18 Things Dermatologists Do Every Summer That You Don’t
Experts’ advice for lowering skin-cancer risk and achieving glowing skin through a healthy summer skin-care routine.
Lighten makeup and layer sunscreen
Just like you swap wool and cashmere for breezy cotton and linen in your wardrobe, your makeup should lighten up with the weather. “I don’t like the heavy feel of foundation on top of sunscreen in the summer,” says Papri Sarkar, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Brookline, Massachusetts. “But I think everyone should wear two layers of sunscreen—we never put on enough with the first layer.” Her strategy is to wear lightweight layers of sun protection—to put on her SPF, then follow up with a tinted moisturizer containing physical sunscreen. She likes Alastin Hydratint. “It somehow matches every skin tone, blends seamlessly and has a bit of shimmer to add radiance.” Here are more ways to add radiance to summer skin.
Supplement your SPF
“As I tell my patients, sunscreen alone doesn’t fully protect your skin from sun damage,” says Whitney Bowe, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and the author of The Beauty of Dirty Skin. In addition to wearing traditional topical SPF, Dr. Bowe takes Heliocare, an antioxidant supplement that helps the body repair the damage done by UV rays. “I encourage my patients to take a 360-approach to sun protection, starting from the inside out,” Dr. Bowe says. “Heliocare is meant to be used as a supplement to your sunscreen not a replacement and is one extra layer of protection against premature signs of aging, including brown spots and skin cancer.”
Find cold comfort
“Since the sun and heat can cause rosacea flares, I find these little ice packs that I give out to calm swelling post-procedures can be also used as an easy cool-down method when I’m going to spend time outside,” Dr. Sarkar says. Just chill an ice pack and keep it in your bag for beach trips or kids’ soccer games—use it to keep your skin cool and avoid a rosacea flare. They’re also handy for treating swelling brought on by bug bites, bumps, and bruises. If you spend a lot of time outdoors, these other helpful summer first aid tips will come in handy.
Shield your eyes
One of the most vulnerable areas you’re exposing during summer activities is the skin around your eyes. “Eyelid skin is the thinnest skin on the body, unfortunately, and skin cancers can often occur around the eyes,” says Marguerite Germain, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. In fact, eyelids are one of the ten places you’re probably ignoring when you check for skin cancer. “I wear wraparound sunglasses to protect my eyes and use Colorescience Total Eye 3-in-1 Renewal Therapy SPF 35 to protect my eyelids and under my eyes. In addition to the sun protection, it also improves dark circles and decreases fine lines.”
And don’t forget your lips
“The lip skin is thin and especially sensitive to the sun, so I like to use a mineral-based lip balm,” says Deanne Mraz Robinson, MD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Yale New Haven Hospital. Lips are easy to neglect, but sun protection is a must for this delicate area. Her favorite is Sun Bum Mineral Lip Balm SPF 30, as it has no tint and everyone can wear it.
Avoid shaving irritation
Ingrown hairs and razor bumps can be avoided if you use a clean, sharp razor every time and replace your blade every three to five shaves, Dr. Sarkar advises. Plus, she suggests applying an alpha hydroxy or beta hydroxy lotion to the area between shaves to exfoliate and help keep the follicle clear. This will also ensure you have a smooth surface for the next shave.
Prevent ‘bacne’ breakouts
If you’re prone to developing acne on your back, sweat brought on by summer heat might aggravate the condition. “Always shower after working out to wash away sweat and the bacteria in sweat which can cause back acne,” says Annie Chiu, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Redondo Beach, California. She suggests treating the area with a body wash that includes benzoyl peroxide to help kill bacteria. In addition, avoid tight-fitting clothing and wear your hair up so you’re not trapping dirt and oil on your back.
Use a sunscreen with antioxidants
“While SPF acts as the first line of defense against the sun’s damaging rays, antioxidants are the second line of defense,” says Rachel Pritzker, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Chicago. “If the sun’s energy is able to penetrate the first line of defense, antioxidants quench the damaging free radical cascade that forms in the skin.” Dr. Pritzker likes ISDIN Eryfotona Actinica Ultralight Emulsion SPF 50+, which contains the antioxidant vitamin E.
Pair retinoids with sunscreen
“I always recommend patients continue with their retinoid use throughout the summer months,” Dr. Germain says. “Consistent retinoid use increases collagen production, creates more youthful skin, and decreases the risk of skin cancer. If you stop or decrease retinoids in the summer, you lose all of these benefits.” And since her patients tend to have oilier skin in the summer, many find retinoids less irritating. While year-round sun protection is crucial, it’s important to be extra vigilant while using retinoids in summer, due to the increased potential for sunburn. Retinoids thin the skin, making it more vulnerable to sun exposure. You’ll also want to watch out for these other habits that make you more susceptible to sunburn.
Seek gentle anti-agers
If you’re already using a retinoid or if you have sensitive skin, you don’t want to add an aggressive anti-aging ingredient that could risk irritation or cause sun sensitivity. Dr. Robinson likes peptides for these reasons, as she explains they help build collagen and elastin fibers and she can find formulas that don’t irritate her complexion, which is prone to eczema and acne. She likes Alastin Restorative Complex, as it’s potent but well tolerated. These dermatologist-approved tips will keep your skin healthy all summer long.
Lose old layers
Twice a week, scrub skin with a brush, an exfoliating scrub, or a salicylic acid wash to brighten it and allow lotions and serums to absorb more deeply. If your skin becomes irritated, exfoliate just once a week. Here’s what derms do to wake up with younger-looking skin.
Cleanse without cream
As the weather warms, switch from a cream cleanser to a gel variety that’s lightweight but soothing. If you have oily skin, try a foam cleanser. Be sure to wash your face every night in the summer. More time outside means more exposure to harmful air pollutants, which can attach to moisturizer and makeup and exacerbate signs of aging. Check out the nighttime beauty routines of people with great skin.
Lighten the lotion too
Heavy creams contain lipids that can cause clogged pores and pimples in more humid months. Instead, opt for serums, lotions, or hydrating gels. Look out for these other sneaky reasons for acne breakouts.
“I keep the Colorescience Sunscreen Brush in my purse to reapply sunscreen,” says Dr. Sarkar. “It’s great because it absorbs sweat and you can also use it on your scalp to protect your part.” Try these other healthy summer hacks will help ensure you have the best summer ever.
Each inch on a sun hat’s rim increases coverage of your face by 10 percent. Exercising outside? Wear sun-protective clothing (look for the ultraviolet protection factor, or UPF, on the label). You cut exposure further by heading out before 10 am or after 4 pm.
Be wary of clouds
Burns can still occur on cloudy days, when cooler air may persuade you to skip sunscreen. Clouds block only about 20 percent of the sun’s UV rays, so be sure to apply sunscreen just as you would on the sunniest of days.
Remember the sly spots
A surprising number of skin cancer cases occur behind the ears and on other areas that you may ignore when applying sunscreen. Cover your ears, the tops of your feet, and your hands. Here are some of the most shocking places skin cancer can strike.
Eat to support healthy skin
Studies show that loading up on foods high in antioxidants (such as colorful fruits and vegetables, iced green tea, and nuts) and probiotics (such as Greek yogurt with live active cultures and kombucha, a fermented tea) may offer an extra layer of sun protection from within.
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Whitney Bowe, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital
Binh Ngo, MD, an assistant professor of dermatology at Keck Medicine of USC
Doris Day, MD, a dermatologist based in New York City and a clinical associate professor of dermatology at NYU Langone Medical Center
Patricia Farris, MD, a dermatologist and a clinical associate professor at Tulane University