Prep Your Skin for Summer

Medically Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on May 02, 2013
3 min read

"What's old is new again" doesn't apply when it comes to seasonal skin care. "Products that kept skin feeling moist and comfortable during winter may leave it oily or sweaty once the heat and humidity really hit," says dermatologist Jessica Krant, MD, of SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York.

To switch out your beauty loot for summer the right way, look at the ingredients on the labels.

Ingredients like glycerol and urea in moisturizers collect water from the air and keep it against your skin, making them perfect for winter when the air is dry and you need the extra hydration. But do you really need that in summer? It might just make you sweatier.

"For summer, I suggest changing both your cleanser and moisturizer," says dermatologist Ava Shamban, MD, author of Heal Your Skin.

A good rule of thumb is to use products that have lightweight ingredients that will hydrate and give a breathable barrier to the skin. Look for ingredients like silicones, squalane, and glycerin.

News flash: Some of the extra moisture on your face is not sweat. Oil glands on your skin's surface are more active when it's hot. That means more oil, and more potential for breakouts.

In one study, nearly 60% of people with acne said their acne was worse in summer, vs. about 11% percent who say their acne worsens in the winter.

If acne is an issue for you, the summer months can make matters worse. Breakouts can be frequent in acne-prone skin in the summer months, says Michael Gold, MD, a dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon in Nashville, Tenn.

"Switch to lighter products that are water-based, look for makeup products that do double duty like BB creams that contain a moisturizer, foundation and SPF in one, and use an oil-absorbing clay mask once a week."

Some of the best products to reduce oil are zinc and titanium-based sunscreens, Gold adds. Look for SPFs that are labeled as "matte finish" and are oil-free.

Soothe redness or face flushing by drinking plenty of water, which helps hydrate your whole body as well as your skin, experts say.

Trust your thirst. It's normal to get thirstier in the summer.

You should also stay out of direct sun. "Easier said than done, I know, but sun makes the skin red and irritated," Shamban says. "And, of course, always use adequate sun protection (and even on a workday this means reapplying at lunchtime), remembering that UV rays can penetrate car windshields, office windows, and overcast days, too."

As you start to pull out your swimsuits and shorts for summer, you'll want to prepare your skin to look its best. Sloughing off dead skin cells is part of looking glow-y from head to toe.

Experts recommend exfoliating two to three times a week during the summer with a scrub or a mechanical tool with skin-safe bristles, or using an exfoliating treatment at night. Be gentle, though.

Try one that contains glycolic acid, a natural ingredient derived from sugar that safely removes the outer layer of dead skin cells on the surface of skin.

"Keep exfoliation light and regular in the summertime and always use a sunscreen to protect the new skin," Gold says. "And remember to never exfoliate sunburned or wind-chapped skin."

Fun in the sun can take a lot of energy. Imagine what it's doing to your skin. A recent twin study found that the more UV exposure you get, the deeper your wrinkles and the more mottled the skin.

Some dermatologists advocate monthly spa facials, especially deep cleansing and microdermabrasion facials, to help achieve great summer skin. "They're really the best way to get your pores clean in a way you can't do on your own; they can really remove stubborn dead skin cells that clog the pores," Shamban says.