In this edition of our newsletter, we will discuss the effects of summer heat and sun on our skin and provide you with essential tips for maintaining healthy skin during the summer season.
The health challenges of summer don’t wait around for the first official day of summer, and we hope that this newsletter series proves helpful to you over the coming weeks.
Summer Skin Health
From Mel Kasting, RH
ESHM Clinical Director and Free Clinic Manager
As the solstice approaches, we are enjoying longer, warmer days. This ramp up to summer brings more time outdoors, gardens full of food and sun, sun, sun! Each season affects our skin differently; the heat and increased sun exposure of the summer months can cause skin to become dry and irritated.
The skin is our largest organ and plays a crucial role in maintaining proper hydration and protecting us from external elements. It is composed of three main layers: the epidermis, the dermis, and the subcutis.
Image from Healthline.
The epidermis is the top layer of skin and acts as a protective barrier for the inside of our bodies. The outermost part of the epidermis is called the stratum corneum or skin barrier. This layer helps to prevent excessive water loss to keep skin hydrated. Damage to this layer can cause irritation, even infection if bacteria get trapped. The production of vitamin D3 also happens here with the help of ultraviolet light from the sun. Yay sunlight! The acid mantle is a thin, slightly acidic film that forms on the stratum corneum. It consists of a combination of sebum (natural skin oils), sweat, and other substances. It has a natural PH of 4-6. This acidic pH helps inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms. It also regulates our native microbiome and communicates with our immune system to keep our skin protected.
The dermis is the middle layer and contains blood vessels, hair follicles, sweat glands and nerve endings. Our body temperature is regulated by the constriction and dilation of blood vessels in the dermis, as well as the amount of sweat we produce. The sensation of the wind on our skin and the OUCH from a sunburn come from the nerve endings here. Glands attached to our hair follicles produce an oily substance called sebum that provides a protective coating to nourish the skin barrier and help it to help it retain hydration.
The subcutis is the innermost layer and contains fat cells that provide insulation and cushioning. We won’t be diving into this layer, but know that it acts as insulation, energy storage, cushioning and structural support for the outer layers of skin, as well as blood vessels and nerves.
For our skin to stay healthy, it needs to be hydrated AND well moisturized.
Hydration vs. Moisturization: Our skin needs oil and water!
Water helps plump the skin, improve elasticity, and give it a supple, smooth appearance. Insufficient water intake along with environmental factors like low humidity, over-exposure to heat and direct sunlight can lead to skin dehydration, making it appear dry, tight and red.
Sweating activates sebum production, which helps to keep our skin moist when we experience heat, but excessive sweating can also wash away sebum and cause dryness. Overexposure to the sun causes damage to the skin barrier and prevents sebum from reaching the outermost layers of skin.
If you have dry skin, that means your skin is lacking oil and it needs to be moisturized. If you have dehydrated skin, your skin lacks water and it needs to be hydrated.
How to Keep Skin Healthy in the Summer Months
- Incorporate hydrating and cooling foods into our diet, such as watermelon, cucumbers, berries and citrus fruits.
- Make sure that you are using a lotion and not just skin oil. Oil without proper hydration will further dehydrate the skin.
- Drink plenty of water and cooling herbal teas like hibiscus, peach leaf and lemon verbena throughout the day, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
An easy way to assess hydration is urine color – see the infographic below.
Try this Hibiscus Iced Tea Recipe to stay cool and hydrated!
Based off Agua de Jamaica
- 2 quarts water, divided
- ½-1 cup sweetener of choice
- 1 cup dried hibiscus flowers
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 allspice berries
- Fresh spearmint (any garden mint will work here)
- Orange or Lime slices
- 1 TBS rose water
Add sweetener, 1 quart or water, cinnamon stick and allspice berries to a sauce pan. Simmer on low with a lid for 5 minutes. Add hibiscus and let steep for 20 minutes. Put citrus slices and mint into a jar and strain tea over them. Add rose water when mixture is completely cool.
This is your concentrate. If you want to drink alone, add the other quart of water and chill. Serve over ice. If you would like to serve as a spritzer over soda water, skip adding the additional water and serve over ice, 50% tea and 50% soda water. Gin is nice here if you imbibe. 🙂
Look to our first installment in our Summertime Series (Summertime Heat) to learn more about how sour foods help us to feel cooler!
- Make sure the lotion you are using has oils suitable to your skin type, as well as adequate hydration.
- Consume plenty of healthy fats (especially foods with Omega 3 fatty acids) and foods high in vitamin E like avocados, sunflower seeds, almonds and beet greens to support sebum production.
- Don’t use harsh cleansers or alcohol-based toners that will strip the skin of sebum.
We will be covering specific summer skin issues over the course of the summer, but for now NEVER PUT OILS ON A SUNBURN; IT WILL TRAP IN THE HEAT!
