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The Heat Waves Are Here. Here’s How They Affect Your Skin And How To Minimize The Damage

Find the perfect skincare routine to counter hot weather. Expert advice in one click.

Summer heat waves are more than just an excuse for a cold lemonade; it’s a potential adversary for your skin. Dermatologists warn that heat waves can accelerate skin damage, from rashes to premature aging, so it’s crucial to take some protective measures. In this article, we’ll decode the science behind the impact of extreme summer weather on your skin and what you can do to stay skin-safe even in the scorching heat. As a skincare consultant, I also had plenty of people asking for advice on a protective routine for the heatwave season. If that’s on your mind as well, there’s more for you in this article.

How summer heat waves affect your skin

Heatwaves put your skin into overdrive.

During the hot weather, sweat glands work harder to maintain your body cool. But the problem is that extra sweat can get blocked in the skin and cause heat rashes, which can be inflamed and itchy. Moreover, the intense heat acts as a moisture sponge, drying out your skin. This lack of hydration can cause flaking or peeling. Additionally, your skin may produce more oil to combat the heat, potentially clogging pores and triggering acne. Then there’s the issue of your skin getting affected by the intense UV radiation. In fact, sun exposure is one of the largest causes of sunburn and skin dehydration, especially in the summer months.

In short, extreme heat can have the following effects on your skin:

  • Dry, red, irritated skin
  • Sweat-induced clogged pores and pimples
  • Skin flaking and peeling
  • Heat rashes
  • Increased UV radiation and sunburn risk
  • Exacerbation of existing skin conditions (e.g., rosacea, eczema)

If you have naturally dry skin, you’re more likely to experience dehydrated skin in summer, while people with oily skin prone to acne are more likely to deal with sweat-induced clogged pores and pimples.

Understanding your skin’s natural defense mechanisms

On the bright side, our skin can handle all of summer’s challenges on its own. It has a built-in natural defense system to protect against both heat and UV radiation. This system is made up of three elements.

The skin barrier

The first is the outermost layer of the skin, known as the stratum corneum or skin barrier. This barrier is pretty amazing; it retains the good stuff (like moisture) and fends off the bad stuff (like sunlight, pollutants, and bacteria). When this barrier is strong and healthy, your skin is too.

Sweat glands

When it’s hotter outside, your skin cools you down by producing sweat. As this sweat evaporates from your skin, it’s like your own personal air conditioning system. But here’s the kicker: While sweating is a lifesaver in a heatwave, it can sometimes be a double-edged sword. When it mixes with the natural oils and dead skin cells on your face, it can end up clogging your pores, and that can lead to breakouts and acne.


Melanin is like your skin’s built-in sunblock. The cells in your skin, called melanocytes, churn out this pigment to absorb and scatter UV rays, protecting your skin cells from damage. If you’ve ever wondered why your skin tans after spending time in the sun, that’s your melanin at work. However, your skin can get sunburned if there’s too much sun, even with all that melanin. That’s why sunscreen is a must, no matter your skin tone.

How to protect your skin from heat

Prioritize broad-spectrum sunscreen

A broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher is essential to protect your skin from sunburn and heat rashes, which are more prominent during heat waves. If you plan to spend more than 4 hours outside in direct sunlight, make sure to reapply sunscreen throughout the day. I recommend storing a powder sunscreen in your bag for re-application because it works better than liquid sunscreen in hot temperatures. 

Stay hydrated

Staying hydrated is essential for skin health, especially in hot weather when your body sweats more to regulate temperature. You might need to drink more than the typical two liters per day, based on factors like your weight, activity level, and how hot it is. Aim to drink enough so you’re not often thirsty, and your urine is light-colored.

Apart from water, you can drink green tea, which is packed with antioxidants that protect the skin from free radical damage. Cucumber and lemon water can provide additional hydration and vitamin C, while coconut water is a good source of hydration-supporting electrolytes.

Wear sun-protective clothing

Go for clothes that cover more of your skin and are made of tightly woven and lightweight fabrics. Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, or skirts can provide coverage for your skin and shield it from direct sunlight. Accessories like wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, and scarves can protect sensitive areas like your scalp, eyes, and neck.

Eat foods with sun-protective properties

Certain foods, like sweet potatoes and spinach, are rich in beta-carotene, which can decrease skin redness upon UV exposure. Moreover, antioxidant-rich foods, including carrots, broccoli, mangoes, apricots, and kale, can combat oxidative stress caused by sun exposure.

Switch to a protective skincare routine

Your skincare routine needs to adapt to the changing seasons. Summer harsh weather calls for lighter products loaded with antioxidants and ample moisturization. Incorporate a gentle cleansing and exfoliation regime to remove sweat, dirt, and dead cell buildup. Hydrate your skin with lightweight, non-greasy products and soothe sunburns using aloe vera and other calming and anti-inflammatory ingredients, like oatmeal.

Use vitamin C serum in the morning

Research suggests that vitamin C protects the skin from all summer-related issues, including sunburn, photoaging, hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, sagging, and dryness. It’s a powerful antioxidant that also supports the skin moisture barrier and regulates melanin production. That said, applying a vitamin C serum in the morning can provide the protection your skin needs throughout the day, so I highly recommend having one in your beauty routine, like Clinical Skin Pro-Collagen Serum.

The takeaway

To protect your skin in the hot weather, prioritize sunscreen, hydration, and soothing products. Remember that not only your skin is challenged by the summer weather, but your products are affected too. Store your skincare in a cool, dark place, as most ingredients degrade quickly when exposed to heat and light. Here you can learn more about how to store your skincare products to preserve their potency until they run out.

Read next: 9 Summer Skincare Essentials To Protect Your Skin All Season Long

Who wrote this?
Picture of Ana Vasilescu
Ana Vasilescu
Ana Vasilescu is the founder of Women's Concepts and a certified skincare consultant. She has over five years of experience working in the beauty editorial industry and over a decade as an acne sufferer. With a background in dermatological research, Ana brings a wealth of expertise to a diverse range of topics, from buzzy ingredients to anti-aging and acne advice. She holds a BA in Sociology and Political Sciences. Find her on LinkedIn or Instagram.
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