You wanna know about summer skin care? It’s all I’ve had on my mind since the weather started climbing above 25 degrees. Suddenly, the sunscreen that was a holy grail starts feeling a little too heavy on the skin, and by midday I might feel like I need to scrub my face of the mixture of sweat and oils that have accumulated.
The heat and humidity, as well as the increased sun exposure, all require some changes – you don’t necessarily need a brand-new summer skin care routine, but it’s a good time to pare back on heavy occlusives and to embrace lighter formulations.
To help you make your skin care more appropriate for the hottest season, I’ve collected the very best summer skin care products you can add to your routine. I then explain why and in what way you should change up your summer skin care routine, and even give you an outline of the perfect routine. We finish off with a few tips and tricks to really help cool you down on hot days!
Summer Skin Care Routine: Contents
- 13 Best Summer Skin Care Products to Add to Your Routine
- How to Change Your Skin Care for Summer
- Evening Summer Skin Care Routine
- Morning Summer Skin Care Routine
- Midday Touch-Ups
- Other Summer Skin Care Tips
With these 13 skin care products, you can easily create the most perfect summer skin care routine for you.
1. La Roche-Posay Toleriane Purifying Foaming Face Wash for Oily Skin
So while I prefer creamy cleansers year-round (and it so happens the LRP makes a great one), many people find that they prefer a foaming cleanser to thoroughly remove the layers of sunscreen and sweat from their skin. Unless your skin is severely dry, you will probably find that this is one of the best summer skin care products for cleansing. It passes my harsh standards: it is sulfate-free, low-pH, and non-stripping. There are also a few extra benefits to it, like a dose of skin-softening ceramides and some magical niacinamide. You can buy it at Ulta.
2. Lancôme Eau Fraîche Douceur Micellar Cleansing Water Face, Eyes, Lips
Micellar water is awesome for mid-day refreshment and clean-up, especially if you’ve done something very physical and don’t have access to a bathroom. This formula from Lancôme is especially great for summer skin care because it dissolves everything instantly with a hydrating touch, and even contains a touch of rose oil to really uplift the mood. You can buy it from Sephora.
3. Ursa Major 4-in-1 Essential Face Tonic
If you have oily or combination skin, then a toner is a great addition to the summer skin care routine. In the morning it can be used to remove the bit of sweat and sebum from the night, while at night it can complete your cleanse and load your skin with all kinds of benefits. This all-natural toner contains witch hazel and willow bark to tighten pores and calm redness, hyaluronic acid and probiotics to hydrate, and a refreshing geranium scent to put you in the right mindset. Order it online from Dermstore!
4. Perricone MD Vitamin C Ester Photo-Brightening Moisturizer SPF 30
This two-in-one sunscreen and day cream is exceptional in general, but particularly as a summer skin care product. 30 SPF is plenty for most people, and it is even stabilized by the addition of the wonderful skin-brightening oxidant vitamin C. The cream was whipped into a light and airy texture, so it sinks into the skin quickly and doesn’t leave a greasy sheen behind. It works nicely alone or under makeup! Pick it up at Nordstrom!
5. Clarins Re-Fresh Hydrating Beauty Mist
There is something very alpha about just pulling a face mist out of your bag and spraying your face in the middle of the day. This mist is instantly cooling and refreshing. It adds a dose of moisture, courtesy of glycerin and butylene glycol that is super nice on bare skin but can also help rehydrate your makeup and make it a little dewier.
Otherwise, it has refreshing mild extracts with antioxidant properties, like coconut water and fig extract. You can also use it before your moisturizer at night, or instead of it if your skin is super oily. It’s a great choice across the board for all skin types. Find it at Clarins!
