7 Common Summer Skin-Care Mistakes Derms Are Begging You To Avoid From Now Through September

Putting together a solid summer skin-care routine doesn't have to be hard: The most important elements include an effective cleanser, a skin-quenching moisturizer, and a whole lot of UV protection from both SPF antioxidants. But though these basics are seemingly simple, there's still plenty of room for error—and there are few not-so-great summer skin-care practices that dermatologists see (and inevitably cringe at) all the time.

To help you take your warm-weather regimen from "good" to "great," we asked derms to weigh in on the most common mistakes they see people making from June through September. Check them out, below.

Experts In This Article

1. Skipping out on sunscreen

This one may be obvious, but that doesn't mean it isn't important. “Not wearing sunscreen is the biggest summer skin no-no—it’s honestly the biggest year-round skin no-no,” says Margarita Lolis, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology in Hackensack, NJ. “Ensuring that you are protected with a physical sunscreen that contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide will not only protect you from the cancer-causing UVB rays, but it will also protect your skin from accelerated aging from the harmful UVA rays.” (That said, chemical sunscreens also offer adequate protection, they just do so by sinking into the skin rather than sitting on top of it.)

You should be applying SPF every day (even when it's raining, and even when you're not going outside), because “much of the sun damage that accumulates in our skin is the result of daily incidental sun exposure,” says Hadley King, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York. Be sure to hit your eyelids, lips, nose, ears, hairline, and scalp, which are easy to forget and among the most common places where skin cancer shows up.

2. Not applying enough SPF

Even if you're diligent about SPF, if you aren't using the right amount you likely aren't getting as much protection as you might think. “Most people only apply 25 to 50 percent of the recommended amount of sunscreen,” says Dr. King. “The guidelines are to apply one ounce—that's enough to fill a shot glass—to the exposed areas of the face and body; a nickel-sized dollop to the face alone. This is necessary to achieve the advertised SPF.”

Keep in mind that SPF makeup on its own likely won't give you enough protection (if you think about it, a nickel-sized dollop is a lot of foundation), so you'll want to pair these products with an SPF 30 or 50 lotion as the last step in your skin-care routine.

But that’s not all. Even after applying that much sunscreen in the morning, it’s important to reapply. “Reapply every two hours and after swimming or sweating,” King says. “Otherwise your skin isn't protected.”

3. Over-cleansing and over-exfoliating

Sun protection aside, Libby says that it’s especially important to be gentle with your skin during the summer. “During the summer, we tend to get more sweat, oil, and dirt build-up on our skin, so I occasionally see patients over-doing their cleansing routine and causing skin irritation,” she shares. “Generally, you can keep your cleansing routine the same, but tweak it to your needs. If you are noticing more sweat, oil, and/or dirt build-up on your skin, perhaps switch to a gentle, foaming cleanser like Cetaphil Gentle Foaming Cleanser.”

The same goes for exfoliation. “With the increased humid temperatures during the summer, our skin tends to feel dirtier and grimier at the end of the day,” Dr. Lolis explains. “Some think that exfoliating more is the key to keeping your skin clear. That one is super false! Over-exfoliation damages the protective layer on top of the skin that helps protect us from the outside elements.”

Additionally, Dr. Lolis points out that overusing acids like AHAs and BHAs make your skin more susceptible to sunburn. “If you are properly washing your face daily, you only need to exfoliate no more than twice a week,” she assures us.

4. Using heavy creams

As much as you may love your cold-weather skincare routine, Dr. Lolis says that opting for lighter formulas during summer can pay off, particularly because they weigh your skin down less. She suggests switching to lighter moisturizers with hyaluronic acid, which will give skin the hydration it needs without feeling heavy, goopy, or greasy.

5. Neglecting your body

Your body deserves the same TLC as your face, especially during the summer.  “The skin is the largest organ of the body, yet we always tend to focus just on the face,” Dr. Lolis says. “Hydrating after showering or bathing is just as important as a moisturizer for the face. Switch out creams for lightweight lotions that contain ceramides and hyaluronic acid to help keep moisture locked in the skin.” Regular (gentle) exfoliation can also help, as it sloughs off dullness-inducing dead skin cells and prevents body breakouts.

6. Getting a laser treatment done after sun exposure

If you’ve recently spent a lot of time in the sun, Dr. King recommends postponing any laser treatments for the sake of your long-term skin health. “The laser can't differentiate between the pigment it's supposed to be targeting and the pigment from your recent sun exposure,” she explains.

7. Not drinking enough water

As cliche as it may sound, Dr. Lolis says that water consumption really does play a role in skin health. “Over 75 percent of the population is dehydrated from not drinking enough water,” she says. “The minute you are thirsty, you’re already behind the ball. Our skin needs water to remain healthy and protective—and our skin is especially prone to dehydration when the temperatures are on the rise.” With that in mind, she says to consume at least eight to 10 glasses (or 64 to 80 ounces) of water per day to keep your skin plump and glowing.

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