When it comes to skin care, it’s important to think not only about what products you’re using, but when you’re using them. Think of your skin care stash like you do your wardrobe — certain things need to be changed out seasonally. Different weather inevitably impacts how your skin behaves and what it needs. So, while there are some tried-and-true year-round staples, there are certain products where a seasonal swap is in order. Case in point: moisturizer.
Cold temps and low humidity levels can leave your skin drier than normal, requiring you to step up your hydration game in order to prevent dryness, flaking, and itchiness. On the flip side, “increased temperatures and humidity cause an increased production of oil in the skin,” explains Devika Icecreamwala, MD, a dermatologist in Berkley, CA. The bottom line: When warm weather hits, it’s time to switch to a lighter moisturizer. Here’s what to look for in a summer moisturizer, plus some top product picks.
First and foremost, make sure you’re using one
Before we get to the nitty gritty details, it’s important to remember that, no matter how hot it gets, skipping moisturizer entirely isn’t an option. “While many people forego using one in the summer, it’s always important to keep your skin hydrated,” notes Dr. Icecreamwala. While it can be tempting to skip moisturizer when your skin feels greasy and sweaty to begin with, doing so can actually have the opposite effect, throwing your skin into oil production overdrive and ultimately leaving you greasier.
Check the ingredients
Moisturizing ingredients are generally split into two categories: occlusives, which sit on top of your skin to lock in hydration, and humectants, which work by attracting moisture to the skin. Summertime means it’s time to ditch the former. Look at it this way — you wouldn’t wear a chunky wool sweater in the middle of July, would you? Commonly used occlusive ingredients include heavy and rich butters and oils, along with things such as petrolatum and dimethicone. Instead, make humectants the MVPs of your summer moisturizer. They effectively hydrate while still feeling incredibly light; top ones to look for include glycerin and the derm-favorite hyaluronic acid, which has the added benefits of softening and plumping skin, notes Dr. Icecreamwala. A no-frills, non-greasy option: The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA ($8; sephora.com).
When in doubt, go for gel
Reading the ingredient label and seeking out humectants instead occlusive agents is a good move, as is searching for formulas labeled oil-free (self-explanatory) and non-comedogenic (meaning it won’t clog pores), notes Dr. Icecreamwala. But if you’re not sure or are in a rush, grab a gel moisturizer. “These are a great option because they’re water-based, lightweight, and most often contain hyaluronic acid,” she says. Not to mention that because they’re water-based, they innately feel cooling and refreshing (up the ante by stashing yours in the fridge).
Dr. Icecreamwala is a fan of the Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel ($23; ulta.com), since it’s both affordable and effective. Also nice as a summer moisturizer: The new Dr. Andrew Weil for Origins Mega-Mushroom Relief & Resilience Hydra Burst Gel Lotion ($68; ulta.com), which helps reduce redness, choice after a day spent in the sun. Any product called a water cream or with "water" in the name is another good option. We like Tatcha The Water Cream ($68; Sephora.com), since it has the added benefit of controlling excess oil and purifying the skin, too.
Step it up with sunscreen
While sunscreen is a must-use year-round — insert obligatory ‘duh’ here — you want to be extra diligent during the summer when UVB rays, those responsible for burning, are stronger. “The sun can also cause increased redness, flushing, and rosacea flares, so it’s important to protect your skin,” says Dr. Icecreamwala. If your skin is oily to begin with, you may be able to get away with simply using a hydrating sunscreen and calling it a day. Dermalogica Prisma Protect SPF 30 ($65; ulta.com) not only provides all-day hydration, but also leaves your skin with a super pretty glow.
If your complexion is slightly drier but you want to keep your skin care routine simple and streamlined, look for a lightweight moisturizer (the same rules above apply) that contains SPF to safeguard and hydrate your skin in one fell swoop. The caveat: Make sure it’s an SPF 30, the recommended value by the American Academy of Dermatology and Skin Cancer Foundation. The oil-free Aveeno Positively Radiant Sheer Daily Moisturizing Lotion SPF 30 ($14; target.com) fits the bill.
Look for added antioxidants
To the point of protecting your skin, it’s also a good move to choose a summer moisturizer that contains antioxidants, notes Dr. Icecreamwala. Vitamins C, E, green tea are all good options, she says. No matter how spot on you are with your ‘screen routine, even minimal amounts of sun exposure cause damaging free radicals to form in the skin. Those antioxidants act like little scavengers, neutralizing those pesky particles before they can take their toll on your complexion and cause premature aging. Try: Purlisse Watermelon Energizing Aqua Balm ($38; amazon.com), packed with vitamins A, C and white tea, along with skin-soothing aloe and cucumber.
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