The Dermatologist-Approved Guide to Summer Skin Care
Dermatologists spend summers underneath the same sun as the rest of us, but somehow their skin manages to stay clear and glowing all season long. Sure, it's part of the job description, but even the professionals have to work a bit harder to prevent breakouts and minimize sun damage during the summer months. Warm weather brings a whole slew of skin-care challenges and questions like, "Do I really have to moisturize even if it's 100 degrees out and my face feels oily?” (Spoiler alert: Yes.) Luckily, the experts know exactly how to face summer — pun intended — head on.
"A solid routine should be applicable to all seasons and all climates," says Omer Ibrahim, a board-certified dermatologist and co-director of clinical research at Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology. "With that said, there are a couple of changes one might consider when transitioning from winter to summer."
Ahead, we asked three dermatologists for their best summer skin-care advice. Consider this your definitive road map to healthy-looking skin all season long and, yes, another reminder to wear broad-spectrum SPF. In fact, let's start with that.
- SPF, SPF, SPF.
It's the most important, fundamental, don't-leave-home-without-it tip: Wear sunscreen. Each of our experts recommends a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher on all exposed skin. Don't forget about hands, feet, ears, and lips.
Even though it's our first tip on this list, make sure sunscreen the last step in your skin-care routine. "It is also important to note that sunscreen needs to be reapplied every couple of hours, so make sure to pack extra sunscreen for longer summer days outdoors," says Ibrahim. That means half a teaspoon for your face and neck and a full teaspoon per limb at first and again when reapplying. Pro tip: Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to reapply.
- Lighten up your skin-care routine.
If you're not wearing a winter coat, why should your skin? "In the summer, I generally remind patients that, just like their wardrobe, their skin-care routine may need to be a little more lightweight," says Ibrahim. The heat and humidity of summer means you can swap out a heavier cleanser (think cream or oil cleanser) in favor of a gentle, foaming option.
- Adopt a dual-purpose moisturizer.
To help lighten things up, Ibrahim says you could consider switching to a combination moisturizer and sunscreen during the summer. "A lightweight moisturizer with SPF of 30 or higher may be plenty for most people," he says, as long as you're applying a generous amount and reapplying every couple of hours, as with a regular sunscreen. Ibrahim notes that thicker moisturizers can lead to clogged pores, inflammation, and acne; especially if you have acne-prone or oily skin, losing one skin-care step with a combination moisturizer/SPF can help keep skin clear.
- But don't stop moisturizing completely.
That extra layer of sweat on your face does not count as a moisturizer. "Despite the weather being hot and humid, you still need to moisturize," says Nava Greenfield, a board-certified dermatologist and medical director at Schweiger Dermatology Group in Brooklyn, New York. Even if your skin already feels oily, you should always follow cleansing with a moisturizer.
"Moisturizers reestablish the stratum corneum, your outermost layer of the skin, which protects from harmful pollutants and chemicals and prevents further irritation or dryness," says Ariel Ostad a board-certified dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon in New York City. This is where that combination moisturizer/SPF comes in: Thanks to its lightweight texture, it will help keep that outer layer nourished without feeling too heavy on your skin.
- Invest in a good vitamin C serum.
"Vitamin C is great year-round, but all the more important in the summer," says Ibrahim. Vitamin C helps prevent hyperpigmentation, improve the appearance of fine lines, and can help with collagen production. Layer a few drops on your skin between cleansing and moisturizer.
- Don't forget to exfoliate.
Dermatologists are often reminding us not to over-exfoliate, but in the summertime, 'tis the season to slough away. If you have oily skin, Ostad suggests incorporating "more exfoliation" into your skin-care routine. That doesn't mean a daily dose of all your favorite acids, but try slowly increasing the amount of days you exfoliate per week.
Ostad recommends alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) pads to "open up blocked pores and remove oils that result in acne." Plus they feel nice and soothing on stressed-out summer skin. Just remember: AHAs can make skin more photosensitive, making sunscreen application even more important.
- Cut down your tub time.
Between workouts, beach days, and plain old summer sweat, many of us shower more than once a day during the summer. Ibrahim recommends keeping showers short, around four to five minutes. "Over-showering, or showering in water that is too hot, can lead to over-drying your skin, leading to inflammation and even summertime eczema," he says.
- Make sure your makeup is noncomedogenic.
Take a close look at your makeup product labels and only keep those that are noncomedogenic. That's a fancy word for a product formulated without pore-clogging ingredients. Especially over the summer, Greenfield recommends her patients "wear makeup that is not going to occlude your skin."
- Stay in the shade.
All our experts recommend their patients wear sun-protective clothing, wide-brim hats, and sunglasses in the sun. We don't expect you to wear a long-sleeve shirt for a hot day at the beach, but be mindful to expose as little of your body as possible to direct sunlight. That might mean sitting underneath an umbrella, wearing an extra-large hat, or avoiding the midday sun.