6. Caudalie Vinopure Natural Salicylic Acid Pore Minimizing Serum
This spot treatment serum is an exceptional treatment for anyone suffering from the occasional breakout, no matter their skin type. There are a lot of stronger anti-acne treatments, but they often also cause increased sun sensitivity. This one, on the other hand, is gentle, effective, and safe any time of year, making it one of the best summer skin care products. The salicylic acid in it exfoliates the skin and inhibits the acne bacteria, niacinamide has a brightening and mattifying effect, and hyaluronic acid hydrates. It is available at Sephora.
7. Youth To The People Superfood Skin Reset Face Mask
This is the perfect summertime face mask for oily and combination skin, as it will keep the skin fresh and clean yet hydrated in a balanced, cooling way. It contains kaolin clay to draw out impurities and absorb excess oils, but then it also contains non-comedogenic oils to nourish the skin. A collection of leafy green extracts loads the skin up with minerals and antioxidants to fight free radical damage, while green tea and chamomile extracts fade redness and calm stressed skin. Buy it from Nordstrom!
8. Shiseido Hydro Master Gel
Gel moisturizers are perfect summer skin care products, since they load the skin up with a ton of moisture and hydration without weighing it down or feeling heavy. This new hydrating gel from Shiseido is especially exciting because it contains excellent hydrators, in a gentle, mattifying formula that is great for everyone including those with fungal skin issues who must avoid probiotics and ferments. It contains a significant amount of licorice extract, which helps keep the skin bright and even-toned. Order it online from Nordstrom!
9. Supergoop! SPF 37 Anti-Aging Eye Cream with Oat Peptide
Don’t neglect the eye area! While most sunscreens can absolutely be used around the eyes, with a dedicated eye sunscreen you know there is no chance of irritation, and you know that your eye area will also benefit from some specialized ingredients. It contains oat peptides to potentially help fade fine lines, along with moisturizing squalane and a variety of antioxidant extracts. Find it at Nordstrom!
10. 3LAB Perfect Sunscreen SPF 50+
A magical sunscreen must do three things: give great protection against sun exposure, not feel super heavy or greasy on the skin, and not leave a white cast over the skin. This incredible sunscreen does it all, with exceptionally high SPF and UVA protection ratings! It’s the perfect choice for days when you’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors. It also contains some wonderful anti-aging, soothing, and brightening extracts like licorice root, green tea, and mulberry. It is available at Nordstrom.
11. Dermadoctor ‘kakadu C’ 20% Vitamin C Serum with Ferulic Acid & Vitamin C
While vitamin C is photosensitizing, it can also boost the efficacy of any sunscreens applied on top of it, since it stabilizes the sun-blocking ingredients. If you’re interested in preventing or treating signs of skin aging and are great at applying sunscreen every morning, then definitely consider using a vitamin C serum in the morning!
This one contains 20% vitamin C along with ferulic acid, which boosts its efficacy and vitamin E, and a skin-softening and soothing antioxidant. The formula is quite light, and should work for all skin types. You can buy it from Nordstrom.
12. The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
Niacinamide is an awesome alternative to the more hardcore skin treatments like retinol, vitamin C and AHA, especially if you’re not good about consistent sunscreen use. This is because it has all of the same benefits as them, but without the sun sensitizing effect. Choose it as your go-to anti-aging boost for evening, and know that it’ll help with all manner of skin issues without feeling greasy or causing undue sensitivity. This one from The Ordinary is quite affordable, light, and formulated with zinc to help acne-prone skin. It is sold at Sephora.
13. Dr. Jart+ – Dermask Water Jet Vital Hydra Solution
There is no better way to cool down on a hot day than with a hydrating sheet mask – especially if you pop it in the fridge before applying it on your face. A variety of different hydrators in this mask, including the usual suspects as well as some more unique ones like xylitol and vitamin B5. There is also some brightening licorice root and anti-inflammatory ginger for a comprehensive skin-rejuvenating effect. It is available at Sephora.
In order to figure out how to change our skin care for the summertime, we have to consider the weather where we live and the changes. Most people don’t have to completely alter their skin care routine for summer, they just need to make a few product changes here and there in order to work with the weather.
