Since summer is synonymous with sunscreen, sweat, and splashing around in salt water and chlorine, it can often also mean skin flare-ups — especially for those with eczema, the skin condition that causes patches of cracked, scaly skin.
“Many people are well aware that eczema tends to flare in the winter, but it can flare even in the summertime,” Sejal Shah, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, tells Allure. The culprits? Everything from sweaty subway rides, to romping around in the sand to sticking to your strict sunscreen routine.
In light of the fact that we’re officially in the heat of summer, we asked expert dermatologists how to fight an eczema flare-up without breaking a sweat.
1. Stay cool
“Increased sweating in the summer can definitely make your eczema flare up, particularly if you have it in the creases of your elbows or knees or on your palms,” Erin Gilbert, M.D., Ph.D., Vichy consulting dermatologist and celebrity skin expert, tells Allure. Avoid being outdoors when the sun is most steamy. If you can’t give up those outdoor runs or park picnics or escape a sweaty commute, wipe away sweat as it accumulates, then wash thoroughly and apply a moisturizer once you cool off, says Shah.
2. Stay dry
“Another good trick is to put cornstarch or talc-free baby powder on areas where you tend to accumulate sweat to keep your skin drier,” says Gilbert. Keep a sweat fighter in your bag to nix the need for extra washing-up on the go.
3. Go fragrance-free
When your skin is ultra sensitive, you should switch up your sunscreen routine (not skip it). “I like fragrance-free sunscreens for eczema prone patients because they tend to be better tolerated,” says Shah.
4. Rinse right away
“If your skin is sensitive or eczema prone, it’s really important to rinse chlorine off as soon as possible,” says Gilbert. “It can irritate and dry out your skin, making a flare more likely.” Hit the showers, STAT.
5. Become a moisture maniac
Whether you’re swimming, sweating or showering more than usual (because of said swimming and sweating), make sure you’re lathering on more lotion than ever. “Look for moisturizers that contain skin-protecting and hydrating ingredients such as purified petroleum,” Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, tells Allure. More than others, these formulations will form a protective barrier between your skin and the harsh summer elements. “While traditional products were heavy and greasy, the newest formulations are quite light and easy to spread,” Zeichner says.
Even if you’re taking the steps above to treat your eczema-prone skin this summer, you might still experience frustrating patches that just won’t go away, says Shah. Rather than forgo your collection of shorts and sundresses to cover any outbreaks, bring in the big guns and see your derm for a prescription treatment like a topical steroid or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory cream.