Whether you’re playing beach volleyball in the heat of the day or set your alarm for a pre-dawn summer run, your skin is at risk for a major suffer-fest. And when your body’s largest organ is in anguish, your brain isn’t far behind. To stay motivated and moving, it’s crucial to side-step any possible skin snafus before they start. In the summer months, that means preventing sunburn, chafing, unsightly breakouts, blisters, heat rash and even sea lice.
Chafing is the burn you don’t want to feel while working out. To make matters worse, it’s always in the most precarious places. Chafing can come from your wetsuit’s abrasive Velcro collar, your heart rate sensor strap or wet clothes rubbing against you. Most commonly, though, it’s brought on by constant skin-on-skin contact.
Avoid it: Wear comfortable but loose-fitting clothes, preferably in a material that wicks moisture (hint: cotton is a no go). The absolute easiest way to prevent chafing is to slather on an anti-chafing cream, anti-chafing spray or tried-and-true Vaseline before getting dressed. Hit the hot spots, including inner thighs (ladies, you know), under arms (especially for runners who move their arms back and forth), around the edges of your sports bra and Lycra shorts and around your neck if you’re wearing a wetsuit. Because men don’t wear sports bras, nipple chafing is a horrid possibility. Guys, “You can’t win a marathon without putting some Band-Aids on your nipples.” Kevin Spacey wasn’t lying. Just do it.
Too little too late? Even if you fall victim to the burn, you’re not a lost cause. Before hopping in the shower, spread a cooling aloe gel on any chafed areas. This will provide a little protective layer, so the stream of hot water smacking irritated skin doesn’t make you screeeaaaam! Once skin is dry, apply an antibiotic ointment. I highly recommend Neosporin Plus Pain Relief to help quiet the burning sensation.
2. Blisters and calluses
Caused by moisture and friction, a blister is another little blunder that’s completely preventable. These fluid-filled bubbles usually only form when something has changed – your form, your shoes, your socks or the duration of your workouts. Calluses, on the other hand, come on from constant rubbing in the same place, over and over (because you haven’t changed whatever needs changing, duh!).
Avoid it: Keep these foot woes away by wearing moisture-wicking socks and shoes that suit your training and anatomical needs. If you’re really prone to blisters, consider taping your feet where it hurts.
Too little too late? Go ahead and pop the blister (you know you want to). Just be sure to use a pair of sanitized tweezers and clean the area with hydrogen peroxide. Cover it with a secure bandage and let it heal. I’m a big fan of the Band-Aid’s featuring antibiotic ointment — like a 2-for-1! Because calluses are vulnerable to infection, scruff with a pumice stone and keep the area as clean as possible.
Grimy sweat + skin-drying sun exposure + hours from a shower = potential pore clogging. Due to a hat or helmet holding moisture against your forehead, this may be a spotted spot of concern. Some people suffer with “bacne,” because A) your back is a hard-to-reach area and B) sweat gets trapped between your shirt and skin (unless you’re a dude who can go half-nude).
Avoid it: Showering as soon as you are finished working out is your best chance of keeping skin clear. When that’s not an option, wipe down with a cleansing towelette during any rest periods. I swear by Alba Botanica Acnedote Face & Body Scrub for keeping my face, back and chest clear.
Too little too late? Spot treat with a salicylic acid cream to help relieve inflamed bumps. Though it sounds counter-intuitive, continue to moisturize skin. Blemish-prone skin can dry up easily from sun exposure or too much medicated treatment, causing your skin to over-produce oil and break out even more. Stay balanced.
4. Heat rash
Though more common in babies, heat rash can affect adults exercising in high humidity. Also known as prickly heat, these pimple-like spots occur when your sweat glands become blocked and swell. This can inhibit your body’s ability to release sweat, which means your internal A/C breaks down and you’re at risk of over-heating. At the very least, you’ll feel smothered and quite uncomfortable.
Avoid it: I’ve said it before; I’ll say it again. Wear loose-fitting clothing that will not trap sweat against your bare body. Baby powder might help keep areas dry.
Too little too late? When you feel increased warmth, itching or pain, undress and let the area air dry. Next, dig into your medicine cabinet and pull out the hydrocortisone cream. Heat rash should go away on its own pretty quickly.
5. Sea lice
Okay, so this really only applies if you’re planning a vacation to the warm waters of Florida or the Caribbean. In case you do visit these beautiful beaches, know that sea lice are literally jellyfish larvae. When they sting (don’t underestimate them), they leave behind a rash that can itch like a you-know-what.
Avoid it: The bad news: because these specks of swimmers aren’t easy to spot, they’re hard to avoid. The good news: skinny dipping can help prevent them from getting trapped in your swimsuit and firing off their pesky poison. No nude beach? No problem. Try applying a water-resistant lotion or Vaseline before diving in. Be sure to layer generously around the edges of your bathing suit. And always rinse off at the showers before leaving the beach.
Spending even 30 minutes outside can take a toll on your skin, let alone a couple hours. Not only will sunburn result in lobster-red skin and dreaded snake-like peeling, there’s damage being done under the surface — like permanent skin discoloration, wrinkles and more.
Avoid it: As you’re gearing up for a long sweat session during the sun’s prime time (10 am – 4 pm), prep skin with broad-spectrum SPF. Cover any exposed skin, including the tips of your ears, back of the neck, hands and scalp. Unfortunately, waterproof sunscreen isn’t a real thing, so you’ll have to rely on the next closest choice: water-resistant sunscreen. Regardless of what the label says, though, reapply every two hours.
Too little too late? Aloe vera gel and ice-cold body lotion are your new best friends. Aloe Life Skin Gel Ultimate Skin Treatment actually absorbs quickly so skin doesn’t feel sticky. For good measure, throw a jar of aloe-infused hydrating cream in the freezer for 20 minutes and have your actual BFF give you a soothing rubdown. This should help with the skin peeling that’s sure to ensue.