4 Skin-Care Ingredients To Avoid in the Summer—And Surprise! Retinol Isn’t on the List

Photo: Getty Images/ PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou
Summer means more than swapping shearling-lined boots for colorful sandals and stashing away your practical puffers. It also means that it's hibernation season for many of your cold-weather skin-care favorites. “Your skin requires different things in the summertime when humidity is higher and the sun is stronger,” Rachel Nazarian, MD and board certified dermatologist previously told Well+Good.

In summer, many people believe that retinol should take a backseat, but derms say that's not necessarily true. "Retinol is an amazing ingredient for skin health and anti-aging, and most people in their twenties and above can benefit from including it in their daily skin-care routine," says Dendy Engelman, MD, board certified dermatologist based in New York City. Retinol helps increase your skin’s natural processes like collagen production and cell turnover, which in turn, improves your skin's overall appearance. However, because it's beckoning new cells to the surface, it can also increase skin's sensitivity to the sun, which can put you at a higher risk for sun damage.

Experts In This Article

That said to continue to use it from June to September,  Kavita Mariwalla, MD, board certified dermatologist and founder of Mariwalla Dermatology, simply recommends applying "your retinol at night and using SPF in the morning and re-applying regularly." If you want to shelve it until the days get shorter, that's fine too, but with increased diligence, you can use the ingredient well into the warmer months. As for the ingredients you shouldn't touch? Keep scrolling to find out what needs to go.

 4 skin-care ingredients to avoid during the summer

1. Harsh chemical exfoliants and peels

Since active exfoliating ingredients like alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids can make skin more sensitive to the sun and external aggressors, Harold Lancer, MD, board certified dermatologist, advises not to use too many harsh chemical exfoliants and peels during the summer months. You can still do peels in the summer, but it's important to look out for gentler actives that are safer to use in sunnier months, such as mild lactic and azelaic acids.

2. Physical facial scrubs

Year round, but especially during the warmer months, the exfoliating particles in physical face scrubs and exfoliators can often be too abrasive for skin and can cause redness, irritation, and micro-injuries. According to Dr. Engelman, "this can be even riskier in the summer, when we are exposing our skin to harsher aggressors like the sun, humidity, hot temperatures, the ocean, and swimming pools."

3. Oil in SPF

"Sunscreen can easily clog pores—especially formulas that are made with oil," says Dr. Engelman. She recommends seeking out non-comedogenic, oil-free varieties, like Elizabeth Arden’s PREVAGE City Smart SPF 50 ($68), which improves skin’s health while shielding from environmental aggressors.

4. Citrus oils

Essential oils that contain citrus like orange, lemon, or grapefruit can make your skin more photosensitive or subject to sun damage, so it's best to avoid skin-care products that contain citrus oils or extracts during the months when the sun is at its brightest.

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