Summer is here, and you know what that means... sweaty skin, acne flare-ups and a higher risk of sunburn and sun damage!
That's why I created this guide with the latest and greatest product essentials for surviving the warm weather season.
While our faces are the focus during the cooler months—when we can hibernate under woolly layers—summer skincare is a head-to-toe affair.
Below, you'll find my top picks for protecting yourself from the sun, hydrating without heaviness, keeping your complexion clear, and much more. Whether you'll be at the pool, beach or BBQ, these are all the summer skincare essentials you'll need.
The Best Skincare Products for Summer 2021
Gel Cleanser: Summer Fridays Super Amino Gel Cleanser
While creamy cleansers are nice in the winter, most of us can handle gel formulas in the summertime, when we need more help removing daily sweat and sunscreen (before they clog your pores!). Summer Fridays Super Amino Gel Cleanser has just been reformulated, and now it removes grime more effectively than ever, without drying out your skin.
Face Wipes: Ursa Major Essential Face Wipes
Face wipes are a must for road trips, airplane travel or anytime you're on the go. I love Ursa Major Essential Face Wipes because they're biodegradable and made with skin-friendly ingredients like aloe, willow bark, glycerin and hyaluronic acid. Best of all, they get your skin clean and fresh, without leaving behind any icky residue. Find more of the best face wipes here.
BHA Toner: Farmacy Deep Sweep 2% BHA Pore Cleaning Toner
Nothing beats breakouts like BHAs (beta-hydroxy acids), and so if you're not using them in your routine, you might want to start now. Farmacy Deep Sweep 2% BHA Pore Cleaning Toner, made with 2% salicylic acid, is one of my favourites. It's a lot gentler than Paula's Choice, and can be used as often as daily to both treat and prevent acne, minimize pores and reduce excess oil.
BHA Body Mist: Versed Back-Up Plan Acne-Control Body Mist
Bacne and other forms of body acne are a common warm-weather problem, usually due to a combination of sweat, increased oil production and occlusive sunscreens. Enter Versed Back-Up Plan Acne-Control Body Mist. It has 2% salicylic acid plus tea tree oil and witch hazel to clear blemishes fast, and the spray format makes it easy to reach places like your back, chest and bum.
Vitamin C Serum: SkinCeuticals Silymarin CF
Antioxidants like vitamin C are crucial to wear under your sunscreen. They neutralize free radicals, making your SPF more effective and absorbing harmful UV energy before it damages your DNA and collagen. The new SkinCeuticals Silymarin CF is one of the most powerful formulas, with 15% L-ascorbic acid and 0.5% ferulic acid. It's also ideal for summer because it has 0.5% each of salicylic acid and silymarin (milk thistle) to counteract excess oil and oil oxidation.
Sunscreen: Kinship Self Reflect Probiotic Moisturizing Sunscreen SPF 32
You already know that sunscreen is essential. I believe everyone needs a formula high in zinc oxide, which offers the best protection from both UVA (aging rays) and UVB (burning rays). Asking me to recommend just one is kind of like trying to choose a favourite child—impossible! However, I consistently get great feedback from readers about Kinship Self Reflect Probiotic Moisturizing Sunscreen SPF 32. It's clean, lightweight, highly protective, non-whitening and suitable for face and body. Find more of the best mineral sunscreens here.
Tinted Sunscreen: ILIA Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40
Why wear your regular foundation when you can swap it for one that will help to protect, nourish and brighten your skin in addition to providing light coverage? There's nothing quite like ILIA Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40. It's got 12% zinc oxide, 6% squalane, 2% niacinamide and 0.5% hyaluronic acid, and it comes in 30 natural-looking shades. Find more of the best tinted sunscreens here.
Powder Sunscreen: Supergoop! (Re)setting 100% Mineral Powder SPF 35 PA+++
The best way to top up your sun protection throughout the day—without messing up your makeup—is to dust on a powder sunscreen. I always keep a tube in my handbag, so I'm never caught without SPF. I like Supergoop! (Re)setting 100% Mineral Powder SPF 35 PA+++ because it's high in zinc oxide (24.5%), low in silicone and comes in three shades as well as a translucent version. It also sets makeup and mattifies shine!
