There's a reason behind that red rash that always creeps up at the beach

By Jillian Ruffo
Updated July 14, 2016 01:00 PM
Replacement image for 295417
Credit: Replacement image for 295417


Whether you spend the summer at the beach or you get your vitamin D boost from eating lunch outside, you should always be wearing sunscreen. (If not, you need to be, and here are some of our favorites). And if you’ve been doubling up on the SPF and can’t figure out why your skin is turning red or blotchy, there may be an underlying reason. Below, a few of the most common sun-induced issues, and how to manage — and prevent — them.

1. You’re prone to rosacea
If your skin — usually on your face and chest — looks like it’s getting burnt when you’re totally covered up with SPF, it could be due to rosacea, explains New York dermatologist, Dr. Whitney Bowe. “People who have rosacea can have very reactive blood vessels. When you’re hot, your body tries to regulate its body temperature by dilating the blood vessels close to the surface of the skin, causing redness.”

The fix: Preventing blushing could be as easy as staying hydrated and cool. But when redness pops up, Bowe recommends stashing an ice pack or a cold soda in a cooler, and holding it against the skin at any sign of blushing. If that doesn’t work, it could be the UV rays that you’re affected by, in which case, a higher SPF (30 or above!) may do the trick.

2. You just need to cool off
Prickly heat, otherwise known as heat rash, isn’t just an excuse that your mom used to lure you into the shade as a child. In fact, Manhattan-based dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner explains that it’s extremely common anywhere on the body and shows up as an itchy rash that literally looks as if your skin has been pricked by pins. The cause? When your sweat glands are blocked, either by tight clothing or plain old sensitive skin and humidity, sweat builds up and causes an uncomfortable reaction.

The fix: Wear loose clothing and be sure to keep yourself cool, Zeichner advises. And if red, itchy spots creep up on you, ice and topical anti-inflammatory creams like Cortisone will help soothe the area.

3. You’re on the pill
That blotchy, brown hyper-pigmentation that sometimes appears above your lip and on your upper cheeks and forehead? Chances are it’s melasma, a reaction to a combination of UV rays and fluctuating hormones from factors like birth control and pregnancy, explains Bowe.

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The fix: “The best thing you can do is prevent it from happening in the first place,” says Bowe. “You need to wear broad spectrum sun protection and a wide brimmed hat when you’re in the sun, especially when you’re at the beach, which is when you’re getting hit with UV rays from above and from the their reflection off of the water and the sand.” But if the melasma has already appeared, don’t panic. Chemical peels with glycolic and salicylic acids will help reduce the pigmentation.

4.You’re allergic to the sun
Experiencing a spotty, red, itchy rash that stays with you when you leave the sun? “You can get something called PMLE (Polymorphous light eruption), which is a skin allergy,” says Zeichner. To put it simply, the skin has an allergic reaction to the sun, which typically pops up earlier in the season or if you haven’t been exposed too much.

The fix: Acclimate your skin to the sun slowly, and reapply SPF frequently, advises Zeichner. “Over time, with low levels of continued sun exposure, the skin gets used to the sun and does not react as strongly.”

5. You’ve handled limes (or a margarita!)
Limes don’t look dangerous — we know — but when mixed with UV rays, their juice can cause a burn-like reaction on the skin, known as phytophotodermatitis. “You will either see streaks where lime juice drips down on the skin or you will see little dots where it splattered,” explains Zeichner. “Initially it may look like a red rash or you may not even notice it that much. But as it heals, you’ll get these dark, round streaks.”

The fix: Don’t worry, we’re not going to tell you to ditch the margs and guac. But if they’re your summer staples, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling them, and clean up any drips with soap right away. And, of course, some extra SPF can’t hurt.

Do you have any of these summer skin issues? Tell us below!

— Jillian Ruffo