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4 Dermatologists Answer Your Biggest Summer Skin Questions

While lounging on rooftop patios and tanning outside signify a summer well-spent, that sunburn and emerging sunspot tell a different story: a summer filled with a little too much fun in the sun.

Want to strike the perfect balance? That’s where the bright minds of these dermatologists come in. We may all live underneath the same sun, but no one knows sun protection better than them. Come learn the answers to your most (sun) burning questions.

Should you wear sunscreen indoors?

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. But when it comes to SPF, you don’t need bright days (or the outdoors) to require SPF. “You should wear sunscreen all the time as you can get sun exposure through windows, while driving, etc.,” says Dr. Anna H. Chacon, a board-certified dermatologist who serves on the advisory board for Smart Style Today. “There are powerful UVA and UVB rays that will penetrate the skin and can contribute to aging [and tanning].”

How can I lighten up my skincare routine in the summer?

Avoid a makeup meltdown by using combination products, says Dr. Kemunto Mokaya, a board-certified dermatologist. This could look like a moisturizer that contains sunscreen. “That will reduce one step in your skincare routine by combining two in one.”

She also recommends mixing products you already own, such as your foundation with your physical sunscreen. 

summer skin

What kind of sun-protective clothing should I be wearing?

Sun protection may begin with sunscreen, but it doesn’t end there. You can also use fashion to make an SPF statement. “For water sports, I am a fan of rash guard and surf suits,” says Dr. Chacon. “These are made to cover the chest, back, abdomen, arms and legs.”

A stylish option that will keep you sun-safe is to wear a waterproof, wide-brimmed hat, even when in the water. “These are easy to clean and can be purchased online,” adds Dr. Chacon.

If none of these options suit you, you can purchase clothes that are made with SPF-embedded in them. “They are typically made of a breathable, synthetic material that prevents the sun’s rays from coming through,” explains Dr. Chacon. 

How do I prevent dryness in summer months?

Quench your skin’s thirst by using these products recommended by NYC dermatologist Dr. Hadley King: gel moisturizers, hydrating/moisturizing serums, light lotions and fast-absorbing oils. “It can be a great alternative for moisturizing by providing humectant and emollient properties while still feeling light.”

I’m terrible at making wearing sunscreen a habit. Any advice? 

This is something that Dr. Chacon hears from patients all the time. Her advice is simple: Always keep it with you. “You can make it a habit by carrying a compact or small sunscreen in your pocket and in your handbag.” 

She even keeps a bunch in her car since she says that we get a lot of sun exposure in vehicles. The UV rays “commonly land on the upper chest, forearms and hands.”

What are the most common summertime skin mistakes?

Even if you’re applying sunscreen daily, it might not be enough for adequate sun protection, explains Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse, a board-certified dermatologist in Beverly Hills, in private practice at SkinSafe Dermatology and Skin Care.

This includes those sun-vulnerable areas like the scalp, ears, back of neck, lips and the tops of feet. Another common mistake is not showering enough (sorry, that run through your neighbors’ sprinklers doesn’t count) to wash off sweat, grease and sunscreen.

Does sunscreen go on before or after moisturizer?

“Sunscreen should be your last step, or the step before makeup,” advises Dr. Shainhouse. “Wash your face, apply any prescription/medicated products as needed, apply a moisturizer, apply sunscreen, apply makeup.”

summer skin concerns

How do I keep my brown spots from becoming more prominent?

If you want to get a handle on sun damage (i.e. melasma and lentigines aka liver spots), Dr. King says that sun protection and avoidance are critical. 

Skin already discolored? Dr. King recommends hydroquinone for the treatment route (a chemical peel is one option). “It’s a topical skin-lightening ingredient used to treat hyperpigmented skin conditions.”

Which sunscreens go well with face masks?

If you’re worried about a mask tan line, Dr. King recommends Brush on Block powdered sunscreen. “It absorbs excess oil so it can serve a dual purpose as a finishing powder, actually extending the life of your makeup and providing sun protection.”

How do I deal with breakouts in the summer?

When the heat and humidity hits, it’s the perfect recipe for blasting the AC (and for causing breakouts). Solve this by using oil-free products, says Dr. Chacon. This includes oil-free sunscreen, moisturizers and makeup. 

“’Non-comedogenic’ is another word to look for in your products — this means it doesn’t contribute to comedones, which are whiteheads and blackheads,” explains Dr. Chacon.

How do I treat bug bites? 

Itching for an answer? Dr. Mokaya has a few solutions. First, you can apply an ice pack to the bite to reduce swelling. Secondly, apply an anti-itch cream to reduce itching. While aloe is traditionally used to treat sunburns, it can also be used to calm bug bites.

How do I soothe a sunburn?

Feeling burnt-to-a-crisp? Get some quick relief by taking over-the-counter hydrocortisone 1% cream, recommends Dr. Shainhouse. Use it twice a day for three days, as needed.

Keep pain at bay by taking ibuprofen or using compresses like water or iced black tea. Both of these options will “reduce redness and [discomfort],” explains Dr. Shainhouse. Finally, you can use the one method that goes hand-in-hand with sunburns: aloe vera gel.

Should I be exfoliating during the summer?

While you don’t have to exfoliate as often as you would during the winter, you should still aim for at least once per week, says Dr. Mokaya.

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