak havoc on a dye job. Protect your scalp and hair with products that contain natural moisturizers and sun filters, like Infusium 23 Leave-In Treatment ($4.49), says Anthony Sorensen, a hair stylist at the Warren-Tricomi Salon in New York City. For the best protection, of course, don a hat.

Since shampooing can dry your hair, wash it every other day, Sorensen advises. Between washes, rinse hair thoroughly with water. Then, condition and style as usual. Color-treated hair, in particular, requires shampoos and conditioners containing UV filters and color boosters. Once a week, treat your mane to a hydrating therapy, such as Frederic Fekkai Protein Rx Reparative Treatment Mask ($28.50).

To prevent blond or light-gray hair from turning green in chlorine, use a product that counteracts the chemical, like Redken Sun Shape Swim Cream ($12.95). To prevent dryness, apply a leave-in conditioner to wet hair before plunging into the pool, Sorensen says. After swimming, rinse hair, and use a shampoo that removes chlorine residue, such as UltraSwim Replenishing Shampoo ($4.29).

Summer is the best time to go easy on styling, so use a product that allows you to skip blow-drying, such as

John Frieda Frizz-Ease Dream Curls ($5.99). Work a little into curly or wavy hair, and let it air-dry for a casual style.

If I forget to use sunscreen, how can I ease the pain of a sunburn?

"As soon as possible, take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory, like Aleve or Motrin, to prevent the progression of the burn," advises Franks. To lessen mild swelling and irritation, use a tried-and-true remedy: Apply a cool whole-milk compress to the affected area. Hydrocortisone ointment can also reduce the swelling and itching of an extreme burn. Rehydrate your skin with a moisturizer containing cooling and healing ingredients like cucumber; try Jergens Skin Cooling Moisturizer ($4.99). Then, use high-SPF sunscreen every day to prevent future burns.

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