Lip Balm with Sunscreen: EleVen by Venus Perfect Form Lip Balm SPF 15
Lips need sun protection, too, and there are finally some mineral formulas hitting the market like EleVen by Venus Perfect Form Lip Balm SPF 15. As one of the only tinted lip balms with a high concentration of zinc oxide (20%), it protects the vulnerable lip area from both burning and aging. It glides on smooth with a glossy finish, and is available in three gorgeous shades as well as clear.
Bronzer: By Terry Tea to Tan Face & Body
I'm not a fan of self-tanners because they trigger a chemical reaction that increases free radical production—even more so if you expose your skin to the sun. Fortunately, there's a new generation of wash-off bronzers that can give you the same sun-kissed colour without increasing oxidative stress. By Terry Tea to Tan Face & Body is a water-based liquid bronzer spray that you can use from head to toe. It's buildable, transfer-proof and works on all skin tones. Let it settle in the bottle for a matte look, or shake it if you like shimmer. Find more of the best body bronzers here.
After-Sun Lotion: Herbivore After Sun Skin Soothing Aloe Mist
Post-sun exposure, spraying on some Herbivore After Sun Skin Soothing Aloe Mist is a quick and convenient way to cool down. Its key ingredient is aloe vera, used as a remedy for thousands of years to reduce inflammation, calm redness and hydrate the skin. Spearmint essential oil gives it an instant cooling sensation. Find more of the best after-sun lotions here.
Aloe Vera Gel: Benton Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel
Aloe vera gel is a summer staple, and there's one product I completely swear by: Benton Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel. This is a Korean formula that combines a high concentration of aloe with soothing propolis (also known as "bee glue") for extra anti-inflammatory and antibacterial benefits. It's fragrance-free, alcohol-free and silicone-free, as well as non-sticky and fast-absorbing. You can use it as an after-sun lotion or as a daily face and body moisturizer.
Niacinamide Serum: The Inkey List Niacinamide
It's no secret that I love niacinamide serum year-round, but especially in the summertime. That's because it reduces your skin's oil production and shrinks pores while also lightly hydrating and brightening. The Inkey List Niacinamide is one of the best I've tried. It's so moisturizing that I often wear it alone under sunscreen, and I always notice that my skin stays more matte when I have it on. Find more of the best niacinamide serums here.
Gel Moisturizer: Versed Dew Point Moisturizing Gel-Cream
Since your skin produces more oil in the summertime, a thick, rich face cream is probably too heavy right now, and may even lead to clogged pores and breakouts. Switch to a gel or gel-cream moisturizer instead, such as Versed Dew Point Moisturizing Gel-Cream. It's one of my favourites because it absorbs quickly yet is surprisingly hydrating. Plus, it's silicone-free and fragrance-free. Find more of the best gel moisturizers here.
Clay Mask: Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Hyaluronic Clay Pore-Tight Facial
For your summertime self-care sessions, trade your creamy moisturizing mask for one made with clay, like Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Hyaluronic Clay Pore-Tight Facial. Unlike the drying clay formulas you may remember from years ago, this one is whipped with hyaluronic acid, so it doesn't strip your skin. It also has BHAs, PHAs and watermelon enzymes to help decongest pores, exfoliate and soften.
Face Mist: Dermalogica Clear Start Micro-Pore Mist
Face mists feel oh-so-refreshing when it's hot outside, but that's not the only reason I'm recommending Dermalogica Clear Start Micro-Pore Mist. Besides quenching thirsty skin with lightweight hydrators, it also minimize pores and brightens tone with niacinamide. Best of all, it controls oil and subtly mattifies without causing dryness.
