Think You Know Summer Skin Care? Think Again
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Summer comes with a whole lot of pros: longer days, nicer weather, beach season — but it doesn’t come without its cons, especially when it comes to skin care. The dog days of summer come with skin care pratfalls such as harsh UV rays, heavy humidity, and stifling heat. These can do a lot of damage to your skin even if you already have a rock-solid skin care routine — toner, serum, moisturizer, the whole nine yards. As such, summer is definitely a time during which you’d be well-served to reassess your current skin care lineup and see what you can do to give it an extra boost to fight the elevated conditions.
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You don’t have to rebuild it from the ground up by any means, just make sure you’re getting ahead of the conditions by making sure your skin is well-equipped to handle them. Below we highlight the most important elements of a good summer skin care routine to remember: sunscreen, oil control, lightweight moisturizer, and recovery.
Find Your Best Sunscreen
SPF is imperative year-round, but especially in the summer. Longer days mean more exposure to sunlight, and while you may think that will do wonders for your Vitamin D intake, it also means your skin is going to be taking in a lot of harmful UV rays. UVA and UVB rays cause damage in different ways — UVA cause skin aging and UVB rays cause skin burning — and they’re arguably the top factors that can lead to premature aging and skin cancer, so it’s imperative to get ahead of them by wearing a broad spectrum SPF treatment.
Why broad spectrum specifically? In order to claim a sunscreen protects from both UVA and UVB rays adequately, it has to prove it. Only broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher can claim to reduce the risk of both skin cancer and early skin aging. Non-broad spectrum sunscreens and broad spectrum sunscreens with an SPF value between under 14 can only claim to help prevent sunburn.
You don’t have to use a thick, goopy sunscreen twice a day to get the protection you need. There are plenty of moisturizers that come with enough SPF protection. Anything SPF 15 or higher should work well for most daily use, but if your skin is particularly sensitive, you plan on having prolonged sun exposure or you want added protection, look for a mineral sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.
We totally get the desire to get a great tan during the season but keep this in mind: a suntan is your skin working overtime to protect itself from harmful rays, over-producing melanin to adjust to harsher conditions. This summer, give your skin what it needs, not what you want.
Best Sunscreen Practices
Sunscreen only works if you use it properly. Follow these summer skin care guidelines to protect your flesh and your health:
- Be sure to put sunblock on 30 minutes before heading outdoors to allow for the active ingredients to fully bind to the skin.
- Apply sunscreen every two hours, regardless of the SPF level — even if it’s waterproof. Over time, sunscreen wears off by being touched, rubbed off with towels or by sweating.
- Use protection on all parts of your body including your ears, head, hands and feet. Use a lip balm with sun protection to guard the thin skin of your lips.
- Cotton clothes often offer protection less than an SPF 15 sunscreen. Even if you have a T-shirt on, you should use sunscreen.
- Use the right amount of sun block. Every two hours, you should apply about an ounce — roughly the size of a shot glass. USing less decreases the SPF that is advertised, rendering it less effective.
- Check the best-before date. Sunscreen expires and loses its effectiveness over time. Leaving your sunscreen in the heat will also jeopardize its strength.
- Use a higher SPF if you are also using bug spray as some repellents can reduce the effectiveness of your sunscreen.
- Only use natural baby-formula sunscreen on babies.
Added Sun Protection
If you are fair-skinned, have blond or red hair and blue or green eyes, you may be at a bigger risk for sun damage. Sunscreen is a start, but you should take additional precautions if you plan on taking in some serious sun:
- Stay out of the sun during peak times (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.).
- Wear a hat with a wide brim to protect your head and face.
- Never leave home without your sunglasses. Purchase sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection and don’t buy strictly for fashion. Remember that just because your sunglasses are darker, does not necessarily mean they protect against the sun.
- Always avoid tanning beds. They are just as dangerous as natural light, if not more so.
This is a great lightweight daily moisturizer with SPF. Jack Black Double Duty Face Moisturizer SPF 20, $28 at Amazon.com
Use this if you are looking for a moisturizer with an added boost of SPF protection. LAB Series Day Rescue Defense Lotion SPF 35, $54 at LabSeries.com
Employ Oil Control
We all sweat more in the summer. It’s a harsh reality we’ve got to face. Hot weather, as wonderful as it may be to some, is prone to leaving us all a little damper than we were before we stepped outside. It’s enough of a pain to manage if your skin isn’t naturally on the oilier side. If it is, it just becomes even harder to keep under control. Nobody wants to walk around looking sticky and shiny.
