I often find myself thinking about what I need to add to my skin care routine as the seasons change, but rarely do I reevaluate what I should do without. Call it the result of a more-is-more society but, at least as it relates to our skin, many of us tend to think that with each new problem that arises (dry skin, irritation, redness, etc.) there’s a product fix out there. This may be true, though sometimes the issue might be better solved through the process of subtraction—rather than addition.
To help us reevaluate the best ingredients for our summer skin care routine, we tapped Dr. Stacy Chimento, MD, of Riverchase Dermatology in Miami Beach, Florida. Here she gives the ingredients to avoid this summer, plus the ones that can get the job done without the seasonal side effects.
Retinol and retinyl palmitate, two non-prescription strength retinoids, are often lauded for their antiaging powers thanks to their ability to boost collagen and fade wrinkles. They can also cause skin sensitivity and irritation—even without the addition of a scorching summer sun. While proper SPF usage is paramount regardless of the season, Dr. Chimento stresses an increased focus during the summer months.
“The best course of action is to use a concentration that is sustainable for your skin at night and pairing this with proper sunscreen use of SPF 30 or more, paying close attention to your reapplication throughout the day if you are going to be outside,” she says.
On the other hand, there are alternatives that can help reap some of the benefits of a retinoid without such an increase in photosensitivity. First on the list is rosehip oil. “Though admittedly not as powerful as retinol or retinyl palmitate, it is a more sustainable way of maintaining your skin,” says Dr. Chimento. You might have also heard of another buzzy retinol alternative that’s making a major splash in the skin care world lately: bakuchiol. Bakuchiol is a plant extract that increases cell turnover, plumps skin, and reduces hyperpigmentation—but with minimal irritation—making it another ideal summertime replacement for retinoids.
“Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) are great for ridding the skin of its dull layers and bringing about smoother, more even skin,” says Dr. Chimento. “But in the summer, these types of ingredients can interfere with the protective properties of the skin, leaving it more vulnerable to photodamage from the sun.” Especially if your skin is already sensitive (even without the additional summertime elements), chemical exfoliants can increase irritation, sensitivity to the sun, and even bring about bouts of eczema-like conditions. Instead, Dr. Chimento suggests polyhydroxy acids (PHAs).
“It has a secondary effect, not only does it help clear out dead skin cells, but it also works as a humectant helping to keep the skin moisturized,” she says. They can also help protect the skin from photoaging.
The summer months are not ideal for essential oils that can increase photosensitivity—namely citrus oils, which are oftentimes called on for their hydration powers as well as their astringent and skin-brightening effects. In addition to standing in for retinoids, rosehip oil can also play back up for citrus oils. Dr. Chimento suggests rosehip oil’s moisturizing and skin-brightening benefits, combined with packing doses of vitamins C and A, make it an ideal solution for filling in gaps left behind by eliminating citrus oils for the season.
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Before working on any major switch ups in your skin care routine, consult your dermatologist. They're equipped to factor in your unique skin type, environment, and medical history to help bring about a plan that will work best for you and your skin care goals.