Primer: Dr. Barbara Sturm Anti-Aging Primer
While I don't love a shiny T-zone, I'd given up on oil-controlling primers and mattifiers, which seemed to always make my skin skin feel too tight and dry. Then I discovered Dr. Barbara Sturm Anti-Aging Primer. It's not sold as a mattifier per se, but rather a lightweight lotion that reduces imperfections like pores and wrinkles while also hydrating. Still, I've found that it does keep me a little more matte, in a very fresh and natural-looking way. You can wear it alone or under makeup; I even use it in place of moisturizer!
Highlighter: INNBeauty Project Face Glaze
'Tis the season to show off sun-kissed skin with highlighter, and INNBeauty Project Face Glaze gives you skincare benefits at the same time. This is a dewy gel-cream comprised of nourishing squalane, ceramides and hyaluronic acid. It comes in a universal champagne shade, and you can either wear it alone or mixed into foundation.
Body Exfoliant: Farmacy Honeymoon Glow Body 12% AHA/BHA Resurfacing Serum
Acids are magic for dissolving dead skin, evening out tone, preventing breakouts and giving you a glow. But for some reason, it's been hard to find them in products for your body—which is why I'm excited about new Farmacy Honeymoon Glow Body 12% AHA/BHA Resurfacing Serum. It's got 10% lactic acid and 2% salicylic acid in a hydrating serum infused with shea butter and honey. Just be sure to use it out of the sun, since AHAs increase photosensitivity.
Anti-Chafing Stick: Megababe Thigh Rescue
No matter how much you love summer, there's nothing like skin chafing to make you long for winter weather. Chafing can occur anywhere that your skin rubs together (like your thighs), leading to sore, raw, irritated skin. To combat it, try a product like Megababe Thigh Rescue, which lubricates the area to minimize friction.
Post-Hair Removal Solution: Tend Skin Solution
Whether your preferred hair removal method is shaving, waxing, laser or electrolysis, Tend Skin Solution can help. This is a clear, acid-based liquid that you apply with a cotton ball to treat and prevent razor bumps, razor burn, ingrown hairs and redness. It's been around forever, because it works!
Multi-Purpose Balm: Doctor Rogers RESTORE Healing Balm
Whenever I'm travelling, I always like to bring a multi-purpose balm—one that I can use on everything from dry skin to cuts and scrapes to bug bites. If you're like me and would rather avoid petroleum-based products, check out Doctor Rogers RESTORE Healing Balm. It's an all-natural, fragrance-free ointment made with just three plant-based ingredients.
Callus Softener: Deborah Lippmann Get Off Callus Softener Intensive Treatment
When there's no time for a pedicure, let alone waiting for an intensive peel like Baby Foot to work its magic, I've got the solution for sandal-ready feet. Deborah Lippmann Get Off Callus Softener Intensive Treatment is a spray-on callus softener that gets the job done in as little as 30 seconds. It contains AHAs, BHAs and urea to break down tough skin, so you can buff it right off with a foot file like this.
Deodorant: Kosas Chemistry AHA Serum Deodorant
Summertime calls for a strong deodorant game, and if you've been struggling to find one that works, consider Kosas Chemistry AHA Serum Deodorant. As an aluminum-free formula, it doesn't stop perspiration, but what it does do is create an inhospitable environment for odour-causing bacteria. As such, it doesn't contain baking soda (which can be irritating) and instead uses a unique blend of AHAs in a base of aloe and glycerin.
Hand Sanitizer: Susanne Kaufmann Hand Spray Purif-i Sanitizing
Every handbag needs a travel-sized bottle of hand sanitizer for disinfecting your hands on the go. New Susanne Kaufmann Hand Spray Purif-i Sanitizing is one of the most hydrating formulas. To counteract its 62% concentration of alcohol, it's spiked with ingredients like provitamin B5, hydrolyzed silk and arnica. Find more of the best hand sanitizers here.
Insect Repellant: Mrs White’s Unstung Hero
If you're looking for a safer, more natural alternative to conventional insect repellants, look no further than Mrs White's Unstung Hero. It combines a fresh lemon tea scent with IR3535 (ethyl butylacetylaminopropionate), a non-toxic ingredient that renders you "invisible" to mosquitos, ticks, black flies, wasps and bees for up to four hours.
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