How To Keep Your Cool In The Heat
For the ill-prepared, summer’s joy is swiftly scuppered by the very things that make it so enjoyable. Overstaying your welcome in the heat will turn dewy skin greasy and beachy hair frizzy. UV exposure will toast skin rather than tan it and the increase in humidity is likely to destroy the underarms of your freshly pressed cotton-poplin shirt sooner than you can say “hyperhidrosis”. In short, summer is a vengeful beast. There is sweating, chafing, chapping, burning, itching and stinging. And let’s not forget the dreaded pong.
To save you a summer buzzkill or six, we’ve compiled a series of foolproof hacks to get you through the season looking your best.
The two million or more sweat glands that cover your body are likely to make themselves known during summer. And while some light perspiration is par for the course, some men find that overenthusiastic sweat glands can cause their pits, their palms and the soles of their feet to become drenched.
Technically referred to as hyperhidrosis, excessive sweating can make social engagements – and favourite shirts – hard to manage. For most men, a couple of dietary tweaks (reducing your intake of coffee, alcohol, salt and spicy foods) along with an industrial-strength antiperspirant will temper transudation. Some gentlemen may even consider wearing sweat patches, the unseemly sanitary towels that stick to the underarm and instantly nullify any sex appeal if witnessed first hand.
Those who require an instant (and bedroom-sensitive) solution can have the nerve signals to their sweat glands blocked by way of a quick Botox injection into the underarm. If waging chemical warfare on your armpits doesn’t appeal, then there’s the non-invasive one-hour miraDry procedure that eliminates sweat glands with precisely controlled electromagnetic impulses.
The greatest misconception about sweat is that it smells. Sweat alone is odourless. It’s only when the nutrient-rich fluid from the apocrine glands comes into contact with the bacteria on the surface of the skin that your unique bouquet becomes obvious to everyone else in the room. In an effort to break down the acids in your sweat, the bacteria begin to exude a foul stench.
Just as with hyperhidrosis, the foods you consume in excess will have an effect on the piquancy of your perfume. Unsurprisingly, garlic, onions and spices, along with rich, fatty and hard-to-metabolise foods, will all contribute to BO, so be sure to eliminate these from your diet.
In addition to addressing your diet (and using a deodorant, natch), you’ll need to bring your A-game to the shower. Give the areas that contain the highest concentration of apocrine sweat glands – armpits, chest, undercarriage – a thorough clean with a dedicated body wash and then towel off until bone dry, so bacteria can’t fester.
Even “normal” skin types are susceptible to a greasy and potentially reflective T-zone during the hotter months. This seasonal affliction invariably leads to breakouts as your pores become overwhelmed with a stomach-turning cocktail of sebum, sunscreen and sweat.
If you succumb to the temptation of stripping your skin dry with an astringent face wash, your sebaceous glands will rebel and pump out yet more grease. It’s important, therefore, to use a cleanser that isn’t over-drying but that contains a reasonable amount of salicylic acid to help dissolve the oil that’s clogging your pores.
It’s also worth opting for a mattifying gel or lotion over a cream-based moisturiser during summer. Sisley – Paris’ Mattifying Moisturizing Skin Care With Tropical Resins is light enough for comfortable wear on scorching days (chronic cases, on the other hand, will benefit from a more specialised product such as Clinique’s Oil Control Tonic. Just be sure to layer a broad-spectrum sunblock over any skincare product.
The spike in temperature and humidity can have an amusing but rather unflattering effect on your carefully considered hairstyle. First, the moisture in the air will cause each strand to expand and lose its natural shape, making styling an impossible feat. And then there’s the matter of heat exposure, which causes the cuticle of each hair to become scaly and rough. The net result is an unmanageable halo of frizz.
At this time of year, conditioners, hair masks and silicone-based smoothing treatments (which act like a layer of top coat on each strand) are your best allies as they’ll add a little weight to hair and help to smooth out each cuticle. Avoid drying hair with a towel or hairdryer (both methods destroy the cuticle) and allow hair to air dry before applying a small amount of conditioner through your locks. It may be recommended to rinse the product off, but you can leave it in for added insurance during the day.
AKA prickly heat or sweat rash (or, to use the medical term, miliaria), this condition is the scourge of summer. Heat rash is characterised by little red bumps that appear in the crease of the elbow, around skin folds, on the chest and underneath the boys, itching like hell and destroying the prospect of any fun.
Heat rash is caused by an obstruction in the sweat ducts, which forces sweat to leak into the skin and trigger inflammation (or pesky red pustules in extreme cases). Irritatingly, most doctors advise sufferers to simply stop sweating or limit their time in the sun. Online renegades, on the other hand, have found a regimen of antihistamines, ice-cold showers, cold compresses and antibacterial soap to be reliable.
What we do know: clothes made from breathable cotton or sweat-wicking material should constitute your seasonal wardrobe, and any occlusive (pore-clogging) or sticky skincare products – especially those loaded with fragrance – will have to find their way into the bin.
Oh, and it’s worth noting that fungal infections and PLE (polymorphic light eruption) are often misdiagnosed as heat rash since both conditions have similar symptoms. Get a second opinion if you’re not sure.
The frequency with which an insect feasts on your skin has to do with several personal – and largely unchangeable – factors. Some blood types are more appealing to disease-ridden mosquitoes than others (type O people are twice as attractive as those with type A, apparently), as are the compounds in your sweat and the kind of bacteria festering on your skin.
Also, mosquitoes are drawn to carbon dioxide from as far away as 48m, so, unless you plan on performing some Mr David Blaine-like feat of breath control, you’re going to have to douse yourself in Deet – or cover your limbs with loose-fitting long sleeves and linen trousers.
If you’ve proved yourself irresistible to insects, be sure to apply some some tea-tree oil to the area to relieve any itching and swelling (failing that, an ice pack and a dab of vinegar will work). If you need to bring out the big guns, you can always take an antihistamine and swiftly anaesthetise the area with a spray that contains benzocaine. If the itching becomes unbearable, and the skin hasn’t broken, you can always apply a small amount of one per cent hydrocortisone cream, which you can get over the counter at most chemists.
While one must suffer for fashion, no boat shoe is worth the pain of friction-induced blisters. Breaking in footwear can be made a little easier with a dab of petroleum jelly (or Vaseline, to use its ubiquitous name) on key areas. If that sounds too, ahem, pedestrian, there’s always the option of no-show socks, which will provide a breathable barrier. Shake a little non-staining foot powder into the lining for added protection.
If it’s already too late, popping a blister is sometimes the best and most satisfying option. There is a risk of infection, however, so use a hypodermic needle or sterile scalpel. Swab the opening with an antiseptic cream and apply a bandage as soon as possible.
Illustrations by Mr Nick Hardcastle