As an expat, you may find yourself in an unfamiliar climate. Maybe you moved from a hot to a cold city or a dry area to a humid one. Whatever the relocation may be, it’s important to evaluate the changes you should make to your self-care routines. You might go from exercising outdoors to indoors or have to buy a new wardrobe depending on the weather. Another regimen you might need to reexamine based on a change in environment? Your skincare routine.
Proper skin care in a new climate is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Since skin is the body’s largest organ, it’s vital to take care of it just as you would take care of other parts of your body such as your heart, teeth and eyes. These all require yearly checkups and daily steps you should take to keep them in good shape.
Read on for a list of skincare tips and tricks to keep it healthy while moving to a new climate and ways to seek care if you deal with a skin condition abroad.
Protecting Your Skin in a Hot Climate
Your Biggest Adversary? The Sun
Whether you’re used to a sunny climate or living in one for the first time, it’s important to avoid the sun as much as possible and take safety precautions for any time spent under strong rays.
A lot of countries experience sunny weather, but some have harsher conditions than others due to factors such as:
- The angle of the sun
- Holes in the ozone layer
- Proximity to the sun
All these factors come into play when evaluating the precautions you must take before spending time outside. In New Zealand and Australia, for example, you need to take more precautions due to a big hole in the ozone layer. In a place such as Quito, Ecuador near the Andes mountains, you’re more likely to get a sunburn due to its high altitude.
Countries or cities with high altitudes can experience a lot of harsh sun. The altitude can also create very dry conditions. If you move to an area with a higher altitude than you’re used to, you should focus on hydrating your skin and protecting it from the sun. In these environments, you should focus on cleansing your skin as part of your skincare routine rather than scrubbing. You should also drink more water than usual and get a humidifier if the dry air irritates your skin.
Before moving, do your climate research to determine which factors you should consider and prepare to encounter in the new area.
Pack the Skin Care Essentials and Schedule a Screening
As you get ready to head off to a warm, sunny country, make sure to put together a sun safety kit and pack accordingly.
You should bring:
- Caps or wide-brim hats
- Chapstick with lip sunscreen in it
- Long or protective clothing such as a swim shirt
- Sunglasses with lenses that have 99% to 100% UV absorption
- Water-resistant sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection with an SPF of 30 or higher
Beyond taking these preventative skin care measures, it’s also important to visit a dermatologist for annual skin checks. During this appointment, the doctor will do a full body scan of your skin to check for anything out of the ordinary. Be sure to point out any new moles, freckles or spots on your skin that have changed. It could be a sign of skin cancer. If your doctor thinks they see a cancerous spot, they might burn it off or do a biopsy. The earlier you catch a suspicious spot, the better your chances are of treating it, which is why it’s important to not skip an annual screening.
Certain people are more prone to developing skin cancer such as those with fair skin and light eyes or a history of sunburns, but anyone can develop a cancerous spot. After moving, identify a dermatologist covered by your international health insurance plan and get your skincare check-up scheduled.
When to Treat a Sunburn at Home or Visit a Doctor
Even if you wear sunscreen and pack a hat, sometimes, you may end up with a sunburn. If it’s a mild to moderate sunburn, you can treat it at home with aloe, lotion, ice, cold water and over-the-counter pain medicine such as ibuprofen if it hurts. You should also drink extra water and avoid the sun until your burn fully heals.
If you end up with a severe burn, you make need to seek medical attention. If you experience blisters on a large portion of your body or fever, headache, severe pain or nausea with your sunburn, it’s time to visit a doctor. Make sure to identify a provider or outpatient facility that accepts your international health insurance before making an appointment to avoid extra out-of-pocket medical expenses. Have your insurance plan set up before moving, however, so you’re prepared to seek care if necessary once overseas.
Skin Care in a Humid Climate
If you move to a warm climate, there’s a good chance you’ll encounter some sticky, humid air. With steamy air comes more moisture and more threats to the skin such as mosquitos and other bugs or something as simple as chafing from damp clothes on the skin.
While preparing to move to a humid climate, make sure to bring bug spray and long, lightweight clothing to protect your skin from potential pests. After spending a lot of time outdoors, check your body for any potential bites or irritations from encountering the elements. If you experience any side effects from a skin irritant such as a fever or an oozing bite, you should seek medical care.
With long clothing, however, you should choose moisture-wicking fabrics to avoid skin conditions such as a yeast infection under the armpits or other areas that collect moisture. You should also make sure to rinse your body and cleanse your face each day to remove any built-up oils and moisture on the skin to avoid other infections.
You should also plan to drink more water than usual because your body may sweat more than you’re used to, especially if you move from a cooler or more temperature climate.
Cold Weather Skin Care
While hot and sunny climates pose threats to your skin, so do cold and snowy environments.
In the cold, it’s important to stay hydrated by drinking a lot of water. Every day, or maybe even multiple times a day, you should lotion your full body including your face to protect its moisture barrier. You should especially focus on any pieces of skin you may expose outside such as the hands and nose.
If you’re coming from a warm or more temperature country, you may be used to using a light lotion. In the cold, however, it requires something more heavy-duty. You may even want to use something such as petroleum jelly.
Sometimes, a cold environment with snow still poses threats from the sun as well. The snow can reflect the rays, so you should take some of the same precautions you would at a hot beach.
In a chillier climate, you’ll want to cover as much skin as possible when going outside because of the harsh air. Wear sunglasses, a buff covering as much of your neck and face skin as possible and a hat to cover your head and ears. These tips help the skin maintain its moisture and avoid irritation which can lead to a condition such as eczema. In extreme temperatures, you also need to be aware of more serious conditions such as frostbite. In these urgent cases, you’ll want to seek medical care.
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Pollution and Skin Care
If you move to a place with high pollution such as Mexico City, China or India, you have to take care of your skin differently than in a place with clearer air and water. Pollutants can run down your skin’s protective barrier and cause health conditions if you don’t rinse them off yourself at the end of each day.
In a highly polluted area, you should:
- Exfoliate your skin to keep pollutants from building up
- Moisturize your skin to create a protective barrier
- Wash your face twice a day
- Wash your hands before touching your face
- Wear a mask outside
- Wear sunscreen even if the sun is harder to see with air pollution
In addition to buying all the right creams, washing your face and wearing protective clothing, so many other factors impact the health of your skin. It’s also important to get enough quality sleep each night, eat healthy foods, drink enough water and monitor your stress levels. All these factors influence your skin’s look and condition. And a big overseas move causes a lot of lifestyle changes.
Even if you take good care of your skin, you should always seek the advice of a doctor if you notice something that seems unusual for your skin type.