Have radiant healthy glowing skin all summer with my dermatologist’s top 10 summer skin care tips. I love summer, and I also know that the climate, UV exposure and summer fashions will all impact your skin – for better or worse.
Have clear glowing skin during summer months by switching up your skin care for the season.
In my dermatology practice I’ve seen what works to keep skin healthy during summer. I also understand skin physiology and know what your skin needs from you to beat summer skin problems. Plus, you know that what feels good on your skin during the summer is different from what your skin loves and needs in the winter. That’s because outdoor activities, sweating and summer’s heat change the skin surface environment. You need to switch up your skin care for summer just like you switch up your wardrobe.
Focus on the 10 most important summer skin care changes to keep your skin looking and feeling great; expose glowing satiny smooth skin in shorts, tank tops, bathing suits and other skin baring summer clothing. Conquer summer skin problems and be proud of your complexion.
Top 10 tips for summer skin care from a dermatologist
1. Get your summer sun protection strategy perfected for daily protection and your summer outdoor plans.
The best sun protection combines UPF 50 clothing, mineral zinc oxide sunscreen and seeking the shade. It also means knowing when you are in intense UV settings and stepping up your protection to meet the challenge.
Invest in summer UPF clothing and cover as much skin as possible when you are outdoors.
Use garments to target heavy UV exposure sites such as a sun shirt that covers arms and chest, swim shirt and swim tights for swimming, gloves to protect the back of your hands, and a neck gaiter to protect your neck when you are hiking and spending prolonged time outdoors. Don't forget to create mobile shade with a really great hat. (Click here to see my collection of well-priced and dermatologist-approved sun hats.)
Apply broad spectrum mineral zinc oxide sunscreen with a high SPF to all exposed skin every day.Don’t forget ears, back of your neck, hands, legs, chest. Most people don’t put enough on and don’t reapply during extended time in the sun. You need 1 ounce (a shot glass) if you are an average sized adult in a swim suit! About 1/3 tsp covers the average adult face. You need more for your neck, ears and your scalp (if it’s not densely hairy and/or covered with a hat). Zinc oxide technology has advanced recently to give us invisible protection. Click here for the most advanced technology sunscreens available today.
You also need to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours while in the sun and after sweating, swimming or toweling dry. That’s a lot of work, which makes UPF 50 clothing a brilliant and convenient sun protection solution.
The dilemma of reapplying facial sunscreen after applying makeup in the morning is easily solved with a powder sunscreen. I call it SPF Refresh because both the FDA and I don’t think powder sunscreen is enough protection alone; apply a liquid mineral zinc oxide sunscreen first and refresh and boost protection with powder sunscreen during the day. It’s brilliant, convenient and looks great.
Notice I am recommending mineral sunscreen? That’s because recent scientific studies have shown that the chemical sunscreen filters are absorbed quickly into your body through your skin and reach dangerously high levels. Mineral sunscreen is the safest and most trustworthy sunscreen. It is also more reef safe. Don’t forget to sun protect delicate lips. We dermatologists always see more sun damage on the lower lip because people forget to use zinc oxide SPF containing lip balm. Again, use a mineral lip sunscreen and reapply it after drinking or eating as well as every 2 hours and after swimming etc.
2. Stop exfoliating 2 weeks before you expect intense sun exposure (aka sunny vacation)
Exfoliating removes dead skin cells. These same dead cells help block UV rays. When you know your skin will be exposed to intense UV rays (think beach vacation, houseboating, camping etc.) leave the dead cells in place. There are 2 key points with exfoliation and summer:
- It takes 2 weeks to reform your dead cells (the stratum corneum).
- Exfoliate after your sunny get away to refresh dull skin.
Yes, sun exposure will increase dull leathered skin texture because dead cells are one mechanism your skin has to protect itself. It’s why severely sun damaged skin is leathery and rough. Ditch the exfoliation before the sunny get away. You can resume it once your UV exposure is no longer intense. This includes physical exfoliation with scrubs and rough shower sponges, as well as chemical exfoliation. Chemical exfoliation is the type you get with retinoids (retinol and Retin A/tretinoin, and AHAs such as glycolic acid).
