From treating spots to bites: How to save your skin this summer

From easing aching legs to scalp protection and avoiding spots to treating bites: How to save your skin this summer

  • The warmer months in Britain are the prime time for a host of skin problems 
  • But a range of new products claim to help and the Daily Mail rated them
  • We asked Dr Justine Hextall, a consultant dermatologist, to review a selection 

The warmer months are the prime time for a host of skin problems, from sunburn and insect bites to prickly heat. But a range of new products claim to help.

We asked Dr Justine Hextall, a consultant dermatologist at the Tarrant Street Clinic in Arundel, West Sussex, to review a selection. We then rated them.


Institut Esthederm Sun Intolerance Protective Body Spray

Institut Esthederm Sun Intolerance Protective Body Spray, 150ml, £48,

CLAIM: This promises to ‘reduce the sensitivity of skin that is ultra-reactive to the sun’ and is said to be ‘rich in anti-inflammatory ingredients’. Apply daily two weeks before a holiday, hourly for the first three days in the sun, then every two hours for the rest of your trip.

EXPERT VERDICT: On the plus side, this contains glycyrrhetinic acid (liquorice extract), which can help fade sun pigmentation, plus marine extracts (from a type of shrimp) and laminaria (a type of seaweed), which some research suggests may help protect against harmful UV rays from the sun and lighten sun spots (dark patches of sun-damaged skin).

However, this product doesn’t give a specific sun protection factor (SPF) — it just says it’s ‘high protection’. The complicated application could be stressful, too. I don’t see anything unique to warrant the high price.


Eucerin Sun Fluid Pigment Control SPF 50+

Eucerin Sun Fluid Pigment Control SPF 50+, 50ml, £14.99,

CLAIM: A facial sunscreen to ‘prevent sun-induced hyperpigmentation’. It contains licochalcone A, glycyrrhetinic acid and thiamidol, and is said to ‘visibly reduce dark spots over time’. Apply after, or instead of, your usual moisturiser.

EXPERT VERDICT: Hyperpigmentation is common and can be caused by hormonal fluctuations — due to pregnancy or the Pill, for example — which make the skin more sensitive to sun exposure.

Even if successfully treated (typically with a cream containing hydroquinone, which has a skin-lightening effect), it frequently recurs.

This Eucerin cream is intended as a preventative and a treatment. Licochalcone A and glycyrrhetinic acid (both extracts of liquorice) have been found to be as effective as hydroquinone, while thiamidol — which inhibits an enzyme important in the production of the brown skin pigment melanin — compares favourably with hydroquinone.

In theory, this cream should help fade pigmentation — and protect against further damage. 



Science Of Skin Solution For Bites

Science Of Skin Solution For Bites, 5ml, £8.99,

CLAIM: This rollerball can ‘quickly soothe and calm the effect of bites’. It contains aloe vera to cool skin, capsicum (chilli extract) to numb the bite, plus EGCG (a plant chemical), which the maker says is clinically proven to fight redness and soothe irritated skin.

EXPERT VERDICT: The key to treating insect bites is to reduce the inflammation quickly. If a bite is scratched, histamine is released, triggering inflammation; the more you scratch, the more you itch.

Several studies suggest aloe vera and EGCG have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects, so it makes sense that this lotion will reduce inflammation from the odd small bite. However, for multiple, swollen bites you’ll probably need something stronger. If you always get bitten abroad, I recommend taking an antihistamine at night as an itch preventative. 



Burnshield Hydrogel Burn Spray

Burnshield Hydrogel Burn Spray, 125ml, £6.18,

CLAIM: Contains ‘hydrogel’ and tea tree oil, said to provide ‘instant cooling and pain relief’.

EXPERT VERDICT: This is useful for easing mild to moderate sunburn.

Hydrogel is mainly water, with an added thickener. It creates a moist, wound-healing environment by attracting water to the skin.

Studies have shown hydrogel dressings can speed up the formation of new, healthy skin when treating burns. Tea tree oil is antibacterial, which could help prevent infection. 


Balmonds Cooling Cream

Balmonds Cooling Cream, 100ml, £19,

CLAIM: A lotion said to help with ‘general cooling of overly hot skin’. It contains menthol, aloe vera, calendula and camomile ‘to reduce redness and heat’, plus shea butter, olive and hemp oils to replace moisture. Apply as required.

EXPERT VERDICT: Aloe vera, calendula and camomile can soothe skin and reduce inflammation — and shea butter is good for repairing dry, irritated skin.