Consider the Temperatures
The first and most obvious change is that temperatures get much hotter in the summer, and as a result we end up sweating a lot. For some people excessive sweating can clog pores and exacerbate breakouts, while for others it’s simply a nuisance that requires more frequent cleansing. Carrying a cleanser with you that you can use in the middle of the day or when you’re on-the-go can be really helpful if the sweating becomes really disruptive to your day-to-day life.
The Humidity Factor
The next major change in the summertime is that usually the weather gets more humid, and moisture in the air increases. With the humidity combined with the sweating caused by the heat, there are some places where you can feel like you’re swimming while simply walking around!
However, humidity can also be really good for the skin – since the air is more saturated moisture, none of the water in your skin will evaporate into the air, so you’re less likely to get dry and dehydrated. This makes summer a great time to throw in a serum or moisturizer rich in humectants like glycerin or hyaluronic acid to your summer skin care routine because these ingredients can actually pull the moisture from the air and into your skin.
The other useful change is to switch to an overall lighter moisturizer than the one you were using in the colder seasons. Heavy, greasy moisturizer will not feel great on your skin when it’s hot and humid, and light lotion or gel moisturizers can be just as nourishing anyway.
However, I don’t advise changing moisturizers four times a year. If you already changed to a lighter moisturizer from winter to spring, chances are that your spring moisturizer will serve you just as well in the summer.
The final change in the summer that we ought to think about is that the sun becomes much more destructive, and as a result sunscreen becomes extra critical. I advise wearing a sunscreen during all seasons of the year, but I think it’s important to emphasize how important it is in the summer when the UV index tends to be higher.
That being said, the combination of sunscreen and humidity and sweat can be a very unpleasant one on your skin – the skin can feel slimy, greasy, and weighed-down. That’s why it’s important that you choose a sunscreen with a matte finish that you wouldn’t mind reapplying throughout the day and that won’t make you feel gross. Those are exactly the kind of sunscreens I recommend in the beginning!
Because of the higher risk of sun damage in the summer I recommend avoiding photosensitizing active ingredients like vitamin C, retinol or glycolic acid, especially if you’re not super consistent with sunscreen use. Some sources will suggest using them at night, but the truth is that their photosensitizing effect is long-lasting, so the time of day when you use them doesn’t really matter.
If you’re dutiful about your sunscreen use, applying every morning and reapplying after every two hours of sun exposure, then you certainly don’t have to give up on a holy grail product that contains these ingredients. A vitamin C serum, in particular, might be a great thing to use. While it does make the skin more sun-sensitive, when combined with a sunscreen it will actually improve the sunscreen’s functioning, as it is a powerful antioxidant that can stabilize the sunscreen ingredients.
There are also a few changes I won’t recommend doing in the summer. For example, don’t switch to a more stripping cleanser than the one you were using in the spring. If you have acne-prone or sensitive skin, you might have some holy grail products that can keep things under control, like a photosensitizing acne treatment or a very particular moisturizer.
In these kinds of situations, where you never know how your skin will respond to something new, it’s better to stick to a philosophy of, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
First things first, cleanse your skin! You’ll wanna give yourself a very thorough cleanse, to ensure every speck of sunscreen and makeup is totally gone. The actual process of using the cleanser depends on the type, so follow the instructions on the box, although I do like to suggest doing a final wipe with a damp face cloth to ensure all traces are truly gone.
Next, it’s optional to apply toner to your skin – toner is not mandatory, but it can be a nice step if you have a toner you love. Saturate a cotton pad with your toner, and wipe it over your skin in upward motions.
● Essence or Serum
A treatment and hydration step like essence or serum is always a good idea, to give the skin deep hydration and some powerful skin care actives. For your summer skin care routine, you might even find that an essence or serum (or a combination of the two) is all the moisturization you need, and that a moisturizer is not necessary afterwards.
