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Prickly Heat Rash - Causes, Prevention & Treatment

Posted by Kirsty Black on 29th Mar 2022

Prickly Heat Rash - Causes, Prevention & Treatment


Summer weather can have great benefits to your skin as the sun helps to replenish what has been lost during the colder months. Cell turnover increases, acne, dryness and other skin conditions tend to improve. However, other seasonal challenges, such as prickly heat rash can become an issue.

Prickly Heat Rash Cause

Milaria Rubra, otherwise known as prickly heat or heat rash, occurs most often in areas of friction, such as under clothing, or folds of skin, such as underarms, the groin, neck and breasts. In these zones, sweat cannot evaporate very easily and debris can rub into and block pores.[1]

This can cause an irritating, prickly sensation on the skin along with an inflamed, itchy rash.

Sweat is acidic, salty and often contains toxins that have been eliminated from the body – which makes for a very irritating substance if it cannot evaporate easily from the skin. The warm and moist environment sweat creates becomes the ideal bacterial breeding ground which can disrupt the natural balance of the skin, resulting in inflammation, discomfort and sometimes infection.

Unfortunately, anyone can experience this irritating rash under the right conditions. Young children and babies are especially prone because their sweat glands aren’t fully developed and can be prone to blockages.

There are three things that can trigger prickly heat, and or make it worse, simply because they obstruct the free flow and evaporation of sweat from the skin:

#1. Clothing made from synthetic material

#2. Sunscreens made with silicone

#3. Climates with high humidity

Clearly, it's not so easy to avoid humid climates, but choosing light, breathable clothing and a good sunscreen are easy wins! Read on to find out how to choose the best sun cream for prickly heat.

How To Get Rid Of Prickly Heat

Don’t panic if you do notice a prickly heat rash appearing, it should go away within a few days maximum. But try to keep cool whilst the spots calm down.

You can do this by taking a cold shower (or as cool as you can tolerate!). Doing this will cool the skin down, remove bacteria and sweat and help unclog blocked sweat glands.

But remember, if you want to help prevent another outbreak, wash with organic shower gel only! Truly organic skincare is free from irritating, synthetic chemicals and detergents which can block pores further. Choose a body wash rich in soothing and antibacterial aloe vera. Utilising essential oils like lavender can also help calm irritation and inflammation and the rash should clear more quickly.

Our entire body wash range contains aloe vera, but for prickly heat, we suggest our Lavender Body Wash, which will also provide antibacterial benefits.

Apply an aloe vera gel, or aloe-vera rich lotion, after your cool shower.

How Aloe Vera Can Help Prickly Heat

Aloe vera is also renowned for its extraordinary soothing properties that offer a cooling sensation on the skin.

Repair Lotion

Aloe is a key ingredient in our Repair Lotion, which is a great all-round soother for skin. Along with aloe, our Repair Lotion also contains chickweed to calm and chamomile to reduce inflammation – just what the doctor ordered!

How To Prevent Prickly Heat

Knowing how to clear up prickly heat is great, but to prevent it entirely is even better.

To do this, keep your skin clear of things that might obstruct the sweat glands – meaning bacteria will be kept at bay.

Keep your skin free from dead surface skin cells by regularly using a gentle organic body scrub. This will keep pores free and leave your skin soft and smooth.

Avoid the use of antiperspirant – it’s designed to trap sweat (and consequently, bacteria. But sweating is a healthy function of the skin! If you’re worried about odour, use a good, organic deodorant free from aluminium. It’s not the sweat that causes unpleasant scents, it’s the bacteria, so using a healthy deodorant will allow your sweat glands to function, without building up nasty-smelling bacteria.

Prickly Heat & Synthetic Skincare

Conventional skincare products are usually made up of synthetic chemicals like petrolatum, paraffin and mineral oil. These ingredients have a ‘cling-film’ type effect on the skin, which traps heat, sweat and bacteria – the perfect environment for prickly heat to appear.

Silicone in synthetic sun cream is part of the problem. If your sunscreen isn’t organic or based on natural minerals such as zinc oxide, then you may want to make the switch. Conventional sunscreens contain a cocktail of ingredients you’d rather stay away from – and not just because they can encourage the development of prickly heat.

Certain sunscreen ingredients are linked to health issues and can cause skin irritation.

The ‘cling-film’ effect of sunscreens is made worse by sunscreens that claim to be “waterproof” (they aren’t, by the way). They are designed to keep water out, but at the same time, will keep sweat trapped underneath. “Waterproof” is a misleading term anyway. No sunscreen is actually waterproof, because you still need to reapply it after getting out of the water and towelling off.

Which Sunscreen to Choose?

A sunscreen with plant-based, organic ingredients is the way to go. Not only will a genuine organic sunscreen be free from silicone and other synthetic additives that may cause issues, but it’s more likely to be made up of ingredients that work with the natural chemistry of the skin, meaning it can breathe and be nourished at the same time.

To make sure you’ve got a genuinely natural formulation, make sure the product has been independently certified organic by someone like the Soil Association/COSMOS. The Soil Association’s standards are some of the strictest in the world, so you can rest assured that what you’re buying is the most natural it can be. Just look for their logo on the packaging!

So if you are a prickly heat sufferer, give an organic sunscreen a go! 

                    Odylique Sunscreen

"The first organic 100% sunscreen I found, now I’m hooked!" - Lakshmi, Odylique Customer

When Prickly Heat Isn't Prickly Heat

“it's worth noting that many people think they're suffering with heat rash when in fact they are reacting to sun cream.” - Dermatologist, Dr. Stefanie Williams.

You may be under the impression that the rash you have is due to prickly heat, but it could be a reaction to the sunscreen or skincare you’re using.

Skin allergies and prickly heat rashes are often confused, because they’re so similar in appearance.

As we mentioned previously, synthetic ingredients can be the direct cause of skin issues and many of them are scrutinised for their safety.
When particular chemicals/ingredients are exposed to UV light or heat, they can become unstable and breakdown, becoming toxic as they sit on the skin.

But the solution is the same – cut the chemicals and switch to organic! Organic, plant based ingredients are robust enough to withstand what nature throws at them (think about it – it’s how they thrive and grow in the first place!) and continue to do so on your skin.
Our Natural Sun Screen is the perfect choice, using the power of nature to protect your skin, whether it’s from prickly heat or sunburn, without clogging your pores and allowing your skin to sweat naturally as it should!

Odylique provides a wide range of organic skincare perfect for preventing prickly heat and to soothe already irritated skin.

In sum, prickly heat isn’t inevitable, so don’t feel you have to confine yourself to the indoors! Get outdoors and enjoy the weather while you can – just be armed with some knowledge and key products to help protect you!

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