We look forward to summer for a lot of great reasons. The sun rises earlier, stimulating our circadian rhymes and making it easier to get up in the morning. Likewise, sunset gets pushed back, opening up a range of evening activities. There are health benefits that come with summer too.
Studies show melatonin production increases slightly in the season’s longer days. This is the hormone that regulates our sleep by aligning it with the cycle of day and night. Researchers have also found that prescribed light exposure can reduce the depressive symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
More than any other body part, though, our skin experiences direct effects of seasonal changes. The higher humidity and heat stimulate blood flow, carrying oxygen and nutrients more effectively through the skin.
Even with all that, there is such a thing as too much sun.
Summer’s impact on skin
The benefits of summer are best experienced in moderation. Our bodies have learned to adapt to the environmental changes that come with hotter days. Our skin adapts too, from stimulating sweat glands to raising the production of the natural oils that lock in moisture.
These adaptations change how we care for our skin, or at least, they should. The best skincare routines are tailored around helping our bodies' ever-changing needs. To find the best solutions for your summer skincare, we need to be aware of the environmental changes we’re dealing with.
Overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays is one of the biggest causes of skin damage and premature aging. As much as we need the sun to stimulate Vitamin D production, too much of it creates problems. UV exposure is responsible for up to 80% of visible aging signs in the skin, including:
- Age spots
As much as the heat stimulates blood flow, it also kicks our sweat glands into overdrive. Sweat may be the body’s natural cooling mechanism, but we lose a lot of water because of it in summer. Without enough water, many of the body’s restorative and protective functions slow down.
Even some of the ways we cool off can contribute to dry skin. Jumping in the pool or ocean exposes us to chemical compounds that strip moisture and leave the skin chalky or flaky.
Sensitivity and breakouts
Dehydrated skin is more vulnerable to irritation, redness, and flare-ups. While sweat can cleanse pores, it also creates a sticker surface for bacteria, dirt, and other irritants. Sebum is one of the natural moisture-locking oils produced by the skin, but overproduction in summer can also clog up pores.
5 tips to get you summer-ready
Luckily, all of these issues are pretty easy to correct. Knowing what’s happening to your skin is the first step. But what can you do to perfect your summer skincare routine? Here’s the best advice for getting your skin summer-ready.
A quality sunscreen is your first line of defense against summer and the harsh effects of UV exposure. Don’t rely on last year’s bottle though. Invest in a good broad-spectrum sunscreen before the season starts.
Sunscreens labeled as broad-spectrum block out both UVA and UVB rays. UVB is the ultraviolet light that leads to sunburn, which is what normal sunscreens protect against. UVA is the ultraviolet light that penetrates the deeper skin layers and damages the cells there.
Look for a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. This is the minimum SPF recommended by dermatologists.
Hydration and moisturizing
It’s important to replenish the water you lose throughout a summer day. Not only will this stave off dehydration in the daytime, but it’ll also help your skin restore itself at night. Melatonin production increases in the hours before bedtime and when we’re asleep. Your skin needs this hormone to activate antioxidants and restore collagen levels.
As you sweat more in the summer, you may find yourself wiping or rinsing your face more often. While this helps keep the surface clear, it also strips natural oils from the skin.
Use a light moisturizer to support moisture retention in summer. Heavier moisturizers can feel cloying in humid weather, especially when sweating, so they’re better for winter. Lighter ones offer a thin barrier of protection that still feels breathable.
Summer is usually the time to dress down, except when it comes to makeup. However, sweat-inducing heat creates some complications around makeup use. Luckily, you don’t have to completely ditch your foundation this summer. It would be wise, however, to make a few product switches.
If you normally use cream-based foundations, try switching to a powder foundation for the summer. Creams are heavier on your skin in hotter climates. Powder foundations are lighter and don’t smear as easily in summer.
Like sunscreen, sun-protective clothing creates a barrier that blocks UV exposure. Even though clothing can only protect what it covers, it doesn’t mean you have to drape yourself in layers.
A wide-brimmed hat is a simple piece of sun-protecting clothing that protects your face, ears, head, and neck. It’s a great way to shade your makeup when outdoors too. As for clothing, opt for items with tighter fabric weaves and darker shades.
An exfoliating routine
Exfoliating your skin in the summer is a fantastic way to prevent breakouts, remove irritants, and manage oil levels. There’s a right way to do it, though.
Firstly, don’t exfoliate every day, this will strip your skin’s protective barrier. Everyone’s skin is different, so try exfoliating once every 7-10 days to see how your skin reacts. Slowly increase the frequency as you need.
Exfoliants like salicylic acid are good at penetrating pores for deep cleaning, but a gentler product with lactic acid works better for sensitive skin.
Get your skin ready for summer
Your summer skincare routine has to be tailored to your body’s needs during the season. With just a few small tweaks, you can give your skin the best possible start to summer and make it easy to maintain throughout.