Derms Say to Skip These Super Common Skin-Care Ingredients If You’re Heading to the Beach

Photo: Getty/Lynzy Billing
Wearing sunscreen to the beach is skin care 101. It’s literally the number one most basic skin-care rule there is, and one that pretty much all of us know that we should follow. But while we all know the VIP (very important product) that we should be slathering on from head to toe before heading out into the sun, there are also certain items that should stay far, far away from our beach day beauty routines. Some common ingredients are sun sensitive, which means that when they get exposed to UV rays they can create some not-so-nice reactions on your skin.

As you definitely already know, you should be covering your entire body with a shot glass-sized amount of sunscreen every two hours no matter what other ingredients you're using. FWIW, many dermatologists have told me that if you're doing it right, you should go through an entire bottle of the stuff by the end of the day. And even if you are an A+ student who follows all of the ingredient rules, laying out in direct sunlight is really never recommended.

Here, derms break down which ingredients you should leave behind if you're heading to the beach (leaving plenty of room in your bag for all those extra bottles of SPF).


First up, the biggie: Vitamin A derivatives, AKA retinoids, a la retinol and tretinoin. Retinol makes you a bit more sensitive to the sun, so I always make sure it’s on deck for my nighttime routine,” says Connecticut-based board certified dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD. Plus, vitamin A breaks down in the sun, so it's kind of a waste to use your pricey retinol products during the day anyway since they won't be as effective as they would be overnight. 

While derms have loosened up a little on the "don't wear retinol during the day" rule as formulas have gotten more stable (as long as you always, always cover it up with SPF, that is), you should probably avoid doing so on days when you're going to be sitting out in the sun...which is basically the definition of "a day at the beach." 


Another thing worth keeping away from your skin before you hit the sand? Any sort of exfoliating acids. These will get rid of that top layer of dead skin, which serves as your first line of defense against the sun, thus making you more susceptible to getting burned. "Whether it glycolic, lactic, or others, I do not recommend applying hydroxy acid to the skin before going to the beach," confirms New York-based dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD.

Essential oils

Be sure to stick with essential oils as part of your evening routine instead of your morning one.  "Essential oils are extremely popular right now and have some brightening and soothing effects," says Dr. Zeichner. "However, several of them can lead to a severe chemical burn known as phytophotodermatitis [when accompanied by the sun]." Despite the scary name, it’s a totally harmless rash that will go away eventually, but can stick around for up to four weeks. Dr. Zeichner also notes that the same type of reaction can occur if you get certain fruit juice on your skin, including lime and other citrus so beware when you're making those poolside margaritas.


Do yourself a favor and be sure to skip the pre-beach perfume spritz. “A similar reaction [to photodermatatitis] happens with some fragrances, called Berloqe dermatitis or ‘trinket dermatitis,’” explains New York-based dermatologist Amy Spaziano. “Again this is due to a certain perfumes or colognes that have a high concentration of a light-sensitizing agent called bergapten, in the fragrance called Bergamot.” Consider this an excuse to rock that “fresh out of the ocean” scent all summer long.

The beach isn’t the only place you should be wearing sunscreen—here’s why you need to be re-applying 365 days of the year (yes, even the cloudy ones). Plus, a derm reveals the one place we’re all forgetting to put SPF on.

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