Just when your skin was starting to feel fresh, dewy, and rejuvenated during the spring season, summer creeps in. And along with it, there comes a whole host of seasonal epidermis concerns. But, you don’t actually need that many productsto look and feel great when temperatures rise. “In general, my approach to skin care is 'less is more,'” says Joyce Imahiyerobo-Ip, M.D., director of cosmetic dermatology at South Shore Medical Center in Norwell, Massachusetts. That’s especially true in the summer, she says. Here, find an expert-approved step-by-step plan for your healthiest summer skin.
Just as in the spring, cleansing is step one both in the morning and at night. But, in the season of sweat keeping your skin clean of breakout-causing bacteria is extra important. “I recommend that a gentle cleanser be used twice a day,” says Ip. But, if that isn’t keeping your skin clear, “look for face washes that have either glycolic acid or salicylic acid,” she advises. Skin Laundry’s Clarifying Medicated Foaming Facial Wash is a good option, since it contains both salicylic acid and niacinamide, which also fights acne. Ip recommends using these harsher cleansers only once a day and sticking to something gentler for your second wash. The one product to avoid in the summer is a scrub since it can actually cause oil glands to secrete more oil.
Sunscreen should be your number one priority year-round, but in the summer in particular. Apply it in the morning after cleansing and moisturizing and before your makeup, if you're wearing any, and reapply regularly if you're spending the day outside. (If your moisturizer or makeup has SPF 30 or higher and you're applying at least a teaspoon-sized amount over your entire face, it may be okay to skip a true sunscreen, but if you anticipate sweating at all, a water-resistant sunscreen will be your best bet.) There are two types to choose from, and each has its own pros and cons. “The physical sunscreen ingredients, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, work by ‘physically’ reflecting the sun’s UV rays directly away from the skin,” explains Jessica J. Krant, M.D., MPH, a board-certified dermatologist practicing in New York City. These sunscreens prevent UV rays from getting into the cells to begin with, which is great, but they’re also more vulnerable to sweat and water.
Chemical sunscreens, with ingredients like oxybenzone, avobenzone, Mexoryl, and others, are actually absorbed into skin cells and make them more resistant to oxidative radiation damage from UV rays, Krant explains. The drawback here is that some have concerns over whether the chemicals in these sunscreens are carcinogenic. So far, there’s been no proof that they actually cause cancer in live humans. Look for something with broad spectrum protection (like La Roche Posay’s Anthelios SPF 60 Melt-In Sunscreen Milk, which shields against both UVA and UVB rays) and that is water-resistant.
One of the most common summer skin complaints is increased oiliness which can be exacerbated by higher temperatures. “I recommend using lightweight, oil-free moisturizers in the summer. Hydropeptide Aqua Boost moisturizer is great for oily skin or pre-/post-workout because it helps the skin look matte while also hydrating,” she says.
Counterintuitively super dry body skin and even eczema can be prevalent in the summer due to swimming. “Rinse off chlorine after a dip in the pool and make sure to moisturize skin,” Ip says. “I love thick, bland moisturizers such as Vanicream or CeraVe for this.”
Hopefully you’ve avoided this, but if you do end up getting burned this summer, Ip says you should look to a moisturizer that contains aloe vera or soy, like Clinque’s After Sun Rescue Balm With Aloe. An over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream may also be helpful, she says.
No matter how much you do to prevent sweat and oiliness, they’re probably still going to happen in hot weather. “There are a number of cosmetic blotting papers that can be used throughout the day to reduce the appearance of oil,” Ip says. Try Tatcha’s Original Aburatorigami Japanese Beauty Papers, known for leaving your skin looking fresh without stripping makeup or your skin’s moisture away. Ip also suggests a weekly clay mask, like Belif Peat Miracle Revital Clay Mask, which can help minimize pores and draw out excessive oils, but she says to limit this to just once a week to avoid overdoing it.
Ip’s personal before-bed routine in the summer is a simple one: “In the evening, I wash my face, apply a gentle lightweight antioxidant serum and follow up with a bland, gentle moisturizer.” Something with active ingredients that help to brighten and firm like Skinceuticals C E Ferulic Serum is ideal, but there’s a wide range to choose from in terms of serums when it comes to various skin concerns like anti-aging and acne-prevention. If you’re not sure which one is right for you, check with your dermatologist.