Having trouble sleeping? Dealing with dry skin? Feeling dehydrated? Hair burnt to a crisp? Suffering, perhaps, from all four? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. It’s the hottest time of the year for many places around the world, and whether you’re off on holiday or laying low at home, no one is immune from the summer heat or the damaging rays of the sun.
So, how can we protect ourselves? From sleep psychologist Dr Shelby Harris to leading nutritionist Rosemary Ferguson, we ask the experts for their top tips on how to look after your hair, skin, body and sleep in the scorching summer heat.
How to protect your hair
“Direct heat from the sun can be extremely harmful to the overall health of your hair,” says natural hair expert Charlotte Mensah. “It can have a similar effect on your hair as heat styling, blow-drying and washing with non-conditioning products. Summer hair should be carefree in both styling and upkeep.”
To minimise the damaging effects of the heat, humidity and the sun’s damaging rays, Mensah offers some advice:
- Use moisturising shampoo and conditioner to counteract the dehydration caused by the heat.
- Give your hair an intensive treatment once a week with a deep-cleansing shampoo and a nourishing mask.
- Avoid overusing heat styling tools such as straighteners or blow-dryers, which will cause dry, brittle hair.
- Look for products with UV filters, vitamins and antioxidants to further protect your hair from the sun.
- Wear a hat or scarf while tanning.
- Stick to lightweight styling products that will control frizz.
How to protect your skin
“Summer is a time when our skin looks great, but is in fact at its most damaged,” warns skincare guru and celebrity favourite Dr Barbara Sturm. Sun exposure can photo-age our skin, cause inflammation, acne and in severe cases, even skin cancer—but according to Sturm, the heat can also cause excess oil, heat rashes, dehydration, breakouts and irritation.
“All skin is sensitive to heat in some ways,” she continues. “Heat can trigger hyperpigmentation, especially in melanin-rich skin. It can also inhibit the skin’s ability to protect and repair itself; can lower antioxidant levels and raise proteins that break down the skin’s spongy collagen supply, causing fine lines and sagging.”
In order to protect yourself, Dr Sturm has the following tips:
- It’s especially important not to use skincare approaches deploying acids such as retinol around sun exposure. Acids destroy rather than repair the skin matrix, weakening your skin’s natural ability to defend itself against UV exposure.
- Ideally, you need ingredients that calm irritation, combat the free radical, oxidative stress of sun and heat exposure, and help to rebalance and hydrate the skin. Aloe vera is a wonderful ingredient after sun exposure. It has a cooling effect on the skin and contains a vast storehouse of nutrients including vitamins A, C and E (which are antioxidants), vitamin B12, folic acid, enzymes, fatty acids and minerals such as calcium, magnesium and zinc. A home remedy for sunburn is to put the cooling aloe pulp on the skin directly from the plant [as with any topical treatments, do an allergy patch test first]. You break off the end of a plant and rub the watery pulp on your skin up to three times a day to help it heal faster and soothe the skin. For added hydration, it’s best blended with other beneficial ingredients such as nourishing oils.
- In the summer, I like to keep my hyaluronic serum in the fridge so that when I’m ready to apply it first thing in the morning or after spending time out in the heat and sun, it wakes up my skin with a refreshing burst of cooling hydration. If it’s really hot, I’ll also make hyaluronic acid ice cubes; I simply empty one of my hyaluronic ampoules into an ice cube tray, freeze for a few hours and then gently apply all over my skin for instant cooling and hydration.
- When you’re looking for sun protection, ignore the misleading term ‘SPF’—it doesn’t tell you anything about protection from UVA rays, which are just as dangerous as UVB rays and can penetrate car and home windows. My Dr Barbara Sturm Sun Drops are a hybrid sun protection/skincare treatment that create a broad spectrum shield on your skin against UVA and UVB rays, while also providing your skin with healing, moisturising and anti-oxidative ingredients.
How to protect your body
“To all sun worshippers out there, it is not worth getting heat exhaustion for a tan,” warns leading nutritionist Rosemary Ferguson. “Sustained heat causes systems in the body to become overwhelmed. The first thing to shut down is the body’s ability to sweat, which means we struggle to cool down. This is what is going on when heat exhaustion becomes heat stroke.”
In order to avoid this, Ferguson recommends the below:
- Electrolytes are key for hydration as they replace minerals that get lost through perspiration. You can feel hydrated, but if your electrolytes are out of whack then you are not properly hydrated. Electrolyte mixes are great to add to water—they come in liquid and powdered form. I like one by Seeking Health, or you can add quality Himalayan salt to your water.
- It’s important to note that hydration comes from food, too. Great sources include watermelon, celery, lettuce, cucumber, strawberries, oranges and peaches.
- Take a break from the sun, listen to your body when it’s overwhelmed, find some shade, rehydrate and revisit it later.
- Drink continuously, not just when you’re thirsty.
- Take cold showers regularly to help with body regulation.
- Apply something cool to your key areas that help with cooling; wrist, neck, chest and temples.
How to protect your sleep
“When good sleepers go to bed, their core body temperature begins to drop very slightly,” says sleep expert Dr Shelby Harris. “As the night continues, the temperature continues to drop slightly until approximately two hours before routine morning awakening. Simply put, your brain has an internal thermostat that’s lowering the temperature at night to make you sleepy and then rising it slowly just before waking in the morning.” However, during the hot summer months, things go awry. “A warm room makes it more difficult for the body to naturally keep cool and do its work, and we sleep less deeply and are more sweaty than usual.”
So, what can we do? Harris suggests the following:
- We need a cool room to help enhance our body’s natural temperature drop. Find a comfortable temperature setting if you have A/C, usually between 15 and 22C. If you and your bed partner have significantly different temperature preferences, I often suggest that bed partners keep two different quilts or bedspreads on the bed. One person can use a heavier one and the other can use a lighter one.
- If you don’t have air conditioning, open the windows to allow for a cross breeze and use a fan to circulate air.
- During the day, keep your windows closed with light-blocking temperature control shades to keep the hot air and sunlight from coming in and further warming things up.
- If you have multiple floors, consider sleeping downstairs or in the basement if it’s too hot upstairs since heat rises.