3. Invest in the best antioxidant skin care products to fight sun damage
Layer a really good antioxidant product on face, neck and chest skin between your cleansing and moisturizing step. Antioxidants slow skin damage and visible signs of skin aging by blocking free radicals. Free radicals form from UV exposure and from normal cellular function.
In summer, the big free radical concern is UV and adding antioxidants to your skin care routine can provide an extra layer of protection.
The best antioxidants for summer skin care include green tea and vitamin C. The devil is in the details though because antioxidants are tricky to stabilize and formulate into products that deliver on their promise.
Green tea antioxidants need to be the EGCE polyphenol form and the higher the concentration the better. I recommend Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy with the equivalent green tea EGCG polyphenols as found in 500 cups of brewed tea per ounce of cream. The cream has a slightly tan color because of the high concentration of tea in the formulation. If you were going to only add one product to your facial summer skin care routine, it should be this one!
Vitamin C needs to be the L-ascorbate form at 10% or higher formulated in an acid pH product of pH 3.5 or lower. Unlike green tea, you want your vitamin C product to be clear to white. A tan color indicates inactivation of the vitamin C meaning it won’t benefit your skin.
Why are antioxidants so important for summer skin care?
They add defense against UV damage meaning they are anti-carcinogenic and help to prevent collagen loss that leads to fine lines and wrinkles and skin thinning. They can be somewhat photo-protective, anti-bacterial and anti-viral.
- Green tea can help fight facial redness and helps to reduce sebum and acne.
- Vitamin C can help fight hyperpigmentation and age spots.
Get both of the best antioxidants in my SunSavvy Antioxidant Backup for Your Sun Protection Kit. These products are made in an FDA regulated lab with pharmaceutically stable antioxidant formulations. Or, focus on one antioxidant: my popular Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy or Vitamin C Anti-Wrinkle Professional Treatment Serum.
Don’t forget to load your body with antioxidants from the inside out. Summer is an easy time to eat the rainbow of antioxidants with summer ripe fruits and veggies. Hit the farmer’s market with your sun protection strategy well in place and enjoy the bounty of produce and weather that summer has to offer.
4. Use retinol or tretinoin to help stop the enzymatic degradation of collagen by matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)Even your best sun protection strategy will occasionally let some UV rays stray into your skin. This UV incursion starts an enzyme cascade that degrades precious skin collagen. The enzyme mechanism is called matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) and you may have heard of it.
Using retinol at night turns off the MMP enzyme that breaks down skin collagen!
It’s true and it’s amazing. Keep using your retinol during the summer and fight collagen loss. But only when you are not planning excessive sun exposure. Stop retinol or tretinoin at least 2 weeks before you plan to be in the sun a lot. Resume your retinoid once the sunny adventure is over. Use a really good pharmaceutical-grade retinol for maximal benefits. Every dermatologist I know uses a retinoid skin care product at night. I use my Retinol Intensive Anti-Wrinkle Night Cream year round.
5. Fight hyperpigmentation and uneven skin pigment if you are prone to it
Pigment problems can last many years after the sun exposure is stopped. This means that prevention is really important if you suffer from pigment problems such as melasma, sun spots, hyperpigmentation of acne scars.
- Use a high SPF broad spectrum mineral sunscreen protection and be really diligent about it.
- Add additional pigment fighting measures such as sunscreen or makeup with over 3.2% iron oxide.
My top choice is Sheer Strength Pure Physical Matte Tinted SPF 50+ which has 4% iron oxide.
Dust iron oxide minerals on top with Sheer Strength Pure Physical SPF Refresh Powder Sunscreen or mineral makeup for additional iron oxide.
