Our skin is sensitive to changing weather. In Singapore, average daytime temperature is around 31ºc to 32ºc with relative humidity exceeding 80 per cent. Such tropical climate can affect your skin. Here are some common conditions and how to treat them.
- Superficial fungal infections
Fungal infections are common in damp and humid conditions. In Singapore, athlete’s foot and jock itch are common skin infections. Athlete’s foot, or tinea pedis, is a fungal infection of the soles and toe webs of the feet, resulting in dry, scaly and itchy skin. It can eventually affect the toenails as well. Jock itch is a ringworm infection around the groin. Also common is pityriasis versicolor, which causes white, pink or brown scaly patches on the body.
What to do: Keep the skinfolds and toe webs dry, especially after a shower. Use antifungal powder in your socks to reduce the risk of athlete’s foot. If you are prescribed an antifungal cream, use it for at least one to two weeks after the rash clears to minimise a recurrence. Have more than one pair of work shoes and alternate them weekly.
Eczema is often aggravated by dry and cold conditions. Humidity may help to reduce itching and flaring, but heat and excessive perspiration can cause eczema to flare, and trigger more itching and scratching. In healthy skin, the cells in the epidermis are able to retain moisture, which forms a barrier against damage and infection. Those with eczema must be careful not to over-cleanse their skin as it can strip the protective layer of moisture, and worsen the condition. House dust mites, which thrive in hot, humid environment, can also aggravate existing eczema.
What to do: Moisturising is important, even in humid weather. Use lighter formulations such as lotions, though it may be ineffective for those with very dry skin. Use gentle or soap-free cleanser and avoid long showers, which dry the skin. Many with eczema feel more comfortable in an air-conditioned environment, but maintain the room temperature at 24ºc to 25ºc, which is a comfortable range. Remember to continue using any prescribed creams and moisturisers.
Heat and humidity can worsen oily, acne-prone skin. Clean your face with a gentle face wash two to three times a day. Note that certain prescribed acne medications may make skin sensitive to sunlight.
What to do: Use an oil-free sunblock which will not clog pores. It also feels more comfortable on acne-prone skin. If you are on medication such as doxycycline or isotretinoin, and your face or skin turns very red, see your doctor. Topical retinoids, which clear blackheads and whiteheads, are used at night to minimise photosensitivity.
- Heat Rash
Heat rash (prickly heat) or miliaria is caused when skin pores become blocked and sweat cannot escape. Adults usually develop heat rash in skin folds and where clothing causes friction. In infants, the rash is mainly found on the neck, shoulders and chest. It can also appear in the armpits, elbow creases and groin, causing red bumps and occasional small clear blisters. The rash usually clears on its own.
What to do: Avoid tight-fitting clothes if you are prone to heat rash. Light cotton clothing is usually recommended