Is skincare as seasonal as one’s wardrobe? That’s the question I received from a reader asking if their routine should be switched out for “summerized” products.
Beauty editors are tasked with producing compelling stories that grab readers and you’ll notice that each time of the year has themes that are revisited each year. “Sun protection for Fourth of July!”, etc. The goal isn’t necessarily to deceive you and get you to spend more money but rather to do their job which is producing content.
The actual answer is that it’s a bit more complicated.
The truth is that our bodies responded to external and internal factors and that everything is connected to each other. Instead of considering your routine in terms of seasons, I recommend digesting the daily feedback that your skin is providing and making small but thoughtful adjustments. This means some days, you go for the stronger cleanser, other days you layer on a moisturizer rather than leave it at an oil/serum, other days when skin is more congested than usual, you go for an acid treatment or mask. Your routine should be dictated by your skin and what it needs rather than by seasons and holidays. I always advise having some variations for the same product category for versatility.
With that said, summer poses it’s own set of unique challenges that should be considered.
So what do I need to do for summer?
1. Be mindful of sun exposure
Sun protection is a must year round, but the sun is much stronger in the blistering summer months and we’re much more likely to be outdoors which can be a recipe for pronounced sun damage.
I make it a habit to use year round sun protection, rain or shine. However, during the summer I make an effort to be extra conservative. I move to a higher SPF sunscreen and don’t rely solely on physical active ingredients. Here are a few that I like:
Elta MD UV Clear Broad Spectrum 46:This is an excellent medically based company that specializes in sun protection and they are endorsed/sold in many dermatologist and plastic surgeon offices throughout the United States. The UV Clear Broad Spectrum 46 sunscreen offers strong coverage in a predominantly physical base that is enhanced by a chemical sunscreen which allows for it to apply without the white streak commonly associated with physical sun blockers. The formula is free of Avobenzone and Oxybenzone, which are chemical sunscreens that can cause significant eye irritation (one of the GW editors now refuses to test anything with those two ingredients due to adverse personal experiences). The light texture also makes this excellent for acne prone/oily skin. This sunscreen has 840 reviews on dermstore, and they’re at 5 stars. In other words, in an industry known for finicky personal preferences, I use this sunscreen as a starting point with patients because it’s really universally beneficial.
Elta MD UV Sport Broad-Spectrum 50: If you’re more active or plan to go in the pool, higher water resistance is crucial if you will not have the opportunity to reapply after a sweat session. This SPF50 sunscreen is made for the outdoors and water based activities. Zinc Oxide forms the physical base while two chemical sunscreens supplement it. What I love about this is also that Avobenzone and Oxybenzone are avoided. The texture of this manages to quickly absorb without any white cast, yet is excellent for staying on skin. Many patients who use this are daily outdoor joggers and they swear by this product.
June Jacobs Lip Renewal SPF 50: Your lips are the most exposed to the sun. In fact, chances are that your upper lips are darker than the rest of your skin including your lower lips, and a large part of that is due to the sun exposure. This lip spf is my favorite because physical SPF’s do not work well for the lips, and this manages to use only the chemical sunscreens that I’m okay with putting on my lips.
You may have noticed that I didn’t list any “green” SPF’s and it isn’t because I don’t like them but rather there is too much margin for user error when using them. I’m sure many of you are aware of the issues with the Honest Company’s SPF, with sunscreens that only use physical blockers, it’s so important that they’re adequately covering your entire face and that can be challenging to apply correctly as well as maintain. So while I do think Zinc Oxide physical blockers are one of the best forms of sunscreen, there is a reason most dermatologist and medical-based peer reviewed boards do not give physical sunblocks their highest rating for sun protection. I prefer to use the Elta products above because they’re mainly physical based but benefit from their combination with a chemical screen to mitigate any potential risks and weaknesses during the summer months.
2. Beware of overheating
Excess heat is not ideal. Structurally, it can cause pronounced inflammation and volatility creating imbalance. This is a good time to keep your face mists chilled in the refrigerator as an after-activity cool off that also replenishes moisture loss from baking in the sun. Here are the ones I like:
Josh Rosebrook Hydrating Accelerator: Light, refreshing and cooling, this mist from Josh Rosebrook is infused with herbal oils which makes it hydrating and nourishing. It smells like sweet vanilla which is great for calming.
DeMamiel Dewy Face Mist: This is part aromatherapy and part hydrator that soothes and cools skin. DeMamiel fragrances are really a reward in themselves and this mist with its many rose oils and hydrosols is especially pleasurable when chilled.
YULI Cocoon Elixir: Soothing, Calming, Healing. This elixir is completely based on YÜLI’s own botanical waters technology with probiotics and does not use any oils. The mist is designed specifically for anti-inflammation and smells like orange flower blossoms, described as neroli nirvana.
