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A Primer on Summer Skin Repair

If a season of summer fun has left your skin looking less than lustrous, don't despair. Experts say it's easy to look fabulous fast. This is the second of a two-part series.

WebMD Feature

As the sun begins to set on summer and we gear up for a fashionable fall, one beauty problem can take center stage: Dry, abused, parched, and sometimes even sunburned, skin.

From overexposure to natural elements -- like high temperatures, the sun, and salty ocean water and air -- to the manmade signs of summer, like air conditioning, insect repellents, and chlorine in pools, it's clear that by the end of the season, your face and body can show signs of wear and tear.

"There's a lot of damage that can be done to skin in summertime, including not only free radical damage from the sun, which increases our risk of skin cancer, but also damage to the natural balance of oil and moisture that is essential for skin to look and feel healthy," says Karen Asquith, director of aesthetic training for G.M. Collin skin care products in Paris.

When that balance goes off, says Asquith, skin becomes dry, flaky, sometimes even irritated and inflamed, and frequently takes on a rough look and feel.

If this sounds familiar, don't despair. Experts say your skin is simply dehydrated and crying out for moisture. What's that you say, you've already been slathering it on and you've still got alligator skin? Not to worry. When this is the case, experts say a little exfoliation is all you need.

"You can't get the moisture deep enough into the skin unless you exfoliate it first, meaning you've got to rid your skin of the dead cells on the top layer, so whatever product you are using to re-hydrate can penetrate deep enough into the cells to combat the dehydration that has occurred," says Asquith.

And while this may seem like a simple enough process, experts also say it's also where some of us go wrong.

"Many people seem to think that if their skin feels and looks leathery or tough that it needs a harsh exfoliation treatment, like an aggressive scrub, but that's not true," says Barbara Shumann- Ortega, skin care expert, educator, and VP of Wilma Schumann Skin Care in Coral Gables, Fla.

Indeed, says Ortega, tough skin is damaged skin, so a gentle treatment is needed to remove the old cells. To do the job right, Ortega suggests a soft "sugar scrub," which gently removes old cells without harming new ones getting ready to surface from underneath.

What you should definitely avoid: "Any harsh treatment, like a body salt rub, or a scrub made from walnuts or apricot pits, or even some herbal rubs, can all be traumatizing to skin that is already damaged," Ortega tells WebMD.

If you feel your skin may be too irritated for even the softest exfoliating scrub, experts say try a gentle alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA), a product that can chemically lift away dead skin cells over the course of several treatments.

"Your goal should always be to eliminate cell buildup without further injuring the skin," Asquith says.

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