As anyone who's ever had a scorching sunburn or a nasty case of poison ivy can attest, summer can be hard on the skin. Luckily, most of the damage is easy to remedy. Here are fast fixes for five common seasonal snafus, plus steps to safeguard your skin through Labor Day and beyond.
The fix: Wash with a body cleanser that contains benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, ingredients that unblock pores and dry up excess oil. (Don't scrub; it may inflame skin.) To try: Neutrogena Body Clear Body Scrub ($6; drugstores). To prevent breakouts, dust talcum powder on your back and chest to help absorb perspiration, and look for oil-free products that won't clog pores.
Avoid form-fitting clothes that hold heat and moisture close to your skin and change into fresh gear ASAP after perspiring heavily.
The fix: Avoid the sun until the skin has healed completely.
"Sunburned skin temporarily loses its protective barrier, so it's more susceptible to subsequent burns," said Fran Cook-Bolden, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
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To reduce inflammation and pain, pop an aspirin and take as directed until the burn fades. Soaking in a bath of cool or lukewarm water laced with a handful of baking soda will also ease the burn. Afterward, gently pat on a topical over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream to help reduce swelling. Try not to pick or peel skin that's beginning to flake; those dry patches protect forming skin from the environment.
Next time, wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and reapply every two hours.
The fix: Wash with an anti-bacterial soap to quell inflammation. Gentle use of a loofah or washcloth every other day will help dislodge trapped hairs and prevent their return. For a chronic case, try Bliss Ingrown Hair Eliminating Peeling Pads ($35; www.blissworld.com) or Tend Skin ($20; www.sephora.com); both contain salicylic acid, an exfoliant that keeps ingrowns at bay.
In the future, shave in the bath or shower; the water plumps up hair, making it easier to cut. Change blades as soon as you feel any pull or drag -- a dull blade is more likely to cause ingrown hairs, says David Bank, director of the Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic & Laser Surgery in Mount Kisco, N.Y.
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The fix: Treat mild rashes with hydrocortisone cream. Bathing in tepid water with one cup of oatmeal may also alleviate the misery. If that's not enough, take an antihistamine such as Benadryl. Because heat and sweating can aggravate the itch, stay as cool as possible. See your doctor if the rash is on your face or genitals, is blistering or oozing or doesn't improve after a week of self-treatment.