A Super Useful Guide To Stopping Heat Rash In Its Tracks

Longer days, barbecues at the park, beer gardens – there are so many things we love about the warm weather.

But the inevitable heat rash (cue burning, stinging, itching – you get the drift) really isn’t one of them.

So in a bid to keep our limbs rash-free this summer, we enlisted one of the best dermatologists in the business to fill us in on how to stop the unsightly (and oh-so-itchy) bumps from ruining your cool.

What Is Heat Rash?

Before we get to the good bit, it pays to know exactly what you’re treating.

“The official dermatological term for heat rash or prickly heat is Polymorphic Light Eruption (PLE),” explains London-based consultant dermatologist, Dr. Justine Kluk.

Er, ouch.

“Heat rash is triggered by UVA exposure in more than three quarters of cases, and whilst it can occur in men and children, it is most likely to affect women aged 20-40,” Dr. Kluk continues.

Your skin is at risk of UV exposure anywhere, and it’s never been more important to protect your limbs.

How To Prevent Heat Rash

Because prevention is always better than cure, right?

1. Choose The Right SPF

The obvious way to keep heat rash at arms length is to slather on the SPF religiously, but Dr. Kluk mentions that it has to include both UVA as well as standard UVB protection to be worth your while in reducing the risks of breaking out in red bumps.

‘Look for the UVA symbol or the words ‘broad spectrum’ on the label,’ she advises.

La Roche-Posay's Anthelios SPF50 UV Face Mist ($21.52).
La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios SPF50 UV Face Mist ($21.52 from Watsons).

A must for those with very fair and sensitive skin, this has the muscle to shield against the harmful effects of both UVA rays, which penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin, and UVB rays, which are responsibly for burning and irritating the surface layers of skin. It’s non-comedogenic, so won’t clog pores, and hypoallergenic, making it perfect for those with typically reactive skin.

2. Take A Course Of Oral Steroids

“For those whose holiday is ruined by prickly heat every year, taking a 5-7 day course of oral steroids starting a couple of days before you are due to travel may prevent a severe attack,” says Dr. Kluk.

However, as with all medication, Dr. Kluk stresses the importance of discussing this with a Consultant Dermatologist or GP experienced in heat rash and skin conditions.

3. Train Your Skin

“Slowly increasing time spent outdoors with uncovered skin, starting with a few minutes in Spring, may help harden the skin to sun exposure and prevent the rash appearing subsequently on a sunny holiday,” explains Dr. Kluk.

Clever.

“But, of course, common sense should apply, so that the skin isn’t exposed long enough to burn.”

4. Cover Up

As well as applying a sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection, Dr. Kluk recommends investing in densely woven sun protection clothing, which can reduce the risk of heat rash even further.

And before you dismiss the idea completely for fear of turning into a pool of sweat, it isn’t just any old clothing. It has the ability to obstruct, absorb and reflect the UV radiation that leads to irritation and most fabrics are super-light.

How To Get Rid Of Heat Rash Fast

1. Take A Daily Anti-Histamine

That’s right, those little white tablets aren’t just good for alleviating the symptoms of hay fever.

“Taken daily, an antihistamine may help to reduce the itch associated with the rash,” she advises.

Cetirizine, loratadine and fexofenadine are less likely to make you feel drowsy, but remember to take them as your GP, a pharmacist or the leaflet describes. 

2. Swap Out Your Shower Gel

While there’s nothing more luxe than a beautifully scented shower gel that lathers up a dream, you might want to swap it out for something kinder if you’re battling heat rash.

Dr. Kluk recommends a gentle, emollient-based body wash as not to irritate the skin further.

Aveeno's Emollient Body Wash (S$16.90 from Guardian).
Aveeno’s Emollient Body Wash (S$16.90 from Guardian).

With soothing oats and skin cell-building ceramides, Aveeno’s (above) creamy cleansing lotion soothes skin as it eradicates everyday grime.

CeraVe's Hydrating Cleanser for dry to normal skin (S$6.53 for 87ml on iHerb).
CeraVe’s Hydrating Cleanser for dry to normal skin (S$6.53 for 87ml on iHerb).

Developed with some of the USA’s very best dermatologists, CeraVe’s (above) non-foaming body cleanser contains ceramides to aid skin repair and hyaluronic acid to hydrate parched skin.

3. Apply A Steroid Cream

“For very itchy, raised, red or swollen areas, a steroid cream may be prescribed to relieve discomfort until the rash has settled,” says Dr. Kluk.

According to the NHS, topical steroids also come in the form of lotions, gels, mousses and ointments and are available in a variety of different potencies depending on the condition of your skin. Hyrdocortisone and Eumovate can be bought over the counter, but stronger topical steroids are only available on prescription from a GP or dermatologist.

4. Switch Up Your Body Lotion

That piña colada-scented body lotion may be a brilliant addition to your summer bodycare routine, but it might not be doing your heat rash any good.

“Avoid putting anything on the skin that may irritate it further, such as perfume or heavily fragranced skincare products,” adds Dr. Kluk. “Instead, apply a soothing moisturiser containing menthol or aloe vera to calm the skin,” she adds. “To cool the skin down even more so, pop it in the fridge for half an hour beforehand.”

A soothing moisturiser (S$65) formulated with organic evening primrose, avocado oils, chamomile, and lavender by Kora Organics by Miranda Kerr.
A soothing moisturiser (S$65) formulated with organic evening primrose, avocado oils, chamomile, and lavender by Kora Organics by Miranda Kerr.

This lightweight moisturiser (above) is packed with aloe vera leaf juice, avocado, evening primrose oil, and all sorts of other botanical extracts, soothing your skin almost instantly. We love.

5. Stay In The Shade

OK, this one’s obvious, but when the lure of lying flat out on the grass with a tin of Gordon’s Gin & Tonic in hand gets too much, remember, it’ll only exacerbate your heat rash – not good.

“Seek the shade or stay out of the sun wherever possible for a few days to allow heat rash to settle,” says Dr. Kluk.

This story first appeared on ELLE UK.