Summer Skin Makeover

Transform your winter skin into healthy, glowing summer skin with a five-point makeover

By Denise Mann
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Charlotte Grayson, MD

Is your skin ready for summer?

As beach season approaches, anxiety is almost palpable with both women and men who will soon bare it all -- or close to it. After being bundled up all winter long, people will shed their sweaters and jeans and show some skin.

But "the problem with summer skin is winter skin," says Steve Fallek, MD, a plastic surgeon in New York City and Englewood, N.J. "Our skin is dry from the cold, harsh winter."

While some are concerned about looking odd on the beach, he says, "others are worried about being outside in less clothing than they are used to."

WebMD to the rescue: Our doctor-approved tips will help your skin get a healthy glow in time for Memorial Day -- and with results designed to last through Labor Day and beyond.

Exfoliate to Get Rid of Dry, Dull Skin

Experts say the best way to get your skin ready for summer is with regular exfoliation. This gets rid of dead, dry skin cells. "You can use a chemical or physical exfoliation to keep your skin looking fresher and to get rid of dry flaky winter skin," says Audrey Kunin MD, a dermatologist in Kansas City, Mo.

Use a washcloth, loofah, buff puff, or any number of the microdermabrasion creams or tools that are now on the market, Kunin says.

Wet your entire body in the bath or shower.

Apply exfoliating cleanser to your loofah or washcloth, and scrub, using gentle, circular motions.

"Don't go overboard, less is more when it comes to exfoliating," she says. Kunin recommends exfoliating no more than once a day or a couple of times a week.

Get started before Memorial Day and keep the regimen up throughout summer. "This is something everyone should think about now, so when you do have summer glow it will last even longer."

Added incentive: exfoliated skin will help self-tanners go on more smoothly, making them less likely to streak and prevent your glow from fading prematurely.

Moisturize to Hydrate Skin

After you exfoliate, moisturizing your winter dry skin is key. "If your skin is only a little dry, you can use a liquid moisturizer and if it's very dry, you can use a cream moisturizer," says Rhoda S. Narins, MD, a dermatological surgeon in New York City and president of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery.

Use it after you exfoliate, shave, and shower. In particular, "moisturizing after you shave puts the skin barrier back until your own body can do it," Narins says.

This year, tinted moisturizers are popular, Kunin adds. "Everyone wants a bronze look and these products are like a foundation for the body," she says. They fall just short of a self-tanner because unlike self-tanners, which fade naturally, tinted moisturizers will typically wash off. "The color itself does not protect from sun so you may need sunscreen too," Kunin cautions.

She adds, "It's hot and humid during the summer, so you really want to make sure that whatever moisturizer or tinted moisturizer you choose it is noncomedogenic," meaning that it won't clog your pores and cause unsightly breakouts.

Apply Sunscreen -- and Use Enough

"There are lots of things you can do to make skin look good, but the most important thing is sun protection so you never get a burn," Narins says.

"How high a number of sun protection factor (SPF) you need depends on how fair you are," she says. People with fairer skin, lighter hair, and lighter eyes often need stronger sun block than their darker counterparts.

Everyone should wear a sunscreen with SPF of 15 or higher with a broad-spectrum agent that protects against UVA and UVB rays. Some moisturizers have an SPF, but not all do. Check the label.

"You can't skimp...People tend to underapply sunscreen."

Apply it generously. "You can't skimp," says Bruce E. Katz, MD, medical director of the JUVA Skin and Laser Center in New York City. "People tend to underapply sunscreen. Put on enough to cover your entire body, no matter how much it takes."

Apply it before you reach the beach or outdoors. "Sunscreen takes 15 to 20 minutes to kick into high gear, so apply it before you leave the house, not when you get to the beach," he says.

Reapply it frequently. Remember that it only lasts for about two hours. "So by six hours you have no protection if you have been out all day," he says. Sunscreens should be reapplied every two hours or after swimming or perspiring heavily.

And don't forget your scars. "The sun can lighten or darken scars so make sure to be extra careful and use an SPF of 30 or higher on those parts," Fallek says.

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