To be clear, face oil isn’t a bad thing — in fact, it’s oil that can help prevent your skin from aging prematurely. However, too much oil can lead to clogged pores and blackheads. Heat will likely only exacerbate the issue.
Fortunately, there are ways to get ahead when it comes to oil control that don’t involve taking an antiperspirant to your forehead — or stripping your face of good oils. Start by looking for products that feature clay. It might sound like a weird thing to paste on your face but clay is great for clearing up excess oil. Whether you’re getting it from a toner, face mask or a daily face wash, it’ll do wonders for oily and combination skin.
Use this as a daily cleanser or a twice-weekly mask to cover all of your oil control needs. LAB Series Oil Control Clay Cleanser + Mask, $26 at LabSeries.com
Bring out the big guns with this Amazon best-seller mask that actually gets the job done — for cheap. Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay, $10.95 at Amazon.com
Bentonite clay, green tea, cucumber and witch hazel makes for a perfect addition to summer skin in need of clearing and calming benefits. Sunday Riley Martian Mattifying Water-Gel Toner, $55 at Birchbox.com
Try Gel Moisturizer
Moisturizing is key in helping your skin stay hydrated and can also deliver you a hefty dose of SPF protection. But as the temperature rises, many oil-based moisturizers can start to feel way too heavy — especially if your skin is already naturally on the oily side. That weight can increase shine, make you sweat more and generally leave you feeling sticky and gross. Throw in humidity and it can start to feel like you’ve covered your face in plastic wrap.
Luckily there’s an easy solution. A gel-based moisturizer will serve to provide you with all the benefits of your usual moisturizer (hydration, protection and locking in any other products you’re using) without the weight of oil. Gel moisturizers absorb quickly and feel practically weightless on your skin. There are even a few out there that come loaded with that crucial SPF protection.
Calendula flowers are known to provide antioxidant protection, soothe skin and reduce discomfort — perfect for stressed summer skin. Kiehl’s Calendula Serum-Infused Water Cream, $33 at Kiehls.com
If you’re looking for both luxurious and effective hydration for men, this lightweight, all-natural, Alps-harvested gel might be the best you’re going to get. Susanne Kaufmann Men’s Moisturizing Gel, $110 at Aedes.com
This light moisturizer is loaded with hyaluronic acid (which means it’s ultra-hydrating), comes with SPF protection and won’t break the bank. Neutrogena Hydro Boost City Shield Water Gel Sunscreen SPF 25, $19.97 at Amazon.com
Optimize Recovery Time and Remedies for Sunburn
Let’s get this out of the way: the best recovery for your skin is a good night’s sleep. Seven to eight hours is ideal, but you probably know this already. That said, there are plenty of other ways to up your recovery routine, and they’re all the more crucial in the summer after longer days of exposure to UV rays and heat that brings on burns, excessive sweat and oils — a recovery routine is a vital part of any skin care regimen.
Recovering from sunburn properly is going to be crucial — both for your skin’s appearance and its long-term health. In the immediate aftermath, the wisdom your parents likely passed on to you stands: apply aloe vera gel to a sunburn to help soothe it and kickstart the healing process.
However, if the burn is on your face there’s an easy way to give it prolonged treatment: use a quality moisturizer with aloe vera. The dosage will be smaller but using it over a prolonged period of time can prove highly beneficial. Its usefulness doesn’t stop at burns, either. If you moisturize with an aloe vera product at night it can soothe skin after a day of UV exposure.
Even if you aren’t dealing with a gnarly burn, a good recovery routine is essential after long days in the sun, long hours at the office or late nights at cookouts and block parties. A night cream is a great place to start. Night creams generally contain more hydrators than daytime moisturizers as well as ingredients such as retinol — which is great for preventing premature aging and gives your skin a vibrant boost, but isn’t for daytime use or for use post sunburn. If you want to really go the extra mile consider a nighttime recovery oil or serum. It’ll provide concentrated doses of restoration that are designed to benefit your skin while it’s in recovery mode.
Retinol doesn’t have to wait for winter when it’s formulated as well as this oil-free serum. Skin-soothing colloidal oatmeal, red algae extract and vitamin E keep this gentle enough for both nightly and daily use. Clark’s Botanicals Retinol Rescue Face Serum, $105 at Amazon.com
Just a couple drops if all you need of this concentrate for a great, lightweight nighttime recovery treatment after a long day. Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate, $49 at Birchbox.com
With these adjustments to your skin care routine you’ll be all set for summer fun without having to deal with any of the detrimental effects that fun can have on your skin.
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