A Step-by-Step Summer Skin Care Routine, Courtesy of Dermatologists

A few tweaks to your current regimen will help you get ready for the warm-weather season.

smiling woman outdoors in sun wearing sunglasses
Photo: jacoblund / Getty Images

As we gear up for warmer weather, we do plenty more than simply transition our wardrobes. It's also the time when we switch over to a summer skin care routine. Luckily, this doesn't actually require a complete overhaul, since caring for your skin as the temperature climbs should be straightforward. "Not everyone has to change their skin care routine for summer," notes Marisa Garshick, MD, a board-certified dermatologist with MDCS Dermatology. "If you feel the need to adjust things, there are some simple changes to make."

Affirms Lilliana Ramírez García, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Nava MD™, "Every complexion is different, so when it comes to skin care, there are very few rules that apply to everyone." According to Dr. García, there are two variables that might drive you to differentiate your summer and winter routines: your skin type and climate. These factors, she says, impact moisture and, "in the end, moisturized skin leads to healthy skin," she says. "Therefore, adjusting your routine to the amount of hydration needed for your skin type during any particular season is important." Your overarching product application order should remain same, Dr. García adds: Wash your face, tone, and exfoliate before adding serum, eye cream, and moisturizer—and apply sunscreen during the day. From there, consider your skin's needs: Do you require a lighter moisturizer when the weather warms? Is your cream cleanser no longer cutting it when sweat and clogged pores enter the equation? Answering these questions will help you make better skin decisions during warmer periods—as will the below advice from Dr. Garshick and Dr. García, who provided a step-by-step summer skin care routine to follow for added ease.

Wash your face with a gel- or foam-based cleanser.

Dr. Garshick suggests switching to a gel-based or foaming cleanser once temperatures climb. This is especially beneficial to those with oily skin; these formulas get rid of the excess oil that often accompanies summer weather. Also, look to cleansers with salicylic acid. "Salicylic acid unclogs pores and reduces oil," she explains. She recommends CeraVe's Acne Control Cleanser ($13.99, target.com), which is a gel, or Cetaphil's Gentle Foaming Cleanser ($10.99, target.com). A double cleanse might also be in order if you want to ensure that oil and buildup are truly gone at the end of a hot summer day. Start with a cleansing balm, like Wander Beauty's B.O.M Voyage ($34, nordstrom.com) or Glow Recipe's Papaya Enzyme Cleansing Balm ($32, sephora.com)—or opt for micellar water. Then, follow up with a traditional water-based cleanser for good measure.

Exfoliate gently.

Next, you'll want to use a gentle toner to remove buildup. Dr. García says this step will particularly help those with dry complexions. "Because the weather is milder and the air contains a higher level of humidity, dry skin types may better tolerate chemical exfoliants several times per week," she says. Try a toner with glycolic, lactic, or salicylic acid to remove dirt and oil and buff away dead skin cells. Dr. Garshick notes that summer is also a great period to begin retinol. Exfoliation, however, doesn't just apply to your face. Focus on your body, too, adds Dr. Garshick. "I recommend gentle exfoliating washes, such as the Dove Gentle Exfoliating Nourishing Body Wash ($6.59, target.com)," she says. "It simultaneously exfoliates while also nourishing the skin, so it won't be left feeling dry or irritated."

Incorporate vitamin C.

Both Dr. García and Dr. Garshick share that adding antioxidants, like vitamin C, to your summer skin care regimen is key, since you'll be spending more time outdoors. "Antioxidants are naturally-occurring compounds that protect your cells from environmental damage," says Dr. García. "They help shield your complexion from pollution and other external stressors that age skin prematurely." Vitamin C, in particular, has other benefits, as well: "It can can brighten the skin, improve discoloration, and protect against free-radical damage that can result from UV exposure," adds Dr. Garshick. She recommends Drunk Elephant's C-Firma Fresh ($78, sephora.com) or Skinceuticals' Silymmarin CF ($166, dermstore.com) for oily complexions.

Opt for a lightweight moisturizer.

Come summer, switch from a thick, moisturizing cream to something more lightweight. Dr. García says those with oily skin should look for a water-based lotion to keep skin hydrated, but not overwhelmed. As for those with dry complexions? Continue to use products that add moisture back into the skin, advises Dr. García, but in place of heavy creams, try moisturizers with hyaluronic acid or ceramides (these lock in moisture and protect the barrier). Dr. Garshick agrees and suggests the gel-based Neutrogena Hydroboost Gel Cream ($24.69, ulta.com).

Sunscreen—for your face, body, and lips—is a must.

Sunscreen is a must, whatever the season—but during summer, when we're out and about, the dermis sees harmful rays more regularly. According to Dr. Garshick, those with oily complexions should seek out SPF with a matte finish to minimize a shine; look for formulas that are non-comedogenic to prevent breakout. Try the Supergoop Mineral Matte Sunscreen SPF 40 ($38, sephora.com) or MDSolarSciences Mineral Creme SPF 50 ($30, amazon.com). Hydrating sunscreens, on the other hand, are best for drier complexions, she says; look for blockers with ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide to nourish and protect, like the DRMTLGY Universal Tinted Moisturizer SPF 46 ($24.95, amazon.com). Protection, however, goes beyond skin care: Dr. Garshick says to seek shade when you can, avoid peak hours of sun exposure, and wear protective clothing, such as hats, when needed. And don't forget about your lips, she adds, which should receive the same amount of SPF as facial skin. Simply apply your regular formula to your mouth or make sure that your lip gloss or ointment contains SPF, she says.

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