The simple skincare routine you need this summer

Skin Care

by Kirstin Altman, MD

May 23, 2022

As the temperatures rise and we lighten our layers, it might also be time to revisit your skincare regimen. Sun protection should rise to the top of your priority list as the sun intensifies—no surprise there. But how else should you adjust your skincare routine to account for summertime skin needs?

Don’t overcomplicate it

Here a few basic tips for your daily skin routine in the summer. It’s best not to overcomplicate things, especially during the summer when we’re all even busier than normal.

Morning routine

  • Start by washing your face with a mild cleanser in the morning
  • Follow with a light moisturizer
  • Make sure your moisturizer includes sunscreen or add sunscreen
  • For simplicity, you can also opt for a tinted sunscreen that includes a light layer of makeup
  • Don’t forget to reapply your sunscreenduring the day, or throw on the protective clothing

Nighttime routine

  • At night, wash your face again with a mild cleanser
  • Follow this with a moisturizer

Adjust your moisturizers

Summer often brings heat and humidity, which can make the heavy creams that feel good on dry winter skin all of the sudden feel occlusive and too much. As a very simple rule of thumb, I usually recommend creams and ointments for the wintertime, and creams and lotions during the summer as moisturizers.

But don’t forget that your fun day at the beach or pool will increase your skin’s demand for more moisturizer. Do your best to stay hydrated.

Related: 5 golden rules for taking better care of your skin

Watch out for these summer skin woes

There are a few common things that we often see worsening in the summer due to increased sun exposure, heat and typical summer activities:

Darkening of skin spots

Melasma (dark blotches often seen on the side of the face/around the mouth) and solar lentigines, also known as “sun spots,” commonly darken with increased sun intensity and exposure. Both are harmless but are often unwanted and cosmetically bothersome.

Even though sun protection cannot completely prevent them, it does help fade pigment changes. Tinted sunscreens can be a “two birds with one stone” application. You get your sun protection but also a build in foundation or make up.

Hot tub folliculitis

You might have heard about this before. This is an infection of the hair follicles caused by a bacterium call pseudomonas. Outbreaks usually occur after exposure to a contaminated pool, hot tub or spa. It is often associated with inadequate chlorine levels. 

People present with tender to itchy small red bumps on the extremities and trunk about 1-4 days after exposure. The eruption usually lasts 7-14 days and resolves without treatment. Some people note mild fever, enlarged lymph nodes and malaise, in which case oral antibiotics can help shorten the course.

Bug bites

Who does not dread the buzzing of the mosquitos and the itching that comes with chigger bites or other little crawling creatures? Prevention is not always possible, but using bug repellent spray or candles can definitely reduce the number of bug bites. If it still happens, cool with ice packs, and use Benadryl, hydrocortisone or other anti-itch creams that can help relieve the symptoms.

Contact dermatitis

As it says in the name, this rash is caused by exposure to an agent and actual contact with the skin. Plants are common causes of contact dermatitis. Most people will think of poison ivy dermatitis, but there are also other plants that can cause a similar reaction.

Sometimes the plant components can be photosensitizing and cause a condition called phytophotodermatitis. This is what happens if you develop “margarita or lime dermatitis.” Contact with lime juice on the skin will make it more sun-sensitive and cause a rash when exposed to the sunlight. So, make sure to avoid dripping your fresh lime juice on the skin when enjoying a margarita at the beach bar. But it’s not just lime—other citrus fruits and common plants like celery and wild parsnip can also cause this.

Step up your sun protection

Of course, one of the most important things about summer skincare is sun protection. Many different types of sunscreen are available and a few simple rules apply:

  1. Apply about 20 minutes before heading outside
  2. Protection does not last all day, so make sure to reapply every two hours
  3. If you don’t like the pasty white appearance that your sunscreen leaves on your skin, try a tinted sunscreen 
  4. If you experience skin or eye irritation from your sunscreen,  try a mineral-based (titanium oxide or zinc oxide) sunscreen
  5. Don’t forget your sunglasses 
  6. Shade alone is not a great sun protection

Protective clothing is another great way to protect your skin without having to remember to reapply. Wide-brimmed hats and long sleeve UPF shirts and pants can protect your skin all day long. Look for the UPF sign on the shirts, as many clothing brands and retailers are now offering sun-protective clothing.

There you go—my top tips for keeping your skin healthy, hydrated and glowing all summer long. Talk to your dermatologist about any specific skin issues or questions.

Need a dermatologist? Find one near you.

About the Author

Kirstin Altman, MD, is a dermatologist on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Temple.

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