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We know we just entered spring, but it’s never too early to start thinking about summer, specifically which skincare products we’ll switch to. When it comes to adding new products to our existing routines, we feel most comfortable turning to dermatologists, since they’re like encyclopedias when it comes to their knowledge of the skin. Adjusting your skincare regimen to match the season might not seem important, but we spoke to two dermatologists who can confirm that skin does in fact have different needs during the summer.
We got an extensive breakdown from Dr. Marie Hayag, a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Fifth Avenue Aesthetics, and Dr. Tiffany Libby, a board-certified dermatologist and the director of Mohs Micrographic and Dermatologic Surgery at Brown University. Our experts also shared what your summer skincare routine should look like and which products work best for this hot season. From brands like Cetaphil, IT Cosmetics and La Roche-Posay, keep reading for what to add to your cart ASAP.
Our Experts’ Top Picks
- Best Daytime Cleanser: Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser ($14.86)
- Best Daytime Serum: It Cosmetics Bye Bye Dullness 15% Vitamin C Serum ($29)
- Best Daytime Moisturizer: La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Moisturizer ($15.99)
- Best Daytime Sunscreen: EltaMD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 ($39)
- Best Nighttime Makeup Remover: Cetaphil Gentle Waterproof Makeup Remover ($10.49)
- Best Nighttime Cleanser: Sisley Gentle Cleansing Gel with Tropical Resins ($89.25)
- Best Nighttime Exfoliator: Glytone Enhance Brightening Solution ($37)
- Best Nighttime Toner: Revision Skincare Soothing Facial Rinse ($36)
- Best Nighttime Serum: StriVectin Multi-Action Super-C Retinol Face Serum ($72)
- Best Nighttime Moisturizer: Reserveage Beauty Firming Face Cream ($47.99)
How does climate affect the skin?
This might be a no-brainer for some, but climate plays a huge role in the state of your skin and what it needs. “Varying temperatures, humidity levels and different UV indexes associated with different climates can bring changes to your skin’s complexion. Thankfully, you can help combat these by changing your skincare routine accordingly,” Dr. Hayag explains.
How does skin change during summer specifically?
In fall and winter, you likely tend to reach for thicker creams and lotions due to the brisk breeze and lower humidity levels that cause dry skin. Your skin might flake and become irritated as a result of this type of weather. On the flip side, in spring and especially in summer, increased humidity results in oilier skin. When your pores produce a ton of sebum, they can get clogged more easily and lead to breakouts.
Dr. Hayag adds that hotter temperatures and very humid air creates the perfect environment for bacteria to grow on your skin, which can give rise to infections and diseases. Additionally, “Strong ultraviolet (UV) rays during the summer are also very damaging to your skin,” she notes. “They can create sunspots, uneven skin texture and pigmentation across different areas of your body, and exposure to the sun and UV rays are the leading cause of skin cancer.” That’s all to say that a number of things can go wrong if you don’t alter your skincare routine and buy the right products.
How should one adjust their skincare routine for the warmer months?
To start your summer skincare journey, look for lighter skincare products that are gel and water-based. Make sure you dodge thick, oil-based formulas. Oftentimes, people with oily skin wonder if they even need to apply a moisturizer during the summer, since their skin is already naturally producing so much oil. But Dr. Hayag advises: “It is important to still use a moisturizer even with oily skin complexions during spring and summer, along with light cleansers and serums.”
You thought we forgot about sunscreen, didn’t you? Never!!! “Spring and summer months also have a higher UV index than autumn and winter, so it is important to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF of at least 30 every day and to reapply every 2 hours on days where you are out in the sun for extended periods of time,” Dr. Hayag says.
Are there any product categories that you should avoid or use less of during the summer?
Though you’ve probably gotten comfortable with your winter skincare regimen, there are a couple of steps that you should stay away from or do less of in the warmer months. Dr. Hayag says you can leave behind your milky and creamy cleansers and instead go for more gentle cleansers. For example, pair micellar water with a lightweight, gel-based cleanser. The micellar water wipes away makeup, while the cleaner removes dirt from your skin.
For moisturizers, tuck away your thicker goops. Your skin simply doesn’t need that much deep hydration during the summer. Instead, “A broad-spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen that can also act as a moisturizer is ideal for combatting sun damage while also keeping your skin refreshed and hydrated,” says Dr. Hayag.
Are there any product categories that you should add to your skincare routine or use more of during the summer?
The one product everyone—literally, everyone—needs in their skincare routine is a good SPF. It doesn’t matter your skin type or needs, you just need one. “Using a moisturizer with SPF properties is perfect for the summertime, as it avoids using too many layers of product on your face while it also protects and moisturizes,” Dr. Hayag explains. “The key to summer skincare is to keep everything lightweight and minimal while putting stress on protection.” Essentially, less is more in the summer. There’s no need to cake your face in a 10-step skincare routine if you can help it.
Dr. Hayag also emphasizes the importance of using non-comedogenic formulas. These kinds of products don’t clog pores. Whether you’re shopping for skincare or makeup items, check for this buzzy word on the packaging because you don’t want to apply products that’ll cause congestion and thus acne.
Which ingredients should you look out for when buying summer skincare products?
Opt for products that are packed with vitamin C, an antioxidant Dr. Hayag suggests you use year-round. “Using products containing antioxidants and vitamin C under sunscreen provides an extra layer of protection against the harmful UV rays. Vitamin C also helps increase collagen production and treat hyperpigmentation for a plumper, more even skin complexion,” says. Dr. Hayag. She also adds that hyaluronic acid is a top-notch hydrator that moisturizes and plumps.
