Summer is the best season for so many reasons—except for what it does to our skin. The heat, sweat, and dry air manage to create a perfect storm that sends our complexions into an intense panic. Let's put it this way: I woke up this morning with cheeks covered in blemishes, flaky skin on my nose, and a series of bug bites down one ankle. Summer, why you gotta play me like this?
Luckily, there are easy (and affordable) fixes for all of these skin conditions and more. To find summer skincare tips that actually work, we picked the brains of five top experts: dermatologists Dr. Patricia Wexler, Dr. Taz Bhatia, and Dr. Mona Gohara and skincare founders Sabrina Tan of Skin Inc. and Kat Burki of her eponymous line.
To learn their expert tricks for banishing breakouts, sunspots, and other icky conditions, keep scrolling!
"Dry skin is a side effect from excessive sun and heat and dehydration," says Wexler. Dry, air-conditioned buildings can also dehydrate our skin, adds Burki. Of course, remembering to use alcohol-free moisturizers helps keep your skin soft and flake-free. But surprisingly, your clothing and diet choices also matter. "Wearing silk or cotton clothing can actually help lock in your body's own moisture," says Burki. So can eating spices like turmeric, cumin, and coriander, which aid in promoting hydration to the skin.
If your face needs an even deeper hydrating treatment, Wexler recommends using a honey mask. You can make your own out of organic honey, coconut oil, and lavender essential oil ($8), or you can spring for Earth Tu Face's Honey and Coconut Mask ($52). "Leave it on until it naturally dries, and rinse off with warm water," says Wexler. "It is very hydrating to the skin and feels like a spa treatment."
Too much sun exposure can cause dark spots and hyperpigmentation. "This can be treated with lemon or citric acid, which exfoliates, increases cell turnover, and can bleach the skin as well," says Wexler. To make your own DIY sun spot treatment, Wexler recommends mixing two teaspoons of lemon juice with two teaspoons of sugar. "Apply to the skin, gently massage, and rinse with water," she says. "Do this exfoliation weekly to lighten the dark areas."
To treat dark spots at home, you could also try applying Vitamin E oil ($8) directly to the skin, says Gohara. If you want something a little stronger, Gohara recommends looking for a spot-correcting product containing alpha arbutin, a bearberry tree extract. "It's a proven powerful skin lightening agent with the strength of hydroquinone but without all the bad side effects," she says. Try Cosmesis Skin Care's Skin Lightening Serum ($71).
Also known as "prickly heat," this angry red rash appears on your chest or shoulders in the summer and is aggravated by sweating, says Bhatia. The key to preventing and treating it is to keep the skin cool. "I recommend putting your favorite moisturizer in the fridge to cool down, or add water to a refrigerated mist bottle and spray on your skin," says Gohara.
You could also invest in a hydrating mist, like this editor-approved pick from Farmacy.
Summer often means "too much sun, too little sleep, excessive alcohol, and dehydration," says Wexler. These all add up to puffy under-eyes. DIY remedies include placing ice-cold caffeinated tea bags or cucumber slices under your eyes. You can also use an eye gel containing caffeine, yeast, cucumber extract, and peptides, which stimulate collagen production. Keep your eye gel in the fridge and apply whenever you notice extra puffiness. Try Patricia Wexler MD's Instant De-Puff Eye Gel ($19).
"Sunburns are extremely damaging to the skin, not to mention terribly painful," says Burki. For the best instant relief, create a cold compress by dousing a washcloth in witch hazel and popping it in the freezer. The witch hazel has long-lasting anti-inflammatory benefits, says Burki. After the inflammation goes down, apply a rich, healing oil to the skin, such as Kat Burki's Power Trio Radiance Oil ($125).
If you're interesting in preventing sunburn, here's a cool hack from Gohara: La Roche-Posay's My UV Patch. This is a wearable skin sensor that monitors your UV exposure in real time. Apply the sticker-like patch, and then log onto the My UV Patch app to track your sun levels and receive alerts when your sun time has reached its limit. The product is free and will be available to the public this summer.
With outdoor barbecues and camping come itchy, unsightly insect bites. (Fun fact: Did you know approximately 20% of the population is especially tasty to mosquitos?) "To decrease discomfort, use ice cubes to break the itch/scratch cycle," says Wexler. "Over-the-counter cortisone cream ($8) will help the redness and inflammation."
If you want to go the natural route, apply some aloe ($16) or basil to your bites, both of which are anti-inflammatory, says Wexler.
"Travel, greasy food, and heat can lead to more breakouts in the summer—especially on the forehead and cheeks," says Bhatia. To prevent and treat blemishes, try taking oral probiotics, like The Beauty Chef's Cleanse Inner Beauty Powder ($65), which help balance the body's internal microbiome. Bhatia also recommends applying a dab of apple cider vinegar to the skin at night to control oil. If your skin doesn't respond well to pure apple cider vinegar, try S.W. Basics' five-ingredient toner ($23).
#Realtalk: Thigh irritation in the summer is very real. "Between the sweat and tight clothing, it could be a situation," says Gohara. "Try using a little deodorant between the legs to lubricate, stay fresh, and prevent irritation."
As if razor burn on the legs isn't bad enough, razor burn on the bikini line is a special summer nightmare. "I love to use Skin Inc.'s Pure Revival Peel ($55) along the bikini line because it visibly sloughs away dead skin cells and unclogs pores so you don't get ingrown hairs," says Tan. "Use it a few days before waxing or shaving and then every few days for maintenance."
Want more skincare tips? Follow these flawless skincare rules to go foundation-free forever.