Add pigment lighteners to your skin care routine such as vitamin C serum, retinol, kojic acid, botanical pigment lighteners such as arbutin and bearberry, hydroquinone, azelaic acid and niacinamide. My Pigment Fading Pads give you kojic acid, arbutin, bearberry and hydroquinone to turn down the tyrosinase enzyme to fight hyperpigmentation during summer.
6. Lighten up your skin care products in warm humid and sweaty weather.
Use lighter base products such as your moisturizer, makeup and skin care products. Remove oil without drying skin with a witch hazel-based and rose hydrosol toner after cleanser to keep facial skin feeling clean. Summer humidity results in less moisture loss from skin so it makes sense that your skin craves lighter feeling products. Save the deeply hydrating and oil rich products for winter, lighten up in summer.
The one caveat is that if your summer is spent somewhere dry (think the desert), use hyaluronic acid and glycerin to hold moisture to skin. My top choice is my Instantly Luminous Multi-Action Serum with multiple molecular weight hyaluronic acid combined with glycerin and sodium PCA (part of skin’s natural moisturizing factor – NMF). It’s a light weight but high-tech solution for dehydrated skin.
7. Head off Pityrosporum folliculitis and summer acneAdd a pyrithione zinc skin cleanser to control skin Pityrosporum yeast that contributes to fungal acne. This yeast flourishes behind pore clogging debris in humid and sweaty conditions. Calming Zinc Soap works well for cleansing face, back, neck and chest skin. These are areas prone to fungal acne. You also want to clean and unblock pores by alternating Calming Zinc with:
- salicylic acid (for oily skin)
- glycolic acid (for all skin types) or,
- benzoyl peroxide (for those prone to pimples).
It’s a simple skin care switch that can prevent summer pimples on chest, back, hairline, neck and face that comes with summer heat.
8. Use a glycolic acid body moisturizer for stunning, satiny and smooth body, arm and leg skin.
Glycolic acid changes the structure of your dead skin cell layer, compacting it to create a smoothing polished look and feel. Remove dull winter skin and let summer skin baring fashions reveal smooth, soft skin that glows with healthy sheen; prevent dull, rough, flakey skin with the simple use of a professional glycolic acid body lotion.
You need glycolic acid over 10% formulated in an acid pH of 4 or less to achieve this desirable goal. My Glycolic Acid Body Lotion does the trick. Use it at least twice a week. Adding a little physical exfoliation in the shower for those times when you want your skin to really glow will even increase results. Find the right routine in my Ultra-Fast Body Smoothing Triple Action Kit.
9. Get a smart and healthy summer ‘sun-kissed’ glow that's 'dermatologist-approved'.
We now know that tanning damages skin - for a lifetime! An afternoon spent tanning is a thing of the past for anyone who wants to keep their skin strong, healthy and attractive for years to come.
Warm your skin tone the smart way by eating beta carotene rich foods.
This gives you a warm summer glow within days. Scientific studies have even shown that a beta carotene glow is perceived as more attractive than the ashy brown color of a sun tan. Click here to see the foods rich in beta carotene.
For a quick bronze glow, add a self-tanner.
Apply it to skin you have prepared using my tips for Applying Self-Tanner like a pro. Know that dihydroxyacetone, the ingredient in self-tanners that bronzes skin, provides no sun protection. My favorite self-tanner is Avene Self-Tanner. I find it has a nice thin feel that I can apply comfortably under my Glycolic Acid Body Lotion. It also does not have a heavy perfume trying to cover the characteristic odor of dihydroxyacetone.
And, don’t let anyone chide you into using vitamin D as an excuse for a getting a tan. That’s a fast track to wrinkles. Take vitamin D3 supplements and protect your precious skin from fine lines and wrinkles, age spots, crepey, thinning leather-textured skin. Be that smart person whose skin looks timelessly great over the years.
10. Know how to fix summer skin problems
Click here for my tips to tackle:
These problems can be summer skin spoilers. Get a dermatologist’s insider tips without a trip into the office.