In Traditional Chinese Medicine, summertime is the time of maximum “yang.” Yang is a force that is expansive, warm, open, and reaching outward. Yang can be seen in our human response to summer: we are normally out and about more, having fun, and connecting with others.
But it’s not just us, all of nature is full of purpose, energetic, and busy. Plants are thriving, animals are scurrying about, food is plentiful, and life is full in all its glory.
How the Yang of Summer Affects Our Skin
Our skin, too, is busy during the summer as pores open to release perspiration to keep us cool. It may also be busy producing more oil. This combination of oil and sweat means daily skin cleansing is more important than ever to prevent acne or clogged pores.
When you’re outdoors, your skin is also busy producing melanin in response to the UV rays of the sunshine in an effort to protect itself.
On top of all these demands, we are often exposed to heat, sun, and swimming in salty or chlorinated water. This can be very drying to our skin. That’s why in addition to the extra cleansing and showering necessary after summer activities, we need to moisturize our skin just as much as we do in the wintertime.
How Can We Help Our Skin in Summer?
Help your busy summer skin by lightening the load and giving it what it needs to thrive during the summer so that it can stay healthy year-round:
- Moderate Heat and Sun
With all the demands on our skin in the summertime, we can keep it healthy by giving it some assistance and relief in the hot weather and sun. Wearing sunscreen on all exposed skin, and keeping sun exposure to moderate lengths of time in the mornings and late afternoons will help keep your skin protected from UV damage that causes aging, wrinkles, and increases the risk of skin cancer.
In addition to sunscreen and seeking out the shade, you can now buy bathing suits and light airy summer clothing that have special sun protection woven in! Perhaps invest in a pretty coverup or lightweight long sleeve shirt (wearing white in summer keeps your skin cooler!) with UV protection so that you’re covered if you need to be outdoors for a long time.
- Reduce Stress
While we often think of stress in relation to our workload and family demands, we often fail to take into account environmental factors that are putting stress on our body. Physical stressors trigger the same stress hormones and lifestyle stressors, with the same impact to our health.
Summer heat and too much sun can be stressful physically for both our skin and our internal organ systems. That’s why coping with the heat and increased activity requires maintaining good hydration – drinking plenty of water and eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. It also requires adequate rest. People living in warm climates know this and often build a siesta or naptime into their schedule during the hottest part of the day. When they’re awake, they’re feasting on fruits, salads, and yummy juices and teas. Hydration and rest will keep the physical stress of summer more manageable.
Additionally, our immune systems may also be busy in summer managing airborne allergens like pollen, dander, and mold. Such demands may overburden the immune system, resulting in a flare-up of psoriasis, TSW, or eczema. We need to stay mindful of reducing all the allergens that stress out our immune system during summertime, not just the triggers in products that come in contact with our skin.
- Cleanse, Moisturize, Repeat
If you find yourself showering or cleansing more often during the summer days due to perspiration or increased activity, try gentler products, diluting them more, or using a bit less soap, or just rinsing with fresh water throughout the day and applying a light moisturizer to follow.
Since humidity, perspiration and oil production may make our skin feel softer and less in need of moisture in the summer, even after cleansing, don’t be fooled! Your skin needs regular moisturizing now just as much as it does in wintertime. Switch to a lighter moisturizer in the summer to help protect against the drying heat of the sun, and against the drying effect of air-conditioned indoor air.
Summertime and the Living is Easy
We hope you take advantage of the Yang energy this summer, which like any intoxicating elixir, is best savored and enjoyed in moderation. If you do, you’ll undoubtedly see your glowing skin thanking you with great health.
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About the Author
Olivia Hsu Friedman, LAc, Dipl.OM, DACM, Cert. TCMDerm, is the owner of Amethyst Holistic Skin Solutions and treats Acne, Eczema, Psoriasis, and TSW. Olivia treats patients via video conferencing using only herbal medicine. Olivia is Chair of the Board of Directors of the American Society of Acupuncturists, serves on the Advisory Board of LearnSkin, and is a faculty member of the Chicago Integrative Eczema Group sponsored by the National Eczema Association.