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Summer is a time for beach days, pool parties, and vacations. It’s also a great time for a skin care makeover.
Longer hours of daylight and hot, dry, or humid weather can affect our skin differently than the colder and darker days of winter.
Some summer skin care steps may depend on where you live.
For example, a person living in Colorado, where temperatures generally moderate with humidity over 50 percent, may need to make fewer adjustments than someone living in Houston.
Other steps, such as applying sunscreen and refraining from over-showering, are important for everyone.
The beauty tips below will help you enjoy the sunshine with skin health in mind.
Whether it’s a tried-and-true skin care regimen, how often you wash your hair, or the cosmetics you’re curious about, beauty is personal.
That’s why we rely on a diverse group of writers, educators, and other experts to share their tips on everything from the way product application varies to the best sheet mask for your individual needs.
We only recommend something we genuinely love, so if you see a shop link to a specific product or brand, know that it’s been thoroughly researched by our team.
If you do nothing else for your skin this summer, wear sunscreen.
Look for sunscreens that offer:
- at least SPF 30
- broad spectrum protection
- lip protection
“The most important thing is that you need to protect your skin from the sun,” says Elizabeth Mullans, MD, a board certified dermatologist. If you don’t do that, “your skin will age faster and increase your risk of skin cancer.”
It’s essential to apply sunscreen any time you are in the sun, including during the winter months. We tend to spend more time outside when it’s warmer out, typically from June through September in the United States.
The Skin Cancer Foundation says that daily use of SPF 15 can reduce a person’s risk of developing melanoma by 50 percent and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) by about 40 percent. It also protects your skin against premature aging.
Mullans tells her patients to go a bit higher in the summer and use sunscreen with SPF 30.
“There’s a huge jump in terms of the rays blocked between a 15 and a 30, but above 30, there’s not much of a difference,” she says.
Another phrase you’ll want to look for on the bottle is “broad-spectrum,” which means the sunscreen protects skin from both UVA and UVB rays. Barry Goldman, MD, an NYC-based board certified dermatologist, says both types of UV rays contribute to skin cancer development.
After that, the type of sunscreen you use mainly comes down to personal preference.
“The best sunscreen for someone is the sunscreen that person will use,” Mullans says.
Mullans personally looks for a mineral-based sunscreen with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which are physical blockers rather than chemical blockers.
Joyce Park, MD, a California-based board certified dermatologist, says to reapply every 2 hours. You should be slathering on enough sunscreen on your body to fill a shot glass, she says.
And don’t forget your lips.
“The sun damage shows up later. I see people with skin cancer on the lips,” Goldman says.
Many brands specifically sell sunscreen for lips. Mullans suggests finding one with at least SPF 30.
The bottom line
It’s essential to apply sunscreen daily to reduce your risk of skin cancer, no matter the weather. Look for sunscreen that’s broad-spectrum SPF 30+ and reapply every 2 hours. And don’t forget about your lips, too!
Generally speaking, the air isn’t as dry in the summer as it is in the winter. Still, Goldman doesn’t suggest ditching moisturizer — your skin can still dry out in the summer.
That said, a heavy moisturizer can feel like it’s weighing your face down when it’s hot out. Goldman suggests finding a lighter one. Start by sampling some, if you can, in the beauty aisle of the drug store.
“I use the Heinz ketchup test,” he says. “If it’s runny, it’s thinner.”
Mullans agrees. “A lot of us use heavier moisturizers in the winter [than we do in the summer].”
Mullans recommends finding a moisturizer with an SPF to provide an extra layer of protection. Just don’t put it on in the morning and think it can replace sunscreen all day.
“It’s just not enough,” she says. “You need at least SPF 30 and to reapply every 2 hours [if you’re in the sun].”
The bottom line
Keep your summer moisturizer lightweight with SPF.
On warmer days, wearing a ton of makeup can feel like an unnecessary extra layer. And, if you sweat, your makeup will come off more easily.
Embrace the season and pare down your makeup routine. Your skin will enjoy the break.
“Wearing less makeup lets the skin breathe,” Goldman says. “It’s like how sleeping without socks lets your feet breathe. Makeup can also be clogging.”
Caking on sunscreen over your impeccably-applied makeup might not sound very appealing. But, if you’re attending an all-outdoor afternoon wedding or having a long al-fresco lunch, you’re still going to need protection.
Look for moisturizers with the following qualities:
- at least SPF 30
Goldman says a tinted moisturizer can provide the minimalist coverage your skin craves.
