Sitting next to the pool, enjoying a backyard barbecue, playing a game of beach volleyball: The summer has its perks. But while we look forward to the sunny days of summer, our skin isn’t as big of a fan.
“Summer puts a lot of stress on our skin: from the heat, the higher humidity, the sweating, swimming, sunscreen and the sun itself,” explained Dr. Peter Lio, a board-certified dermatologist and scientific advisory board member for the National Eczema Association.
You may notice your skin getting oilier in these warmer months. The heat and high humidity causes our bodies to produce sweat to stay cool. As a result, our bodies produce more sebum, which gives us an oily appearance. On the other hand, if you swim a lot in chlorinated pools or sit next to a powerful air conditioner, you may notice your skin is drier in the summer.
Or maybe your skin isn’t as clear. “In the summer our skin tends to see an increased buildup of sweat and sunscreen, as well as dirt and environmental residue from more outdoor activities. Because of this, some people may notice a flare in acne,” said Dr. Christina Weng, a Harvard-trained and board-certified dermatologist out of Boston.
But the worst culprit of all during the summer is the sun. Apart from painful sunburns, the sun can have smaller effects you may not notice right away. “The melanocytes inside our skin cells get activated by the UV light and start making freckles and dark spots,” explained Dr. Jaimie DeRosa, founder and lead facial plastic surgeon of DeRosa Center Plastic Surgery & Med Spa in Boston and in Palm Beach, Florida.
That means we have summer to blame for oilier or drier skin, extra freckles, dark spots and potential acne. But you don’t have to sweat it, because we’ve gone to the leading skin care experts. Here’s everything you need to know about combating your summer skin care woes.
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It can’t be said enough: Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen
“The most important thing to do for your skin in the summer is to make liberal use of a high SPF sunscreen,” said Dr. Nadir Qazi
, a board-certified physician and cosmetic dermatology surgeon in Irvine, California
. “Granted, you should be using sunscreen year-round, but slather it on even more often during the summer when UVB rays have higher intensity.”
This wasn’t just Qazi’s advice. Every single expert we talked to made it clear: You cannot skimp on sunscreen in the summer (or really, ever). And that doesn’t just mean applying it once in the morning. According to DeRosa, “This means that you wear a good broad-spectrum sunscreen SPF 30 or higher every single day, rain or shine, and reapply every two hours.”
Which sunscreen are the experts recommending? A popular option among dermatologists is EltaMD's UV Clear SPF 46.
“It goes on like a lightweight moisturizer, has lactic acid, which helps hydrate and gently exfoliate the skin, and has clear SPF 46 that protects your skin without any greasy residue that one often finds in other sunscreens," said Dr. Tiffany Libby
, a board-certified dermatologist in Providence, Rhode Island.
Banish the summertime breakouts
“The high heat and humidity of summer can trigger our sebaceous glands to secrete oils. Oily, sweaty skin can clog pores and cause acne breakouts,” said Dr. Elaine F. Kung
, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City and founder of Future Bright Dermatology.
She suggested getting out of your sweaty clothes as soon as possible and showering off the sweat. She also recommended, “You can use cleansers with chemical exfoliators such as low percentage BHA (1.5-2% salicylic acid) or AHA (5-15% glycolic acid) to prevent breakouts without stripping the skin.”
An online search will show you several options for these types of cleansers. We personally like Skinfix’s Acne+ cleanser for stubborn breakouts.
Switch up your nighttime routine
Retinol is basically the gold standard in anti-aging skin care products, and while it's great for exfoliating and improving skin texture, it makes your skin more susceptible to sun damage. Almost all experts agreed: Use retinol at night to better protect your skin from the sun.
Summer is a great time to change your nightly skin care routine.
“I like to take advantage of my nighttime routine to rejuvenate and repair my skin. This is the time of peak skin cell renewal,” Libby explained. “I continue with my retinoid nightly, using a pea-sized amount to increase cell turnover and minimize dark spots.”
But retinol isn’t the only change you can make during the summer. “This is also a great time to incorporate peptides to help support collagen production, like Reserveage's Firming Face Cream. The sun's UV rays are responsible for 90% of photoaging, which leads to the breakdown of collagen resulting in fine lines and wrinkles,” explained Libby.
Stay cool with a refreshing mist
Facial mists were another common recommendation among the experts.
“With heat and sweating, we may want to mist our faces to cool down and ‘refresh’ our skin,” Kung explained. “Meebak's Cica Misting Toner doubles as a hydrating toner and a mist that contains an anti-inflammatory ingredient Centella Asiatica (Cica).” Even better, it’s less than $5.
If you’re wanting something a bit more high-end: “Avene's Eau Thermale and La Roche-Posay Thermal Spring Water mineral water sprays are both fantastic for cooling down hot, sweaty skin with a gentle spritz!” recommended Lio. Get Eau Thermale Avene Thermal Spring Water
or La Roche-Posay Thermal Spring Water Face Mist
, both retailing for $14.
Moisturize with hyaluronic acid
Does your skin lean drier in the summer more than oily?
“There are some things you can do to combat this,” DeRosa said. “Pick up a good water-based moisturizer — those with hyaluronic acid are especially great in the summer."
Lio’s recommendation fits the bill: “Neutrogena HydroBoost moisturizer is extremely light, almost gel-like, and can be comfortable even when it is hot outside.”
Try a sunscreen with a twist
To highlight the importance of sunscreen, we are saying it twice! If you’re not a fan of traditional liquid sunscreen that goes on white with an unpleasant smell, you’ve got options.
Sick of the messy application? “Powder or stick sunscreens are easy to whip out for reapplication when we are outdoors for longer periods of time,” Kung said. One of her favorites is Colorescience Brush-On Sunscreen Mineral Powder in SPF 50.
Which sunscreen will be best for you? Weng shared her sage advice, “At the end of the day the best sunscreen is the one you will wear!”