How to Care for Your Skin in Summer
Written by Nicola Moulton
14 Apr 2023
If you feel like your skin takes on a whole new personality in the summer, you’re not the only one. The arrival of warmer weather can sometimes lead to skin concerns that aren’t usually a problem during the other seasons. Oiliness, breakouts, dehydration - in this guide to summer skincare we’ll cover it all, so you can stay on top of your routine 365 days a year.
Why does your skin feel different in summer?
There are plenty of good things associated with summer (hello, holidays, floaty dresses, and - for a lucky few - shortened summer working hours). Summer skin, on the other hand, isn’t always shorthand for something positive. Generally speaking, our skin can go one of two ways during the summer months: you either become a sort of glowing goddess, with a dewy, radiant complexion, or, you find yourself staring oiliness, dehydration, breakouts and hyperpigmentation (or a combination of all the above) in the face.
Higher temperatures can rob your skin of hydration, while sticky, humid conditions can cause you to sweat more, which in turn leads to congestion and blemishes.
So what’s going on? Well. Some of it’s kind of obvious - and some less so. Higher temperatures can rob your skin of hydration, while sticky, humid conditions can cause you to sweat more, which in turn leads to congestion and blemishes. While UV rays are in evidence all year round, it may be that in summer, you’ll feel the effects of UVB (the shorter rays, which are strongest in the summer) fast, which can lead to sunburn if you’re not sensible about your SPF. UVA rays are longer and stealthier, so while their impact won’t be visible straight away, they are heading deep into your skin and depleting its stocks of collagen and elastin. Both UVA and UVB rays can trigger hyperpigmentation.
Common summer skin problems and how to care for them
Problem: Oily skin
Oily is a skin is a ‘type’, just like normal or dry skin - it’s genetic and categorised by an excess of sebum on your skin’s surface. (You may find that your skin is oily all over, or just in specific areas like the T-zone, e.g. forehead, nose, and chin - in which case, your skin could be described as ‘combination’. So in summer, your skin won’t necessarily have a whole ‘personality change’ (eg become oily skin when it used to be dry), but it may take on some of the behaviours of oily skin.
There are two main reasons why your skin may look and feel oilier than during the winter: firstly, your skin can produce more sebum when it’s warm, and secondly, you’re likely to sweat more, which can give the appearance of increased oil. The good thing about oily skin is that it doesn’t tend to be uncomfortable like dry skin can sometimes be - it will just make your skin look shinier, and in some cases can lead to breakouts.
Solutions for oily summer skin
Double cleanse to decongest: Congestion happens when old skin cells trap oil in your skin and prevent it from flowing freely. Making sure you’re double cleansing (once to remove makeup, SPF, and excess grime, and a second time to give the pores a clear out) will help prevent those jams. Ideally, you’d use a balm or oil-based cleanser first and something water-based second, but you could also just use the same cleanser twice.
Don’t over-strip the skin: We know excess oil can be frustrating, but using overly-harsh products in an attempt to strip away that sebum is only going to make things worse. In fact, your skin will simply start to produce more sebum in an attempt to counteract the dehydration.
Switch to a lightweight moisturiser: Contrary to popular belief, oily skin still very much needs moisturiser, as having plenty of oil in the skin doesn’t mean you also have enough water. Swap heavier textures that can make skin feel greasy for something watery and gel-like with hydrating ingredients like Hyaluronic Acid.
Problem: Dehydrated skin
There can be increased humidity in the summer, but there are also plenty of things that zap hydration from the skin. Air conditioning, high temperatures, and flying by plane are three key offenders, while not drinking enough water can also have an impact. When skin becomes dehydrated, which means it’s short on water, it can look dull and flat and feel tight. It is different from dry skin, which is lacking in oil, and skin can be dry and dehydrated, or oily and dehydrated, all at once.
Solutions for dehydrated summer skin
Draw in moisture: Humectants, like Hyaluronic Acid and Glycerin, are ingredients that draw water from the atmosphere into the skin. Think of them as the magnets of the skincare sphere, attracting and holding onto that much-needed moisture. The only problem occurs if you’re in a scenario where water is hard to come by, like on a plane, in which case you’ll need to top with a moisturiser.
Re-apply SPF: UV rays can dehydrate the skin, making that daily SPF doubly important to keep dehydration at bay.
Eat your water: If you find it hard to guzzle down your recommended daily intake of water, remember that you can eat your way to some additional rehydration, too. Foods like cucumber and melon are refreshing because they have such a high water content.
No matter what your skincare concerns are, or what your routine involves, wearing SPF daily is an absolute must.
Breakouts can happen at any time of year, but the addition of rising temperatures, sweat, and extra sunscreen into the mix makes summer a prime time. As we have already touched on with oily skin, spots are formed when hair follicles become blocked – trapping oil in the skin. This blockage could be caused by old skin cells outstaying their welcome, but also by SPF.
Solutions for summer breakouts
Stick with Salicylic: Beta-hydroxy acid Salicylic Acid is one of the key ingredients you want on your side when battling blemishes. It breaks down the ‘glue’ that holds onto old skin cells and de-gunks your pores in the process. Use Salicylic Acid once or twice a day (depending on how sensitive your skin is) to send existing spots packing and keep new ones at bay.
Consider Retinol: If there’s one ingredient that sparks confusion, it’s Retinol. As it breaks down in sunlight and needs to be followed with an SPF the morning after use, there’s a common misconception that Retinol isn’t suitable for the summer months - when in fact, this is when retinol does some of its best work. Not content with simply clearing hyperpigmentation and restoring lost collagen, but it will also help to banish breakouts.
Look for non-comedogenic products: Not sure if a product will clog your pores? The texture is always a good indication, as thicker lotions and serums are more likely to form a film on the skin than lightweight ones. If you can’t feel it before buying, look out for the term non-comedogenic on the pack, which means the product has been formulated not to block your pores.
Hyperpigmentation occurs when melanocytes (the cells that create the melanin that gives our skin its pigment) malfunction and create far more melanin than is needed. This misfire can also be impacted by hormones, but UV rays play a huge part. It results in darker areas of skin, which can be small, like sun spots (also known as age spots and liver spots), or large, like melasma. How stubborn and tricky to fade your hyperpigmentation is will depend on the type you have, but in all cases, prevention is always better than cure.
Solutions and care tips for hyperpigmentation
Commit to daily SPF: SPF is a year-round daily essential that’s even more important during the summer. By shielding your skin from UV rays, it will help stop existing marks from darkening and prevent new ones from forming. Make sure yours not only protects skin from UVB rays but UVA too.
Add an antioxidant: Antioxidants like Vitamin C work to defend the skin from free radicals that come from things like pollution and cigarette smoke as well as (you guessed it) UV rays. Applying one in the morning will help to support the work of your SPF by blocking new marks. Some antioxidants also help to fade existing marks too.
Step up your serum: Any serum that targets hyperpigmentation is going to have the best chance of working well at night when your skin isn’t exposed to any more sunshine. Vitamin C and Retinol are both great at brightening and evening skin so you can wake up to a fresher-looking complexion.