Protect Your Skin from Overexposure to the Sun
Cover up when in direct sunlight and use mineral-based sunscreens 30 spf or over when you are going to be out in the sun for long periods of time. We love giant sun hats and glasses over here at ESHM. 🙂
Cooling and Soothing Skin
I love to keep a variety of hydrosols in the fridge to cool off and refresh dehydrated skin. These alone feel amazing, but you can boost their hydration and banish mild skin irritation with a couple of fun recipes. All of these are safe for stage 1 sunburns.
Cooling Botanical Mist
4 ounces hydrosol* (a mix of rose, chamomile, calendula, lavender, sweetgrass)
1 tsp aloe vera gel
2-4 drops of essential oils like rose, lavender or neroli
Use this mist on face and skin when you are feeling overheated or need a quick hydration boost.
*Hydrosol source linked above is from Forest and Meadow Herbal Shop and Clinic, owned by my colleague Amanda Jokerst. You can also email Amanda at email@example.com. She has a wide variety and will do custom hydrosol blends on request.
Mel’s Hyaluronic Acid Herbal Skin Jelly
Note: Hyaluronic acid acts as a humectant, pulling in water/liquid and holding it to the skin. This ingredient is excellent for dehydrated skin, but it needs to be put on damp skin. Splash your face with water before applying or use after a shower for best results.
- 1/8 Teaspoon Hyaluronic Acid Powder
- 2 ounces very cold Rose Water or other hydrosol
- 2-4 drops of essential oils like rose, lavender or neroli (optional)
- 1 tsp aloe vera gel
- ½ tsp calendula glycerite (or vegetable glycerine)
Mix hyaluronic acid powder vigorously with cold hydrosol in a small bowl to combine. This sometimes takes awhile, but it will dissolve. Add the other ingredients and mix. If there is still a bit of unincorporated powder, add to the bottle and chill overnight. Shake vigorously the next day. It won’t come out of solution once it’s incorporated.
Use this Jelly daily to keep skin hydrated in the summer months. Put on moist skin. If you use additional lotions, put the jelly on first. Keep refrigerated.
Soothing Splash for Irritated Skin
What you’ll need:
- Loose leaf Chamomile/Hibiscus
- Spray bottle
Combine chamomile and hibiscus in equal parts and make a tea – 2 TBS per 8 ounces of water. Pour boiling water over herbs and let steep until cool, 20-30 minutes. Strain well and keep in the fridge to spritz/splash your face. It will last 3-4 days. Excellent for breakouts, eczema and rosacea flares. The same mix is a nice cooling and relaxing iced tea.
Materia Medica for the Skin
Hibiscus is a sour, flavonoid-rich herb with a long history of use both topically and internally. Topically it promotes re-epithelialization, which makes it useful as a wash for anything from breakouts to cuts and scrapes. Its sour flavor comes from organic fruit acids. When applied topically these acids act as gentle exfoliators and nourish the acid mantle by keeping its PH acidic.
Internally it’s a delicious, cooling hypertensive and recent studies have shown it’s useful in a comprehensive program for blood sugar support. It can also help prevent kidney stones by increasing urinary output of calcium oxalate and supports a healthy urinary tract.
There are over 300 species of roses, and over 18,000 cultivars all over the world. There is nothing quite like the intoxicating and uplifting smell of a fresh rose. Roses have a long history of internal and external applications. Externally, it’s soothing, cooling and gently astringent, helping to calm irritations and inflammation. Rose petals are excellent additions to lotions and toners. Their gentle astringency helps to keep skin hydrated without drying it out.
Internally Rose petals are an uplifting addition to herbal teas. They reduce stress and help heal heartache. These properties are also present when fragrant roses are smelled, added to baths, or to skin care products.
Chamomilla recutita, Matricaria recutita
Chamomile is a mild sedative and a good gastric anti-inflammatory. It calms the
nerves, settles the stomach, and helps to expel gas. Thomas says it’s for “whiny babies of all ages.” It’s an excellent topical anti-inflammatory and feels wonderful applied to hot, irritated skin.
I find it specific for those rosacea and eczema flares sensitive to heat and sun. It works well as a tea splash, hydrosol or as an essential oil in small amounts added to other preparations.
Lavandula officinalis syn. L. angustifolia
Lavender is a relaxing anti-inflammatory, excellent for skin redness, irritations and burns.
The essential oil is antimicrobial and antifungal, and can be added to topical skincare products in small amounts for its soothing effects and lovely smell.
Aloe vera juice and gel are made from the inner pulp of the aloe vera leaf. Aloe is extremely soothing to irritated skin and mucous membranes, burns, and other damaged tissues.
It’s also a hydrating humectant, keeping the skin moist longer than water or hydrosols alone.
Calendula is a cooling aromatic and vulnerary astringent that increases cellular turnover when used topically and internally. It needs to touch the tissues for this action, so it’s best used topically for GI tract inflammation and irritations.
Calendula is commonly used for injuries, burns, and bruises, but it’s also excellent for minor irritations like sun and windburn and as an addition to toners and botanical mists. It is a useful remedy for dry skin as well as rashes like atopic dermatitis and psoriasis.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this installment of our Summertime series.
Stay cool and hydrated!