With the British weather currently doing a classic yo-yo between intense sunshine and all-day downpours, and basically nothing in between, it might seem somewhat out of sorts to be talking about summer skincare essentials. However, I’m optimistic that sunshine season will be sticking around on a more permanent basis soon, and with more and more of us spending time outdoors whatever the weather, it makes sense to be overly prepared when it comes to caring for our skin—especially as summer can spark a whole host of unexpected changes for our complexions.
“The summer brings with it a desire to be outdoors more, enjoy sports outside, sit by windows and enjoy the warmth and light from the sun, [and] this results in an increase in radiation to the skin,” explains Emma Craythorne, SkinCeuticals’ consultant dermatologist. Skin experts agree that this increased exposure to UVB rays alongside UVA radiation can lead to skincare concerns like hyperpigmentation; increased sebum production, which can cause breakouts; and increased dryness, causing anything from eczema to premature ageing. Yikes.
Luckily, there are certain products that we can all incorporate into our summer skincare routines to minimise the effects of increased sun exposure and keep our skin feeling healthy and looking its best.
Ahead, top skincare experts share the five summer skincare essentials that we should all be using. Keep scrolling to find out more.
It will come as no surprise that the experts were unanimous on the one product that we should all be using in the summer and all year round: SPF. Wearing sunscreen not only reduces your risk of skin cancer but also protects your skin against fine lines and wrinkles caused by UV rays.
“Even if you are spending time indoors, I recommend applying your SPF daily,” says Thivi Maruthappu, consultant dermatologist at The Skin Health Alliance. “Think of it as part of your regular morning routine, like brushing your teeth! It’s a good habit to keep up and can also protect from UVA light, which actually passes through window glass.”
So how do we know what to look out for when choosing an SPF? Experts agree that you should look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen, meaning it explicitly states that it protects against both UVA and UVB rays on the bottle, and opt for at least SPF 30. In terms of the amount, Maruthappu recommends that “half a teaspoon is the right amount for the face and neck. … Use a dot application technique (forehead, nose, cheeks and chin) to ensure even distribution over your face all the way up to your hairline.”
When it comes to advanced, science-based skincare, SkinCeuticals is one of the leaders in the industry. Its broad-spectrum sunscreen is one of my personal favourites thank to how lightweight and easily absorbed it is.
I’m officially obsessed with Ultra Violette, an Australian “skinscreen” brand that just landed in the UK and is set on making SPF fun. This has a serum-like texture that melts into your skin and leaves it looking so glowy you won’t want to put anything else on top. Good news, though, if you do want to put on makeup: It layers beautifully beneath.
I’m not sure an SPF has ever launched to as many rave reviews as this one from French pharmacy brand La Roche-Posay did. Every beauty editor I know is raving about this right now, and it’s easy to see why. It’s lightweight, non-greasy and fast-absorbing and leaves skin feeling fresh and looking healthy, all while protecting skin from the sun.
The experts were also in agreement that adding an antioxidant into your routine was a smart move for summer. “They are excellent for reducing the oxidative stress that occurs as a consequence of UV damage, and they work in conjunction with your SPF to give the optimal protection,” explains Craythorne.
But what is an antioxidant? Simply put, it’s an ingredient that protects skin from the effects of free radicals, which often come from exposure to UV rays, pollution or other external aggressors. “Providing additional protection from free radical damage, [antioxidants] will assist in the slowing of the visible signs of ageing and improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles,” says Craythorne. “You may be experiencing hyperpigmentation [in the summer], so a good antioxidant will help lessen the appearance of hyperpigmentation and brown spots.”
There are lots to choose from, but the most popular antioxidants come in the form of vitamin C, niacinamide (also known as vitamin B3), vitamin A (or retinol) and vitamin E.
A fuss-free serum that contains 10% niacinamide to reduce redness and inflammation and 1% hyaluronic acid to hydrate and plump the skin. It’s great for all skin types but particularly brilliant for oilier complexions or those prone to breakouts.
This serum might be pricey, but it’s efficacy and skin-brightening results mean it’s acquired something of a cult following. Blending a potent mix of 15% pure vitamin C, 1% vitamin E and ferulic acid, it not only protects skin against damaging free radicals but also actually reduces the appearance of existing fine lines and pigmentation.
“Unlike other resurfacing products, Aurelia’s Resurfacing Serum is photostable, meaning that product efficacy is not affected by UV rays,” explains Antonia Knox, brand manager at Aurelia London. “Instead, the Resurfacing Serum contains bakuchiol, which is a natural alternative that effectively resurfaces skin without becoming unstable when exposed to UV. This makes the serum extra versatile, as it can be used day or night within your routine.”