An anti-aging yet non-resurfacing serum with gentle ingredients like peptides or green tea extract would be the best choice of product, especially if your skin leans towards dry or if you are trying to combat extrinsic signs of aging.
Niacinamide is great for all skin types, and those with oily skin will even find that it has a mattifying effect. If your skin is acne-prone, then a product with salicylic acid will help control the breakouts, resurfacing the skin without making you sun-sensitive.
Whatever serum or essence you choose, dispense a pea-sized amount, and apply it to your skin in circular, upward motions or with a gentle pressing motion.
As I previously mentioned, many people prefer switching to a lighter moisturizer in the summer. Choose a light lotion or gel moisturizer that contains humectants, and apply it to your skin in the same kind of upward motion as you did for your serum.
You might already know, but I’m of the belief that cleansing isn’t necessary for most people in the morning. If you feel the need you can absolutely go for it, in which case opt for a light, gentle cleanser.
Instead of cleansing, you can remove the sweat and sebum your skin accumulated at night with the help of a toner-saturated cotton pad.
● Vitamin C Serum or Light Moisturizer
Since you’ll be using a sunscreen, as I’ve impressed upon you how important it is, you can definitely use a vitamin C serum in the morning to boost the stability of your sunscreen. It will also have an antioxidant and luminizing effect that will keep the skin fortified and firm. Apply a small amount, and gently massage it or press it into your skin. Wait until it is fully absorbed before moving on to the next step.
● Moisturizer with Sunscreen
A two-in-one sunscreen and moisturizer is the best way to go, as it means you’ll have fewer layers on your skin so you won’t feel greasy, and it also ensures that your sunscreen won’t get diluted by any moisturizer below it.
To cover the whole face, use a ¼ teaspoon of sunscreen, and massage it in until it is fully absorbed. Chemist Stephen Alain Ko recommends applying sunscreen in two layers of ⅛ teaspoon, waiting a few minutes in between. This allows the sunscreen to get easily absorbed into the skin and helps avoid the dreaded white cast.
Once the sunscreen is absorbed into the skin, you can gently apply your makeup, being careful not to wipe too harshly or you may remove some of your sunscreen.
Sometimes, even if you’ve switched to lighter products for your summer skin care routine, you might still find yourself wanting to wash everything off and start all over again at some point at midday.
● Micellar Water
Of course, you can wash your face much like you would at night, but if you’re out and about then a small bottle of micellar water and some cotton pads or a small pack of micellar face wipes can definitely do the trick. Use a saturated cotton pad or a face wipe to wipe off all of the layers of sebum, sweat, and sunscreen from your skin and to prepare it for another layer of summer skin care goodies.
● Cooling Mist
Next, spray your skin with a cooling face mist or essence to refresh, soothe, and give a touch of hydration. Give it a few minutes to fully sink in. Cooling mists can be also used on top of makeup, as well, if you’re in need of a little boost of hydration and some refreshment to your makeup.
● More Sunscreen
If the sun is still shining, then re-apply your sunscreen as well. It will be much nicer to reapply sunscreen to clean skin then to reapply over an old layer of sunscreen. Once again, you must use a ¼ teaspoon to get the full protection of your SPF.
● If the walk from the kitchen to the bathroom is not a far one, consider keeping your skin care products in the fridge – especially your masks. This will make them extra soothing and cooling when you apply them, which is the most refreshing thing we can imagine after a long day out in the sun.
● Carrying blotting sheets around can be really fabulous in summer! You can use them to absorb sweat and oil without disturbing your makeup.
● Cool showers are so much more enjoyable when it’s hot out, and they will also help keep your skin fortified and hydrated in the summer.
● What you put into your body is just as important as what you put on top of it. Make sure to drink adequate amounts of water and eat lots of veggies rich in antioxidants.
Photos via @jamiellanders, @laura.craffey, @allanaramaa, @luxmondi