Ask Pharmaca: Why Does My Skin Get Irritated in the Heat?

Q. Why Does my skin get irritated in the summer?

A. To answer that question, let’s take a look at some ancient traditions from India and China. In Ayurveda (literally, the “science of life”), the summer season is associated with the Pitta Dosha, characterized by heat and acidity in the body, with connections to digestion, blood and the liver. In ancient Chinese Medicine, summer is associated with the Element of Fire, connected to the heart, blood and assimilation of nutrients.

In both Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine, it’s believed that heat in the body will intensify in hot weather, thus creating internal imbalances such as a build up of toxins, digestive issues and an acidic pH. These imbalances can show up on the skin as irritations such as rosacea, eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis and heat rash.

The key to combating heat-triggered skin irritations is to cool down, detoxify your system and alkalize your body, then treat skin topically with cooling, soothing skin and body care products.

Keep cool
A very simple way to cool down your body? Drink lots of water. Not only will this keep you hydrated, but it will flush out toxins and deliver nutrients to your cells. Add fresh mint leaves and sliced lemon to your drinking water to add a burst of flavor and cool down. Mint is cooling, soothes inflammation and supports digestion, and lemon gives a refreshing boost of anti-aging vitamin C. Make sure you have a good water bottle, too. I like Lifefactory’s protected glass bottles that are convenient to take on the go and feature wide mouths that make it easy to add ice, mint and citrus.

When it comes to working out, opt for gentle instead of rigorous exercise—try gentle yoga, tai chi, swimming and nature walks. Enjoy the outdoors during the cooler parts of the day, avoiding the mid-day sun. Dress in light, comfortable clothing, preferably in natural fibers like cotton and linen, both of which are cooling and non-irritating to the skin. Bamboo fabric is a great choice, too, with its silky soft feel, breathability, and antibacterial, antimicrobial and hypoallergenic qualities. Boody, a bamboo clothing line from Australia, is a customer favorite at the La Jolla and Carlsbad stores.

Toxins will build up in the body and blood if they are not eliminated properly through the liver and digestive system. There are several detoxifying supplements that can help. Neem, rich in antioxidants, is highly regarded in Ayurveda as a skin healer. Taken internally, neem leaf helps calm skin issues by supporting the blood, liver and digestive system. And in Chinese Medicine, the reishi mushroom, known as “the mushroom of immortality,” has been used for 1000s of years to support heart health and overall health—health that translates to your skin!

Get balanced
Heat-triggered skin irritations are most likely caused by too much acidity in the body—that’s why alkalizing and restoring a balanced pH is so important. To do so, cut down on caffeine and alcohol, as well as greasy and spicy foods. Try herbal teas instead of coffee, and swap  water with a slice of orange or coconut water for a glass of wine or beer. For extra support, try Garden of Life Perfect Food RAW Alkalizer & Detoxifier, featuring cleansing herbs, nutrient-dense green juices, live probiotics and enzymes.

Topical skin soothers
Along with herbs, foods and lifestyle changes, soothing skin and body care products can help treat red, inflamed skin irritations triggered by summer heat. Here are some favorites:

First remove any makeup with S.W. Basics Makeup Remover, a blend of skin-nourishing oils.

evanhealy Neem Immortelle Purifying Infusion is a Carlsbad store favorite featuring neem, along with immortelle and extra virgin olive oil for their heat-pacifying properties. It’s great for acne, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis and rashes. Tip: Apply two pumps after spritzing face with evanhealy Lavender Hydrosoul, which hydrates, cools and calms skin.

DeVita Solar Protective Moisturizer SPF 30 is a gentle daytime moisturizer for sensitive skin, featuring cooling aloe vera. Tip: First rub into clean hands before applying to better spread the zinc evenly. Keep makeup minimal (try RMS Beauty “Un” Cover-Up).

Aura Cacia Roman Chamomile Essential Oil. Add a few drops to a cool summer bath to soothe irritated skin.

Nubian Heritage African Black Bar Soap features palm ash that creates a charcoal-like effect to gently draw out skin impurities from sensitive skin. It’s been used for centuries in Africa to treat eczema and problematic skin. A personal favorite!

All Good Lavender Body Lotion features rejuvenating lavender and calming calendula for non-greasy, all-over hydration. Tip: For inflamed areas, use All Good Goop, an effective multi-purpose healing balm that can even be used on chapped lips.