You’re sweating more and putting on more protective sun care products. You have to take note of congestion and dullness. I do not like harsh scrubs as they can cause micro-tears and inflammation. Instead I recommend more gentle acid based products that can also fade sun damage.
Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask: This is a great mask that relies on gentle beta hydroxy acids and enzymes for exfoliation. It is one of the gentlest exfoliators out there that leaves skin feeling refreshed rather than stripped.
Susanne Kaufmann Enzyme Peel: I know the GW team is a fan of everything from this Austrian brand, and their Enzyme Peel was introduced to me by one of their editors. This is a mix of mild fruit acids such as kiwi, apple and papaya in a almost jelly form factor to perhaps combat the acids which results in such a gentle treatment.
Living Libations Green Papaya & Lime AHA Mask: An alpha-hydroxy treatment that relies on plant enzymes and fruit based alpha hydroxy acids. This is the strongest treatment out of the three for me. I’d recommend it for oilier complexions and more resilient skin types who want something on the stronger side while still not being abrasive.
Herbivore Botanicals Brighten Mask:This one is for the Instagrammers out there, Herbivore is something of a gold standard for that crowd. It’s exfoliating and brightening with fruit enzymes much like the others. Some gentleness is provided by aloe as well -again like the others.
These options are very similar and it really just depends on which brand you’re more interested in trying and the other factors like texture, smell, packaging, and price.
4. Amp up antioxidants
Antioxidants are key skincare necessities that should be used daily but amping up the antioxidants during summer can be especially beneficial in expanding environmental protection as well as repairing the damage the does take place. Antioxidants target free radicals which by now sound textbook but what it really means is that antioxidants remove the primary destabilizing agents that cause problems including skin cell disruption (e.g. collagen breakdown) and accelerate skin aging.
I was going to recommend some more mainstream products from Paula’s Choice and Skinceuticals but the truth is that they’re too loaded with chemicals that won’t benefit skin in any way. In fact, most patients are asking me for more natural alternatives so I’m going to focus on the two I recommend that both contain Vitamin C which is really good for collagen and general protection from the elements:
Juice Beauty Antioxidant Serum: For those on a budget, I recommend this serum. This is a great antioxidant serum that contains a great variety of plant oils along with Vitamin C and CoQ10. It is based in grape juice which is a good source in resveratrol. It contains a lot of great ingredients for a price point and is what I recommend to people who want a lot of bang for their buck.
YULI Liquid Courage Antioxidant Serum: When it comes to super serums and clients who expect high-performance without the bad ingredients, this is the antioxidant serum I recommend over any others. Rather than just plant oils, this focuses on antioxidant seed oils that contain the richest density of antioxidant compounds. Where you’ll see Vitamin C in other products, this uses an advanced liposomal form that is so potent that the Asian markets class it as a pharmaceutical-grade ingredient. And I get asked this a lot, is this a green CE Ferulic serum? It is and the ingredients are so much more beneficial.
5. Thorough Cleansing
You know all those times during the summer where you just feel gross? That’s from all the sweat, excess sebum, sunscreen, etc. mixing together and forming a film of funk on the surface of your skin that eventually melds into pores and can cause breakouts, plugged pores, and waxy build up. It’s so important that your daily cleanser is one that actually removes this. Luckily, there are lots of great options.
One Love Organics Vitamin B Cleansing Oil/Make-up Remover: Cleansing oils are excellent for removing the bad things on skin surface. I really do recommend following up with a cleanser to go deeper afterward but I know many people like to just do this step so if you’re going to only oil cleanser, make sure it is with a oil cleanser that emulsifies and rinses cleanly like this one. You cannot afford to leave the impurities on your skin with an oil cleanser that doesn’t rinse off well. When it comes to oil cleansing, this is basically the first one I always recommend for this reason.
Kahina Facial Cleanser: This is more of a cleansing milk that is ideal for dry skins. I prefer this to other cleansing milks because it rinses cleaner, and does a better job of cleansing. It is really gentle and comparatively speaking, does not use a lot of unnecessary essential oils which is why I can recommend it to people who are very sensitive to fragrance and afraid of EO’s. I’d recommend this as a good option for after-sun burns or when skin in general is frail.
YULI Halcyon Cleanser: I recommend this cleanser the way most dermatologists recommend Cetaphil. It’s perfection. Halcyon’s soothing gel emulsion is the type of cleanse it takes to really dissolve and sweep away the impurities beneath just the surface of the skin. It is the only green cleanser that manages to do this and the formula is one that meets endless criterion from the perfect pH, the avoidance of unnecessary essential oils, to the exclusion of harsh detergents/alcohol/soaps that ravage skin’s moisture barrier. Plus it’s loaded with serum-level ingredients such as antioxidants, Vitamin C, peptides, fruit enzymes and aloe vera which, is a collection of the best ingredients from the products listed in this feature.
Leave me your questions on summer skincare in the comments section and send questions for future office hours to firstname.lastname@example.org!
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