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Summer Acne – How to Prevent and Treat Flare-Ups

Posted on: May 28th, 2021 by Kristen Chang

Is your joy at going maskless dimmed by flare-ups of summer acne? Does the thought of emerging from a pool, lake or the ocean in a swimsuit, wet hair slicked back make you cringe because of summer acne breakouts on your face, back and chest? You are not alone—summer acne is a thing.

Why does summer acne even happen?

Summer’s heat can bring on summer acne. When it’s hot, we sweat, and that clammy perspiration causes epidermal cells to become stickier. Instead of being shed, they literally stick around. The combo of dead skin cells and sebum, the skin’s natural oil, can become trapped inside pores, creating clogs where acne-causing bacteria can multiply rapidly and erupt in inflammation.

However, this is a challenge you can do something about, and California Skin Institute can help. June is Acne Awareness Month and the official the start of summer. You can’t do anything about the weather, but you can do something about summer acne.

Choose your sunscreens wisely

A good sunscreen needs to be a cornerstone for your summer acne defense regimen. That being said, if you’re prone to summer acne, it can’t just be any sunscreen. Make sure it is noncomedogenic, meaning not causing pimples aka comedogens. You need a lightweight moisturizing sunscreen that won’t clog your pores and trigger breakouts. Opt for a mineral-based sunscreen, one with zinc oxide and titanium oxide, to get the best protection against the sun. Today, many new mineral-based formulas provide broad-spectrum UV protection while also being light on the skin and oil-free. Your California Skin Institute dermatologist can help you choose a sunscreen from among our own optimally formulated sunscreens.

Cleanse quickly but gently

Done with that swim? Step right up to that outdoor shower and quickly rinse off. Skip the temptation to sink into a lounge chair with chlorine or salt water still clinging to your skin. They can trap perspiration. A quick shower can help rinse off the mixture of perspiration, body oils, salt, chlorine and any impurities in the water. However, do note that acne can also be triggered by vigorous rubbing, so avoid washing your face too often or scrubbing too hard.

Moisturize sensibly

Moisturizing acne-prone skin might seem odd and counterintuitive, but it’s an important step in your acne skincare routine. If your skin senses it’s starved for moisture, it may overproduce oils that result in—you guessed it—breakouts. This is even more important if you are using acne medication that is drying to your skin. Overall, for a healthy complexion, you need to maintain a good moisture barrier for your skin, even during the summer months. Choose a light noncomedogenic moisturizer as part of your bedtime skincare regimen. Look for ones containing ingredients like ceramides, hyaluronic acid or niacinamide.

Cover up – preferably with natural fibers

For acne-prone complexions, just the harsh, bright UV rays of the sun can aggravate and irritate the skin. The silver lining is because UV rays cause 90% of visible signs of skin aging—wrinkles, lines, brown spots—the extra incentive to cover up will benefit you in the long run. Think lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and broad-brimmed hats.

Cotton and linen are good bets. Summer heat, a more active outdoor lifestyle, and non-breathable clothing can result in lingering sweat, dirt, and friction all over your body. That’s why there way more cases of body acne during the summer months than any other season. Breathable natural fibers like cotton can help avoid breakouts caused by sweating in areas like your chest or back. Avoid clothing with a polyester base fabric, except for active wear that boasts moisture-wicking on the label. If sweat has nowhere to go, it will stay on your skin.

Exfoliate regularly

Gently exfoliate your face to slough off dead skin cells and increase cell turnover, revealing bright new skin underneath. At California Skin Institute, our board-certified dermatologists recommend glycolic acid for exfoliation. Glycolic exfoliation is key to smoother skin because it removes those dulling and clogging dead cells. Uneven, rough skin can’t glow, because a rough surface scatters and absorbs light, making it appear dull and tired. Smooth skin reflects light, and that’s why glycolic is so effective at improving the appearance of your skin in every season, but especially during summer. Benzoyl peroxide also can be helpful by acting as an antibacterial agent. Glycolic acid and benzoyl peroxide are key ingredients in our popular dermatologist-formulated acne skin care kit. Keep in mind that acid-based products make skin more sensitive to sunburn so be sure to wear sunscreen.

When a flare-up occurs, California Skin Institute can help

Sometimes, even if you’re doing everything right, an acne flare-up happens. California Skin Institute licensed professionals can offer many treatment options to patients and have helped many patients eliminate acne with a variety of treatments and procedures. Our board-certified dermatologists and advanced practitioners are highly skilled in administering acne extractions, helping patients find the best topical products, providing skin cleansing consultations, assisting patients with better acne diet solutions, offering prescription acne treatments, and much more. Here are some in-office procedures we offer to treat acne and minimize its appearance:


Individual results may vary.