Which ingredients should you avoid when buying skincare products?
The last thing you want for your skin in the summertime is to damage it. This can lead to your skin being more vulnerable to external aggressors and sunlight. The ingredients you should use less frequently in the summer are alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), which you’ll typically find in chemical peels and exfoliators.
“AHAs and BHAs help get rid of wrinkles and hyperpigmentation; however, they make your skin more photosensitive and prone to sun damage,” notes Dr. Hyag. “Other ingredients that also make your skin more photosensitive include citrus oils in facial oils and physical scrubs that can not only make your skin more sensitive to sun damage but also other various external aggressors such as humidity, hot temperatures and chemicals in your environment,” she adds.
Lastly, steer clear of oily products that incorporate skincare butters, silicone or coconut oil, since they have a tendency to congest your pores, according to Dr. Hyag.
In what order should you be applying skincare products in the summertime?
The keys to effective daytime skincare during the summer are gentle and lightweight formulas. Here are the exact steps you should follow, according to Dr. Hayag:
- A gentle cleanser that removes oil
- A serum with antioxidants like vitamins C and E products, since they help enhance UV protection
- A light moisturizer that is not oil-based, and one that ideally contains sun protection and humectants.
- A sunscreen that has a minimum of SPF 30 protection, if your moisturizer doesn’t have any sun protection in it.
Your nighttime skincare must-haves will look slightly different from your morning essentials. To clear your pores and renew your skin overnight, use the following sequence of products:
- A light makeup remover like micellar water
- A gentle cleanser to unclog your pores and remove any remaining makeup
- An exfoliator to sweep away impurities and dead skin cells (note that this step is for doing a couple of times a week and not every single day)
- A toner to balance your skin’s pH
- A vitamin C serum or retinoid to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and increase collagen production.
- A moisturizer
Now that you’ve nailed the order of skincare products in both your summer morning and nighttime routines, shop the following 10 dermatologist-approved product recommendations.
Daytime Summer Skincare
Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser
“It delivers a gentle, yet effective clean, without stripping skin of essential oils,” says Dr. Libby.
This non-foaming cleanser works for all skin types and helps maintain the skin’s natural pH balance. It’s also non-comedogenic, so it won’t clog your pores.
It Cosmetics Bye Bye Dullness 15% Vitamin C Serum
“L-ascorbic acid can be quite unstable, so it is key to look for products like this that are in air-tight containers and in opaque bottles to avoid breakdown of the vitamin C,” Dr. Libby explains.
This antioxidant-packed serum works to increase collagen production and fade dark spots. The formula also contains vitamin E, another antioxidant that Dr. Hayag recommends for your daytime summer skincare routine, since it nourishes and hydrates skin.
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Moisturizer
“This is a patient-favorite, as it is suitable for sensitive skin and has niacinamide which has anti-inflammatory and soothing properties to help support the skin moisture barrier,” says Dr. Libby.
EltaMD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 46
There’s a reason why this face sunscreen is ranked No. 1 in its category on Amazon. “It’s an excellent daily sunscreen that has a light and silky texture for normal and combination skin,” says Dr. Hayag. It also won’t clog your pores, doesn’t include oil and excludes fragrance.
Nighttime Summer Skincare
Cetaphil Gentle Waterproof Makeup Remover
“On days that you are wearing lighter make-up or as the first step of a double cleanse, I love the Cetaphil Gentle Waterproof Makeup Remover,” says Dr. Libby. “It is a biphasic formula that dissolves makeup and has soothing botanicals so it leaves skin feeling hydrated, while removing excess oil, make-up and impurities.”
Reach for this oil-free makeup remover that taps on aloe vera, ginseng and green tea to soothe your skin. It’s fragrance-free and non-comedogenic, making it suitable for those with oily and sensitive skin.
Sisley Gentle Cleansing Gel with Tropical Resins
“It’s a purifying gel cleanser that eliminates sebum and impurities and is effective and gentle on the skin,” says Dr. Hayag.
Wash your face with this soap-free, non-comedogenic gel cleanser that purifies skin without drying. Grab your bottle of this silky formula for 15 percent off at Saks Fifth Avenue.
Glytone Enhance Brightening Solution
“This is one of my favorite chemical exfoliating products,” says Dr. Libby. “It has glycolic and salicylic acid, which work to unclog pores, brighten skin and dissolve dead skin cells. It also has azelaic acid and niacinamide, which help treat discoloration.”
Brighten, fade dark spots, exfoliate and tighten pores all at once thanks to Glytone’s Enhance Brightening Solution.
Revision Skincare Soothing Facial Rinse
“This newly launched, alcohol-free toner hydrates and soothes skin with bisabolol, panthenol (vitamin B5), allantoin and arnica extract, an antioxidant that helps calm and soothe skin.”
Hate when toners make your skin feel tight and dry after application? Try the Soothing Facial Rinse from Revision Skincare.
StriVectin Multi-Action Super-C Retinol Face Serum
“I am a fan of StriVectin’s Super-C, which is a lightweight serum that helps to lighten dark spots, protect skin against free radical damage, and help improve skin’s texture and complexion.”
This face serum calls on both retinol and vitamin C to increase radiance, diminish the look of wrinkles and boost skin elasticity.
Reserveage Beauty Firming Face Cream
“At nighttime, when the skin cell renewal process is at its peak, I recommend using peptide-based creams like Reserveage Beauty’s Firming Face Cream to help boost healthy collagen production,” Dr. Libby explains. “This cream has lactic acid, which hydrates and exfoliates skin, and ceramides to reinforce the skin’s moisture barrier.”
For firm, youthful-looking, radiant and even skin, opt for this face cream.