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Seasonal variations in Acne

Summer has definitely come to an end with crisp sharp air filling our lungs with every inhale. And although we’ve had some great weather this summer, most of us are now exposed to a lot less sunshine and possibly already noticing changes in our skin adapting to the autumn months.

What to do with the changes that occur to our skin as the seasons change, particularly from a hot, sweaty summer, to dark, cold autumn? The key is in observing and prepping your skin!

Guest blog contributed by Dr Sam Robson, GP and MD at Temple Clinic

It is often assumed that acne will be at its worst in winter with a tendency to improve in the summer months.

There are at least three reasons why acne should be less troublesome in summer.

The ultraviolet rays in sunlight stimulate the immune system and kill off some of the bacteria which contribute to the development of acne.

Secondly, summer, and especially summer holidays, are associated with a reduction in stress levels:

reduced stress often goes hand in hand with reduced acne.

Thirdly, ceramide levels are often lower in winter than in summer. Ceramides are lipids (complex fats) that help to form the barrier within the skin against irritants and infections, and so the skin tends to be less well protected during the colder months.

However, if you actually ask people who suffer from acne about seasonal changes in their condition, the situation is far from clear cut. Indeed, some studies report that people with acne find the condition more problematic in the summer. Make-up can exacerbate the problem – whilst concealing the blemishes it can also be responsible for blocking the pores. This problem is then compounded by sweating. This particularly seems to be the case for those who live in warmer climates. One study in the tropics reported that 56% of people felt their acne was worst in summer and only 16% thought it became more severe in winter. In colder climates, the opposite is found with people more often reporting a worsening during winter. But wherever you live, the results of surveys can not be generalised.

It’s an individual thing.

The aspects of a hot climate that seem to be associated with summer exacerbations are sweating and humidity. And of course, even in the U.K., we get spells of summer weather when these things can pose a problem. Skin moisture is higher for most people in the summer, and sebum production tends to fall off in winter. Also, if you ask people when their acne is most troublesome, then social factors kick in. During summer, it is not just mainly one’s face that is exposed to scrutiny and if you have bad acne on your back, for example, then this can be a problem in summer that is less obvious in winter.

The other summer consideration is the post-holiday flare-up. Sunny holidays can initially improve the skin because of the drying effect of the sun on oil production but the skin soon responds, defending itself by thickening, which can result in increased clogging of pores, and every spot starts with a clogged pore.

Preparing your skin for summer should include using products that help to unblock your pores and reduce oil production. Same goes for winter skin prep. Using the LUSTRE Solo device daily will help to reduce bacteria levels within the skin and it is important to use a high-quality sun protection cream (during summer and winter!) that does not add to any pore-clogging effect.

For the acne therapist, it is important to know how your patient’s acne fluctuates over the course of the seasons. This will give clues as to what is likely to be helpful in terms of advising about sun protection factors, exposure to heat and sunlight, and will inform you as to which treatments are likely to be most effective in the longer term. At Temple Clinic we provide a bespoke service for each individual – depending on the individual triggers and concerns about the skin we shall recommend appropriate skincare products to use alongside the LUSTRE device.

On how to deal with spots in lockdown, see our recent blog: 

How to deal with spots in lockdown

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