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Dermatologists Share the Summer Skin Care Routine That Keeps Skin Looking Youthful and Glowing

Learn what kind of serum can also help your sunscreen be more protective

The sun’s getting hotter. The days are getting longer. And that means our skin care routines could use some tweaking to keep us looking youthful and glowing. When it comes to summer skin care, swapping out your heavy moisturizers for lightweight hydrators and incorporating sunscreen are just the tip of the iceberg when the mercury rises. Plus, there can be confusion about what exactly to change within your skincare regimen as the weather gets hotter and the sun’s rays become more intense. Here, we’ll get into how to create a personalized summer skin care regimen with tips from top dermatologists. Read on for all you need to know about keeping skin protected and looking radiant all season long.

Why having a summer skin care routine is important

1. Skin can become oilier

Board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD says that because your skin produces more oil in the summer, you may need to lighten up the textures of your skin care products. “In some cases, heavy, occlusive products can also contribute to acne breakouts during the summer months. Rather than heavier creams, I recommend lighter lotions or gel-based moisturizers,” he says. “These light textures can easily be spread over large body surface areas and don’t tend to weigh down the skin.”

2. Harsh environmental elements can affect skin

New York City-based dermatologist and co-founder of TRNR Skin, Ryan Turner, MD says that the goal of a skincare routine is to help your skin be (and look) at its healthiest, and healthy skin is balanced, protected skin. “Without making changes to your skincare routine, fluctuations in environmental factors like temperature, sun exposure, and humidity — whether they come courtesy of a change in season or a change in scenery — will throw your skin off kilter,” he explains. “This is especially true if you live in a location that shifts significantly from season to season.”

Humidity is also a factor. Says Dr. Turner, adjusting from freezing cold winters with dry air to hot summers with high humidity levels can be tough on your skin. “That said, if you live somewhere with weather that’s fairly consistent all year (for example, San Diego), you may not find yourself needing to change up your regimen too dramatically.”

3. We’re spending more time outside

Woman outside in the summer

We also spend a lot more time outdoors in the summer or warmer months, notes board-certified dermatologist and Associate Clinical Professor of Dermatology, Yale School of Medicine Mona Gohara, MD. This means paying special attention to sun protection and preventing other potential damage (wrinkles, sagging skin, sun spots, etc) of UV light. “90% of the visible signs of aging come from unprotected daily exposure to UV light,” she says. “Also in the summer we sweat more, making rashes in the skin folds more likely, the need for exfoliation more important, and use of a lighter moisturizer, a point of focus.”

“In the summer our skin is prone to allergens in our environment from poison ivy and bug bites to pollen as well as to UV damage from stronger UV rays, dehydration from high temps and acne from increased sweating,” says Deanne Mraz, MD, FAAD, dermatologist, President of Modern Dermatology in Westport, Connecticut and Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Yale New Haven Hospital.

Your best summer skincare routine and the product swaps to make

Summer skin care routine step 1: Cleanse skin

Your cleanser is an integral part of your routine. Dr. Zeichner says that there’s data suggesting that hot weather increases activity of the oil glands, making the skin more oily. “As a result, you may need a different cleanser to effectively remove oil and soiling from the skin. In the summer, look for cleansers that form a lather on the skin. These cleansers provided deeper cleanse,” he says. While they may be drying in some cases during the winter time, they often are necessary in the summer, he adds.

Mature woman washing her face

If you tend to break out, choose a cleanser that contains salicylic acid. “This beta hydroxy acid helps remove excess oil and dead cells from the surface of the skin to keep the pores clear.” Dr. Turner recommends a gel or foaming cleanser like his TRNR Skin Glycolic Gel to Foam Cleanser. “These will better cut through buildup of grime on the skin,” he says. “This applies to both face and body wash.”

Summer skin care routine step 2: Exfoliate

Switch up your exfoliation routine as well, advises Dr. Gohara. “Exfoliate one more day per week than you would in the winter because the sweat and grime build up.”

