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Doctor-approved tips to save your skin this summer

Foolproof insights for pre-sun prep, and the best science and treatments for reviving UV-frazzled skin

Even the most thoughtfully constructed skincare regime is rarely a winner all year round. Shifts in humidity, arctic gusts of air conditioning, and brighter, longer days all play a role in how the skin holds up.

With summer officially here, Advanced Aesthetics Doctor, Catharine Denning, shares her insights for pre-sun preparation, as well as the best science and treatments for reviving sun-frazzled skin.

Sun prep and skin maintenance

"Wearing a good sunscreen is extremely important but, because often you sweat it off and it only really lasts a couple of hours for the full protection, I’d advise carrying a brush-on block in your bag so that every couple of hours you can top up your sunscreen, plus this will help mattify the skin if sweaty or oily.

"Before being in a sunny climate or going on a hot holiday I advise avoiding treatments like peels, microneedling and anything that could cause inflammation, because the combined effects of sun exposure AND inflammation can cause your melanocytes to discombobulate, and that’s when you start getting problems with uneven skin, pigmentation and melasma flare-ups.

"I tend to ask my patients to avoid doing anything significant in-clinic prior to sun exposure (for at least a month before). Some doctors advise avoiding ingredients like retinols; however I believe that as long as you are using a good sunscreen and keeping your face under a hat then retinol is fine.

"If you find that your skin gets very sensitive in the heat and sun, you may want to stop using retinol or decrease your frequency of use. Use less AHA and BHA-type acids, and if you do want to exfoliate, go for a PHA which is better for sensitive skin.

"Try not to wear heavy moisturisers or foundation as you’ll be more likely to suffer from breakouts. When it’s warmer and you’re sweating a bit more, you should go for lighter, more serum based, hydrating agents rather than heavy things like emollients – I suggest a hyaluronic acid-based serum. It’s the same with makeup, wear a light, tinted moisturiser as opposed to foundation etc."

After sun exposure

"If pigmentation or uneven skin tone is an issue, it’s a really good idea to start using specific ingredients for hyperpigmentation, such as skincare that uses retinols (very important as they help redistribute the melanin in the skin).

"Also, try an agent that suppress the melanocytes a bit, for example tyrosinase inhibitors like kojic acid;  to a certain degree azelaic acid is good, also ascorbic acid (vitamin C is very good for brightening the skin).

"Slightly more aggressive treatments would be prescription strength options like hydroquinone – I wouldn’t necessarily say that this is appropriate for everybody to use, and you have to use it under pretty tight supervision by someone that knows how to use hydroquinone. It’s a very good agent if you find you have quite stubborn, deep pigment.

"A combination of hydroquinone and tretinoin (the strongest retinoic acid) is a really good way of resurfacing the skin and getting rid of pigmentation. If you also combine this with treatments like deeper chemical peels – to a certain degree microneedling can help as well – you can get some really good results!

"It’s a bit of a long journey to rectify pigmentation, as it’s a condition that’s very stubborn! It’s not like you’ll ever get overnight results, you have to be patient. But these are all ingredients that are useful post-sun exposure.

"If you have sensitive skin, rebuilding the skin barrier is important – ceramides, azelaic acid and niacinamide are all really good for slightly more sensitive skins. Often, after sun exposure the barrier function of the skin can be compromised and it’s important to rebuild that back up again."

Good hydration

"For deep hydration, Profhilo is brilliant because it’s a hyaluronic acid (HA)-based gel that’s being injected. This treatment, in combination with using lighter HA serums when it’s sunny (rather than heavier emollient-based ones), provides good, deep hydration.

"Initially it is recommended to have a few Profhilo treatments in quick succession (a generous load in order to stimulate collagen), and following that a treatment every three-six months is sufficient."

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