Most importantly, there are no heat-trapping ingredients here, such as petroleum (ironically found in many after-sun creams), as these can exacerbate sunburn symptoms. It should reduce the discomfort of mild sunburn.

Keep it in the fridge for an extra cooling effect. 



Heliocare Advanced SPF 50 Gel

Heliocare Advanced SPF 50 Gel, 50ml, £19.80,

CLAIM: A facial sunscreen designed for oily, acne-prone skin. It contains Fernblock, an antioxidant, for extra protection. Apply every three hours during high sun exposure.

EXPERT VERDICT: Some acne patients are worried about using sunscreen on their faces because it can make their spots worse. Others find sun exposure improves their acne, which can also make it tempting to forget sunscreen.

But acne-prone skin still needs protecting from the sun — not least because UV light can cause what we call ‘post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation’, areas of discolouration formed as spots heal.

Fern leaf extract helps block high-energy visible, or ‘blue’, light, which is emitted by the sun and by electronic devices. This can’t be blocked by conventional UVA and UVB sunscreens.

Due to increasing exposure to this light, its effect is being studied. It could have as significant an effect in prematurely ageing skin as UV light, so it’s a good idea to protect your skin from it. 



Antistax Leg & Vein Massage Gel

Antistax Leg & Vein Massage Gel, 125ml, £7.99,

CLAIM: This contains ‘Bio-Active Flaven’ (red vine leaf), which the maker says has been scientifically proven to ‘alleviate leg swelling’, and soothing peppermint oil.

EXPERT VERDICT: Achy, hot legs are common in the summer as our veins dilate to allow increased blood flow near the surface of the skin, which helps release heat. But doing this slows blood flow back to the heart and, particularly in older patients, this can cause fluid to leak out — causing swollen lower legs.

Some studies suggest red vine leaf extract may help reduce leg swelling, but most of these relate to taking oral supplements. I can’t see how a topical gel alone would help much. 



Malibu Clear Hair And Scalp Protector SPF50, 50ml, £4.49,

Malibu Clear Hair And Scalp Protector SPF50

CLAIM: A water-resistant spray for your head, scalp and hair parting.

EXPERT VERDICT: Your head and scalp are exposed to UV light whenever you go outside, and this is a very common site for skin cancer. It can be hard to find a sunscreen that doesn’t leave the scalp oily and hair greasy, so this is great, especially as it contains effective chemical sunblocks. 



Rona Ross Foaming Prickly Heat Gel Wash, 160ml, £12.95,

CLAIM: Soap-free face and body wash said to prevent and relieve ‘prickly heat, heat rash and other skin irritations’.

EXPERT VERDICT: Prickly heat is a bumpy, itchy rash likely caused by a blockage of the skin’s sweat glands, which forces sweat to collect in blisters under the skin.

Washing regularly with this should help reduce bacteria levels — and the anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties of the seaweed and tea tree oil are likely to improve symptoms. 


CLn Sport Wash, 100ml, £31.50, and Rona Ross Foaming Prickly Heat Gel Wash, 160ml, £12.95,


CLn Sport Wash, 100ml, £31.50,

CLAIM: A shower gel designed by dermatologists for active people with skin prone to folliculitis (inflamed hair follicles), infection and acne. Use after exercise.

EXPERT VERDICT: Sweaty skin is perfect for the growth of bacteria and yeast, leading to acne and other skin infections. This shower gel will help as it contains sodium hypochlorite (basically diluted bleach), which will reduce bacteria and yeast on the skin — but it may be too harsh for your face. 


SECRETS OF AN A-LIST BODY: How to get the enviable physiques of the stars

This week: Zoe Saldana’s lower legs

Zoe Saldana’s legs suggest lots of time spent in the gym. Not so. The Guardians Of The Galaxy actress, 40, limits sessions to 20 minutes. ‘I run in place for 30 seconds, then do squats, then carry a heavy ball a few times in a row until I get my heart rate up,’ the mother of two has said.

‘I work out three times a week, but if I do a lot of cardio, it means I’ll be dragging my feet for the rest of the day.’

What to try: Weighted calf raises. Sit on the edge of a chair or bench with good posture — head and back in line.

Hold a dumbbell on your right knee, with both hands stabilising the weight. Lift the heel of your right foot as high as possible. Pause, then lower your heel and repeat.

Do 12 repetitions then change sides. That’s one set. Perform four sets.

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