LIKE MANY OF you, I am desperate for the summer months — so ready to shed my winter layers and finally feel the sun on my shoulders.
Summer is arguably the best time of year socially, but it’s a tricky time for skin. This season requires some extra attention for the skin, which is why, like clockwork, as the sun becomes brighter and the days become longer, my clients at the salon want a complete refresh of their skin-care game.
While everyone wants to feel that vitamin D penetrating their skin, the sun isn’t your skin’s best friend. In fact, inflammation, hyperpigmentation, and fine lines are just the beginning of the challenging relationship our bodies have with the sun. So let’s start with some simple basics to keep in mind while we cheer for the summer season.
First, I would encourage you to avoid wearing heavy makeup or foundation on a daily basis. Warmer weather brings more humidity, thus you are sweating more, so dirt and pollution stick to your skin more. Even the simple act of walking down a sunny street can trigger inflammation, which can occur from the skin’s temperature rising. Inflammation can lead very quickly to breakouts and hyperpigmentation. Keeping your makeup routine minimal will be easier for the skin to manage.
While everyone wants to feel that vitamin D penetrating their skin, the sun isn’t your skin’s best friend.
Next, I suggest lightening up your skin-care routine. People always wonder about the effectiveness of serums, and here is where they are the hero. Serums are formulas that are highly concentrated, usually with a focus on active ingredients that are meant to be more penetrating to the skin. In other words, your skin will absorb a serum and all its good ingredients, without becoming clogged or being too heavy. A gel-based serum can hydrate, soothe, nourish, and protect the skin and still be light as a feather. Further, using a serum with vitamin C and other antioxidants can actually protect the skin against the damage the sun can reap. Additionally, serums can be layered. You can use a hyaluronic acid–based serum to help hydrate and nourish the skin and then put on a great serum that contains vitamin C, argan oil, green tea, or sea buckthorn to help protect the skin. Without antioxidants, the prolonged effects of inflammation and direct sun exposure lead to uneven pigment, fine lines, loss of elasticity, wrinkles, and a rough surface for the skin. Protecting your precious collagen is a full-time job in the summer and serums are a great way to manage that easily, no matter your skin type or skin tone.
Another skin-care switch for summer: You can exfoliate more than in winter. Exfoliation can help smooth the skin’s surface, even out pigment, plus brighten and keep the pores clean. A good exfoliation will help get the sunscreen out of your pores while preventing breakouts from occurring. I always recommend that clients exfoliate twice a week in summer. My personal recommendation is the use of a physical exfoliant, like my own Exfoliating Mask, although even a clean washcloth is great for getting all the sunscreen out of your pores. Using a chemical exfoliant in summer is fine, but you need to keep in mind that most chemical exfoliants can make your skin even more sensitive to sun damage.
Now here is one of my nonnegotiables: You must always wear sunscreen and, in fact, you must always reapply sunscreen, even if you are only going into the office. Make sure your sunscreen is a broad-spectrum one that protects against UVA and UVB rays, and please reapply it every two hours if you are outside for the day, or before leaving for lunch and then again before heading home if it’s a workday. A sunscreen that I find comes in handy for workdays is the Supergoop (Re)setting 100% Mineral Powder SPF 35. It’s a translucent powder, so it goes over makeup and is the perfect thing to magnify and reapply multiple times a day without clogging the pores.
While we are on the subject of nonnegotiables, I would also like to point out that leaving the house with a proper hat and sunglasses also helps in making the skin feel and look better. Having some additional protection from the sun is very effective in protecting the skin against inflammation and redness. I always look for the shade wherever I go — I promise, you still feel warm and happy even when you are more protected from the direct rays of the sun.
Be mindful of using products in summer that make your skin more sensitized to the sun. Things like peels, retinol, and even services like laser treatments are fine in summer as long as you take steps to protect the skin from being in the direct sun at all times. I had a client once who had only just begun to recover from skin-cancer surgery. Her dermatologist, a renowned doctor in New York City, told her in no uncertain terms that she was not to even think about doing yoga near a sunny window. That's the level of care you need to take.
If you do end up accidentally getting too much sun, never fear. There are a few easy solutions that can take your skin back to being soft and calm again. First, you want to make sure that you get the skin clean and that it stays that way. If you are red from a sunburn, the last thing you want is to continue the inflammation trend by not washing properly. I would recommend a cleanser with chamomile to calm and hydrate the skin. Next, calm and rehydrate the skin further with a mask containing chamomile, hyaluronic acid, and aloe. The skin is stressed after too much sun, so you need to calm it and replenish so the redness disappears by morning. Finally, do not exfoliate overexposed skin. Let it heal before any further intervention.
Summer is filled with fun activities, socializing with friends, and exciting travel. But remember, when it comes to your skin, prolonged sun exposure is always damaging. While we need to work a bit harder to prevent more breakouts and to minimize sun damage, it’s rather easy to keep your skin fresh, clean, and glowing.
Joanna Vargas Writer
Joanna Vargas is a facialist and skin-care expert. Known for her powerfully refining and reshaping facials offered at her signature New York City and Los Angeles salons, she also has a line of products that reflect her unique combination of technique, technology, and all-natural ingredients formulated to beautify.
Vicki Ling Illustrator
Vicki Ling is a freelance illustrator currently based in New Orleans. Her clients include the New York Times, AFAR magazine, Morningstar Magazine, Trix Magazine, Warner Music, and the Swatch Group, among others.