#3: Lighter Moisturisers
Before making any switches to your usual skincare routine, the experts agreed that it was a good shout to allow your skin some time to adjust to the change in season. By giving your complexion a couple of weeks to get used to changes in temperature and humidity, it’s easier to work out what changes you might need to make. However, there was one swap that proved popular: moisturiser.
“You could swap your rich moisturisers for lighter formulations that are less occlusive, allowing skin to breathe,” explains Osman Bashir Tahir, MBBS, MS, MRCS, MSc., also known as Dr. OBT. “Swap to a lightweight moisturiser if you’re suffering from skin dryness or choose a lightweight hyaluronic serum to layer under your SPF.” Craythorne agrees, explaining that whilst it’s still important to use a moisturiser during the warmer months, opting for a lighter texture might help to keep our complexions happier during the summer.
Not only does this moisturiser look incredibly pretty on your bathroom shelf, but it also manages to be both incredibly hydrating yet featherweight in texture. It’s oil-free, so won’t clog pores, and is brimming with hyaluronic acid and ceramides to plump and smooth even the most parched of complexions.
A brilliant all-rounder that provides lightweight hydration, UV protection and an antioxidant boost in the form of vitamin E. “Don’t forget to apply extra to the neck area too, and massage any leftover product into the backs of your hands,” advises Maruthappu.
This is a great affordable skincare option if you’re seeking a lightweight, oil-free formulation that doesn’t compromise on hydration. It has a unique jelly-like texture that feels really cooling and fresh on the skin, and it uses Japanese rose water and hyaluronic acid to keep skin moisturised.
#4: Effective Cleansers
Fingers crossed you’re already using a cleanser morning and night to keep your skin at its healthiest, but it becomes arguably more important during the summer months to ensure that all of that extra SPF is thoroughly removed.
“It’s more important in the summer to ensure you are cleansing skin effectively before bed, as a build-up of makeup, sun protection and daily grime can clog pores overnight,” says Knox. She recommends opting for a cream or balm formulation and removing it with a muslin cloth “to exfoliate whilst you cleanse and gently buff away any dead skin cells”.
This creamy cleanser melts away every trace of makeup, sunscreen and daily grime to leave your skin feeling so clean, soft and dewy. Using the brand’s signature probiotic technology, it protects the skin’s barrier and balances damage to leave your whole complexion feeling calm and soothed. Plus, it smells like a spa in a jar.
Renowned for its toning face workouts (rather than facials), FaceGym is raising the bar when it comes to skincare with a new range of hardworking formulations that deliver on results. Its gel-to-foam cleanser melts away impurities to reveal instantly brighter skin while replenishing your skin barrier with hydrating electrolytes. Effective cleansers don’t come much better than this.
This new launch from Glossier is so, so good. The cleanser combines gentle exfoliators such as lactic acid, malic acid and grape extract to wash away dull skin and niacinamide to refine pores. Just massage it into damp skin for 60 seconds and marvel at instantly more radiant-looking skin.
Finally, as a fan of chemical exfoliation, I was delighted the experts agreed that summer skincare routines should still include exfoliation. In fact, “exfoliation is key over the summer months,” says Dr. OBT. “Replacing dead cells with younger ones and ensuring the removal of dirt, debris and environmental pollutants that come with being outdoors more is useful for preventing breakouts.”
In fact, both strong antioxidants like retinol and acid exfoliators can both be used throughout the summer with some extra care. “Retinol and acids don’t need to be stopped in the summer,” agrees Craythorne. “You just need to be careful to ensure your sunscreen application is really great, as you are essentially thinning the stratum corneum [the outermost layer of your skin’s epidermis].”
I’ve been so impressed by this new exfoliating treatment from Murad. Inspired by professional microdermabrasion facials, it uses a mix of physical, chemical and enzymatic exfoliants to remove dead skin cells and vitamin C to brighten skin and even tone. Use it up to three times a week for seriously smooth, glowy skin.
This five-minute mask contains decongesting salicylic acid, botanical enzymes and eco-friendly microbeads work together to remove dead skin cells, smooth rough patches and refine pores for more even-looking, brighter skin.
If you don’t like gritty scrubs, then this non-abrasive, creamy formula from Elemis is brilliant. It uses the natural enzymes found in papaya and pineapple to nibble away dead skin cells to reveal the fresh, bright skin beneath.
This post was originally published at an earlier time and has since been updated.
Up next, my friend looks 10 years younger than she is, so I did her skincare routine for five months.