Summer skin care routine step 3: Apply an antioxidant serum

Dr. Gohara says to double down on antioxidants like vitamin C serums and apply them in the morning and at night during the warmer months of the year. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that neutralizes free radical damage from UV light. “I think of it like an insurance policy on your sunscreen to protect your skin, despite your efforts in using spectrum SPF,” adds Dr. Zeichner.

Summer skin care routine step 4: Use a lighter moisturizer

Summertime is all about lighter formulas when it comes to both serums and moisturizers. “During the summer months is best to opt for a lightweight moisturizer that will absorb easily, won’t clog the pores or feel too heavy or greasy on the skin,” says Marisa Garshick, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York and New Jersey and an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Cornell — New York Presbyterian Medical Center.

So it’s best to opt for lightweight lotions, gels or water-based formulas that provide hydration without clogging pores. Hyaluronic acid is a great ingredient to look for, as it attracts and retains moisture without feeling greasy. Hot weather often leads to increased oil production, so look for oil-free cleansers, moisturizers and sunscreens to prevent clogged pores and breakouts. If you have oily skin, consider adding mattifying ingredients like clay to your routine. For dry skin, humectants like glycerin can provide extra hydration.

Summer skin care routine step 5: Apply SPF

Woman applying sunscreen as part of a summer skin care routine

“A summer skincare routine is important to ensure proper protection of the skin from UV rays and to ensure complete removal of oil and buildup from throughout the day,” says Dr. Garshick When it comes to sunscreen, be sure to reapply yours every two hours, especially if you’re swimming or sweating, adds Dr. Gohara.

Dr. Mraz says that mineral sunscreens should be applied as the last step in your summer skin care routine as they function by creating a physical shield at the surface of your skin to repel UV rays. “Chemical sunscreens need to be applied first in your skincare routine as they must be absorbed into the skin to function, where they convert UV rays into heat and release them,” she says. Regardless of the type of SPF you’re using, if you’re spending time outdoors it must be reapplied every two hours as well as immediately after swimming or sweating, she says.

What to avoid in a summer skin care routine

1. Aerosol spray sunscreens

Dr. Mraz says to avoid aerosolized spray sunscreens, as many contain alcohol and other skin irritants and don’t adequately protect you.

2. Certain skin care treatments

“Avoid lasers and chemical peels unless you can safely avoid UV exposure and adhere to post-procedure instructions — otherwise wait until fall!” adds Dr. Mraz.

3. Overly washing or exfoliating skin

“Especially in the summer, avoid over washing or scrubbing,” Dr. Zeichner says. “This can disrupt the skin layer, leading to microscopic cracks in the skin, loss of hydration, and ultimately inflammation.”

4. Wearing heavy makeup

Consider wearing less makeup, Dr. Turner advises. “Because we sweat more and our skin produces more oil this time of year, heavy makeup formulas could trap dirt, oil and dead skin cells in your pores that can lead to breakouts.”

Bonus: Lifestyle tweaks to add to your summer skin care routine

1. Stay in the shade + wear sunglasses and hats

Woman wearing a sun hat and sunglasses

Beyond regularly reapplying sunscreen, you should take additional sun protection measures. “Stay in the shade whenever possible, especially when the sun is at its strongest (around 11am-2pm), and cover up when you can’t get out of the sun. I recommend wearing sunglasses with large frames and a large, floppy hat —this combo will help shield as much of your face, neck, and chest as possible — as well as UPF clothing,” Dr. Turner says. The use of SPF lip protectant is good to add into your routine, he adds.

2. Close your car’s sunroof

“While UVB rays can’t penetrate the glass (the rays that give you sunburn), UVA ones can (the ones that contribute to the signs of aging), says Dr. Mraz. “All that sunlight can also trigger melasma flares.”

3. Stay hydrated

“Dehydration is easy this time of year, which is bad for our entire body, including our skin, so be sure to drink plenty of water,” advises Dr. Turner.

See more expert-backed skin care secrets:

Over 40 and Dealing with Acne? Dermatologists Share the 7 Best Products for Adult Acne

13 of Trader Joe’s Best Skincare, Hair and Body Products for Women Over 50

Oilplaning Steps and How to Do This Viral Trend That Makes Skin Look Smoother and Youthful Instantly

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