Q: I just took a summer internship in New York City. I’m thrilled, but as a born-and-bred Bay Area girl accustomed to a comfortable, mild climate, I’m a little worried about how I’ll look in the Big Apple’s infamously icky, sticky summer heat (feel free to call me vain because I am). I know it’s not as bad as other areas of the country but as part of my position, I’ll be hoofing it around Manhattan without having the luxury of retreating to an air-conditioned car. Have any pointers on how I can survive a sweltering summer in the city without looking like I just exited a wet sauna with all my clothes on?


A: As someone who has lived in New York for six-plus years and who, like you, grew up enjoying mild, low-humidity West Coast summers, I have one piece of advice when it comes to looking good in sweltering heat: Get over it, princess. When it’s 95 degrees out and oppressively humid, even NYC’s most looks-conscious denizens join the miserable, melting masses. No one will care if you look a little flushed in the face, frizzed in the hair and damp in the underarms. There’s no escaping it. Unless you have a friend with a home in the Hamptons.

It’s understandable that you want to look your best despite extreme heat, but I can’t stress enough that you’re heading to the wrong town to look immaculately fabulous during the summer. In some cities, particularly ones in the Southwest that turn into giant air-conditioned bubbles during the summer, it’s possible to get away with looking like you just strutted out of a beauty salon. But not in New York, where even Lady Liberty swelters from mid-June through September. For better or for worse (mostly worse), it’s all part of that distinct NYC “experience.” And speaking of distinct experiences, I would brace myself for:

Walking down the street and having no clue if a sudden moistness on your face is:

a. Rain. 

b. Beads of perspiration dripping off your forehead.

c. Water trickling down from a building’s window-unit air conditioner.

Riding the subway in the summer, which involves:

a. Sweating your face off walking to the subway. 

b. Sweating your face off on subterranean subway platforms/human slow-cookers (there’s pretty much nothing worse than waiting for a train on a sweltering, crowded subway platform). 

c. Getting on a delightful air-conditioned subway car and having the layers of perspiration on your body dry, giving you a not-so-delightful sensation of crusted-over clamminess. 

d. Emerging from a freezing subway car back onto a boiling platform and then back onto an even more boiling street.

OK, now that I’ve scolded and frightened you, I do have some advice on how to feel comfortable during an oppressively hot and humid New York summer. First off, and I hope it’s not too much to ask, but go easy on the makeup. The more you cake on, the more you’ll resemble Tammy Faye Bakker emerging from a sweat lodge.

If you can’t go without, opt for waterproof eyeliner and mascara, a mattifying moisturizer (preferably with SPF) and oil-free foundation. Avoid anything “creamy” (this translates to “greasy” in humid weather) and lipsticks. Remember to stock up on blotting sheets to reduce shine and keep your cosmetics in the fridge for a soothing, refreshing treat when you apply them. And before you make the move, use lightweight facial bronzers to give your skin a healthy summertime glow so that when you eventually land in Manhattan, you won’t even really require as much makeup. While Good Housekeeping has some recommendations for specific products to wear during the hot months, I highly recommend looking into Korres natural, water-based skincare products.

In terms of clothing, keep things loose, simple and comfortable. Don’t worry about dressing down; it’s OK to keep things super basic and accessorize with non-clunky jewelry and some funky vintage sunglasses. This is Manhattan, not the Kentucky Derby. Be sure to opt for natural, breathable fabrics like cotton and linen and avoid black. And instead of hauling your normal, bulky bag around the hot city streets, get a new, smaller bag and carry only the bare essentials since the more you tote, the grosser you’ll feel. I’m a bit of a clothes horse myself but when it comes to my summer wardrobe, I’m all about lightweight button-downs, denim cut-offs and plain white organic cotton V-neck tees.

In general, remember to keep yourself properly hydrated. Since you won’t be spending a ton of cash on makeup, clothing and oversized designer bags, invest in an eye-catching reusable water bottle like Karim Rashid’s Bobble or Kor’s Hydration Vessel.

Also, watch your diet. Opt for plenty of fresh fruits and veggies and seafood. Grab watermelon chunks or a fruit smoothie as a midday snack and have a refreshing leafy green salad with cucumber slices and grilled fish or tofu chunks for dinner. Avoid dairy (occasional ice cream being an exception) and anything fried since these items will just make you feel even more sluggish than you already are.

I think this about covers the basics. Remember, don’t, ahem, sweat looking fabulously put-together during a summer stint in NYC. It won’t happen. Instead, focus on staying comfortable and healthy and having fun. Giant Coach bags, complicated outfits and pounds of makeup will just weigh you down. Drop a line if you feel like treating me to a mojito or two while you’re in town.

-- Matt

Got a question? Submit a question to Mother Nature and one of our experts will track down the answer. Plus: Visit our advice archives to see if your question has already been tackled.

Photo: Jupiterimages

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

How can I maintain my appearance in 100-degree heat?
I just took a summer internship in New York City. I’m thrilled but as a born and bred Bay Area girl accustomed to a comfortable, mild climate, I’m a little