Goldman tells his patients to wear a tinted moisturizer with at least SPF 30 or a broad-spectrum powder, like the ones from EltaMD or Colorescience, as a base. You can also try bareMinerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream SPF 30.
Park says powder helps, but it shouldn’t be the only sunscreen you use.
“It’s hard to know how much powder you’re getting on your face,” Park says. “I like sunscreen powders in that it’s easy to apply over makeup, but I’d never suggest using a powder as the sole source of sunscreen.”
Park says Supergoop and Colorescience make sunscreens that you can easily apply over makeup. That said, if you want to use powder for an extra layer of SPF, following the directions is key to ensuring effectiveness.
“Turn the sunscreen powder over so it’s upside down,” Park explains. “Tap very hard three to four times on a flat surface. When you take the cap off, run your finger through the brush so you can see a plume of powder in the air to ensure you have enough product in the bristles of the brush. Then apply.”
The bottom line
Try tinted moisturizer with SPF 30+ for the optimal makeup and sunscreen combo.
Be sure to follow the directions on powdered sunscreens. Turn the powder over, give it three hard taps, and be sure there’s plenty of powder on the brush before you apply.
Sunscreen is important, and sweat is the body’s natural way of cooling off. But both can do a number on your pores. That’s where exfoliation comes in.
“It helps unclog the pores and reduces blemishes,” Goldman says, but he warns against overdoing it.
It’s best not to exfoliate if you’re sunburned. Let the skin heal on its own without an added irritant.
While it’s OK to exfoliate more frequently in the summer than in the winter, Goldman still suggests limiting it to once or twice per week.
“You’ll get a windburned look, and the skin gets tight, cracked, and scaly, if you do it too often,” he says. “Your skin is turning over anyway. You just want to remove the debris from the sweat, SPF, and oil.”
The bottom line
Exfoliating more than once or twice per week can cause your skin to get tight and cracked. Never exfoliate sunburned skin.
People who are more prone to tanning than burning might want to skip the sunscreen — but, even if a tan isn’t painful, it’s still technically sun damage.
“There’s no such thing as a healthy tan,” Park warns. “The skin darkening is in response to UV radiation causing damage in your skin cells.”
Get a sun-kissed look by using a self-tanner. Mullans says her patients have had luck with Jergens self-tanners.
“Reapply daily until you have the color you desire,” she says.
The bottom line
All sun tans are the result of sun damage. Go for a sunless self-tanning product instead.
Don’t just browse the beauty aisle when revamping your skin care routine for summer. Mullans and Goldman suggest venturing into the clothing section, too.
Summer duds to don include:
- wide brimmed hats
- UV-400 sunglasses
- dark-colored clothes with woven fabrics or UV absorbers
“I always wear a wide-brimmed hat outside during the summer, even when I’m walking my dog,” Mullans says.
Hats can help shield the face and eyes from the sun. Sunglasses help, too.
“I can’t tell you how many colleagues grew up in Florida who are the same age as I am, and they just have these deep-set lines from squinting all the time,” Goldman says.
He suggests looking for a pair of sunnies with UV-400 on the label for optimal protection.
As for clothes, Mullans says tightly woven fabrics, like denim, and loose, dark colors offer the best protection from the sun.
When it’s hot, you may feel the need to wash your face or shower constantly. Experts advise against it.
“Your body makes natural moisturizing factors that hold water in the skin,” Goldman says. “When you wash those away, the top of the skin can be dehydrated.”
Instead, Goldman advises sticking to showering once per day and after exercise. Rinse your face with a gentle cleanser and lukewarm water in the morning and at night. You can also wash with lukewarm water after sweat sessions.
If you find yourself sweating, Mullans suggests using blotting papers. These papers don’t require water, but will absorb the sweat from your face.
The bottom line
Shower just once per day and after exercise if needed. Wash your face morning and night to avoid drying out the skin.
Use blotting papers throughout the day to remove sweat.
Summer is typically warmer and sunnier than winter. It’s only natural that your skin has different needs.
When you’re spending more time in the sun, it’s important to be mindful about sunscreen. Find a broad-spectrum SPF 30 and reapply every 2 hours to protect your skin from premature aging and skin cancer.
Try a lightweight moisturizer and go lighter on the makeup, exfoliating no more than once per week. If you want a healthy glow, opt for a self-tanner or tinted moisturizer and powder with SPF.
Cover up with clothes and accessories, and consider adding some with UPF 50+ to your wardrobe.
A summer-friendly beauty routine will keep your skin happy and healthy all season long.
Beth Ann Mayer is a New York-based writer. In her spare time, you can find her training for marathons and wrangling her son, Peter, and three furbabies.