Most of us would acknowledge that when the sun shines our sense of wellbeing is increased and that sunshine appears to improve the quality of our skin but does warmer weather cause acne?
However if you suffer from acne you may find that sun exposure, heat and humidity actually aggravates your skin, making your acne worse in the summer months. Unfortunately the ultraviolet rays from the sun can increase skin inflammation and redness, and in some cases cause post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which is dark discolouration of the skin.
Warmer weather really can cause problems if you are prone to spots – whether on your face, back (back acne or b-acne) or chest.
Acne is caused when your sebum (the oil your skin produces to lubricate itself) mixes with bacteria from the surface of your skin and your environment.
This then clogs up pores and causes a spot to form. As heat stimulates oil production, there’s more chance that acne will form – unfortunately increased sebum equals an increase in spots – and can be the trigger for those summer acne breakouts.
A by-product of warmer temperatures can also be an increase in air pollution and a number of studies conclude that there is a link between skin problems such as acne and exposure to airborne pollutants.
During an International Dermatology Conference in Beijing, a survey of dermatologists revealed that 67% of responding delegates agreed that the prevalence and severity of acne appears to increase in line with an increase in the level of pollution.
Two further clinical studies conducted in Shanghai and Mexico City – both known to have high pollution levels – found that skin quality changed when exposed to ambient pollution resulting in increased levels of sebum and oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress can lead to the skin’s natural defenses being depleted of antioxidants such as Vitamin D and Vitamin E resulting in skin inflammation and the disruption of the important and protective skin barrier function – making your acne worse.
Conversely, some who suffer from problem skin claim the sunshine has a hugely positive effect on their skin, including clearing up acne, psoriasis and other dry skin conditions – what a contradiction!
Yes, the sun can have an anti-inflammatory effect on your usually stressed-out skin cells; and a tan can cover scarring and work to counteract any redness you usually experience because the melatonin your body produces darkens the colour of your skin.
However it’s overexposure to the sun’s UV rays that causes the skin’s natural barrier to become weaker, which can result in moisture loss and dry skin. Trying to compensate for this, the sebaceous glands start producing more oil, which creates the perfect environment for spots to develop, making spots worse in the summer months.
Many dermatologists agree that some sun exposure could help reduce acne and improve some dry skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. However, it’s generally thought that the link between cases of improved acne when skin is exposed to sun is actually down to increased melatonin production and less oxidative stress due to increased vitamin D production.
Regardless of how you react to warmer weather and sunshine, you need to be smart about the time you spend in direct sunlight and limit your exposure to avoid a multitude of skin complications later in life – including skin cancer and a rapid increase in your skin cells ageing process.
Even if you’re only going to be outside for half an hour in the UK, it’s recommended that you wear SPF to avoid exposing your skin to the sun’s harmful UV rays.
So in a nutshell, a little smart sun exposure could have an anti-inflammatory effect and increase production of Vitamin D. But (and it’s a big but!) you have to be wary about how much time you spend exposed to sunlight and protect your skin.
There are a number of things you can do to protect your skin during warmer weather:
How to stop acne breakouts in warmer weather.
Unsurprisingly our top recommendation is to gently cleanse your face regularly.
Keeping the surface of your skin clean is one of the best ways to get rid of excessive oil to prevent spots forming. However, don’t use facial or body scrubs as these will encourage your skin to produce more sebum; use a gentle cleanser or mild antibacterial soap so you don’t irritate your skin cells by damaging their natural barrier function and causing inflammation.
Blot your face gently throughout the day, especially if you work in a hot kitchen, workout regularly or are prone to perspire excessively in warm or hot weather.
Don’t underestimate the sun. You need to pay close attention to the SPF you use. Some oral and topical acne medications are known to cause drug-induced phototoxicity which means your skin is more sensitive to sunlight. Start on a sensible factor 40 and work your way to the lower numbers over time. Check that the formulation has sufficient UVA and UVB protection, is non-comedogenic and is adapted to oily skin that still provides moisture but also reduces sebum. Not only will this approach protect your skin now, it will mean you’re less likely to have sun damage later in life.
Adapt your skincare routine. Your normal skincare routine that you usually follow during the rest of the year might not be as effective during warmer weather. If you generally follow a high-maintenance regime where you use lots of make-up products try and reduce your coverage and allow your skin to breathe.
Strip your skincare regime right back and avoid products that are too oily or heavy. You may not need their ‘super moisturising’ properties. However, some acne medications such as isotretinoin and topical retinoids dry the skin so use a gentle non-comedogenic moisturiser to control skin dryness and restore skin barrier function
If you suffer from summer body acne, keep cool naturally by wearing loose cotton fabrics so your skin can breathe. Tight synthetic clothing will cause you to overheat and produce sweat which when combined with increased sebum production increases bacteria leading to blocked pores, inflamed skin and spots.
Be kind to your skin from the inside out by opting for a natural acne treatment such as PRAVENAC help: clear skin.
Our 100% natural acne clearing formulation contains lactoferrin, a bioactive milk protein which reduces the bacteria associated with acne and is clinically proven to reduce acne within as little as 4-6 weeks of daily use.
Simply add a sachet daily to your favourite cool beverage and enjoy naturally clearer skin.