Summer skincare isn't just about sun protection. For me, it's usually one of the most challenging seasons because I tend to break out more, especially near my hairline (thank you, sweat!).
I also get a lot of pigmentation on the sides of my cheeks—even WITH sunscreen. And of course, it's always hard finding the right products that keep you hydrated and protected, without looking like an oil slick.
That's why this might just be my best summer skincare routine yet!
Not to jinx anything, but so far using these products, my skin has stayed surprisingly clear, even and free of shine. (I haven't even been wearing much powder, and in past summers I wouldn't be able to get away with that!)
My Summer Skincare Goals
Alright, here's the lowdown on my skin priorities right now!
- Sun protection: The sun is said to be responsible for 80 percent of skin aging, so obviously I'm all about the SPF at the moment. I can remember when I first started doing these mineral sunscreen guides, there were only a handful of high-zinc formulas to choose from, and most were quite heavy and occlusive. Now, there are a good number of lightweight options—so I think that's one reason why my skin is behaving better!
- Fading and preventing pigmentation: In the spring, I was battling a serious case of post-acne hyperpigmentation after some Drunk Elephant products made me break out BADLY. That has mostly faded now, although I'm still working on it. At the same time, I'm being diligent about preventing new pigmentation. Sunscreen is half the battle, but so are the right actives. Niacinamide is what works the best for me, and I consider it to be an anti-aging treatment as well.
- Preventing breakouts: Like I said, my skin has been unusually clear lately, thank God. But if I learned anything from my Drunk Elephant experience, it was not to get too cocky about that! So I'm keeping up my twice-daily acid routine. I think the niacinamide treatments I'm using right now are also making a difference, along with the lighter SPF and some new toners.
Confession: I fell off the wagon this summer with respect to all my gadgets (admittedly, I went a little wild with them in the spring!). I've just been TOO busy for anything more than an occasional Red Light Man treatment. But, I'm going to get back into using my ZIIP when I have some downtime in August (and yes, I plan to do a review). The microneedling I'm going to save for the fall, as you're not meant to do it after sun exposure.
Since I took you through my skin makeup last time, I won't bore you with that again here (I'm using pretty much the same things anyway).
As always, the majority of these products were purchased by me, and you can see how I scrutinize ingredients lists in this tutorial.
My Morning Skincare Routine
My morning cleanser right now is Youth to the People Superfood Cleanser, which I was also using in the spring. This has become one of my favourite gel cleansers—it's sulfate-free, and I don't find it drying at all. (But it might be not be moisturizing enough for dry skin, so I think it's best if you are normal to oily.) While I'm only using it in the mornings, you could also use it at night as the second step in a double cleanse.
I'm also still using the S.W. Basics Cleanser on a Shiseido Facial Cotton on days when I'm not hopping in the shower right away. It's a three-ingredient cleansing water that's great for a quick, gentle cleanse.
What a surprise, COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid is next! I can't see myself EVER giving up this beta-hydroxy acid treatment that I've been using since 2017. As I explained in this review, it treats and prevents breakouts, exfoliates and brightens your skin, fades pigmentation and more. The texture is a liquid gel, and I use my fingers to smooth a generous layer all over my face (excluding the lips and eye area).
Then I wait about 20 minutes or so to give the BHA time to work before I apply the GEORGANIC Propolis Care Acne Serum. Ignore the name, because this serum is not just going to help acne-prone skin, but also dry or sensitive skin and pigmentation.
First of all, it's got 78 percent Centella Asiatica extract, which is an Asian herb that both moisturizes and strengthens the skin barrier. It also has 10 percent propolis (bee "glue"), which soothes and reduces inflammation, and two percent niacinamide, which has all of these benefits (including brightening). So it's doing a lot more than other serums—and with fewer ingredients! It has a lightweight texture and is highly unlikely to irritate you or break you out.
In summers past, I usually skipped this step and went straight from serum to sunscreen, since moisturizer would make me too greasy. This time, I've been experimenting with Truly Glass Skin Facial Serum, and it's not having that effect at all! (The sunscreen I'm using is lighter, too, but more on that in a second.)
It's interesting that the brand is calling this a serum, because the texture is definitely a cream. It becomes more fluid once you spread it on your skin, so maybe that's why? Anyway, I absolutely love it. Who knew you could make a lightweight but nourishing cream out of soy lecithin, xanthan gum, aloe vera, coconut oil, cocoa butter and vitamin E?!
5. Eye Cream:
Instead of eye cream, I'm using Truly Doll Skin Face Cream right now. (I swear, this brand is one of my BEST discoveries this year!) Lately, I've been getting some irritation in my eye area, probably from some makeup I've been using, so I wanted to try a very basic cream that wouldn't cause any more issues. I find that I can't use a lot of eye creams because their ingredients lists are too complex, with too many potential irritants.
Like the Glass Skin Serum, this cream has a very simple, natural ingredients list—in fact, the ingredients are almost the same. The Doll Skin Face Cream, however, has a slightly thicker texture and a pink tint (maybe from the seaweed extract?). It's perfect as an eye cream, and I also wouldn't hesitate to use it as a face cream, which I'll be doing once it gets colder. (I've already tested it all over my face, and it doesn't break me out.) Truly obsessed with this brand!
For my mineral sunscreen this season, I've got a brand new tube of Ava Isa Pure Untinted Ultra Matte SPF 45 Sunscreen, which the company recently tweaked to create a creamier texture. (There's also a tinted version, by the way.) This is such a great SPF for anyone who hates heavy, greasy sunscreens. It's so light on the skin, and the protection from UVA rays (the aging type of rays) is incredible.
I JUST received a PR sample of the new REN Clean Screen Mattifying Face Sunscreen SPF 30, so I'm going to be adding that to the rotation, too. It's not available yet here in Canada, but you can find it in the US and UK. You can learn more about all my sunscreen picks in this year's mineral sunscreen guide!
7. SPF Lip Balm:
As I mentioned in my recent review, COOLA Tinted Mineral Liplux SPF 30 is my top pick for an SPF lip balm. You're getting all-mineral protection in a moisturizing, water-resistant formula. It comes in a bunch of different tints—see my swatches here. My favourite is the coral shade called Tan Line.
8. Face Mists:
My last step in the morning (and throughout the day, actually) is face mist. I'm BIG on face mists in the summer. Tatcha The Satin Skin Mist is my latest purchase, a "liquid powder" that you shake and then spray on to mattify your skin. I've been experimenting with this instead of regular face powder, and it does a good job of taking away shine without making my skin look dry or dull.
I also like BIOeffect OSA Water Mist, which I was using last summer, too. This one is also slightly mattifying thanks to the silica, and hydrating thanks to the glycerin and hyaluronic acid. The packaging is great to pop in your handbag.
And I just bought another Pai Rice Plant & Rosemary BioAffinity Skin Tonic, which I used two or three years ago and loved. This one is super juicy and refreshing, and is specifically formulated to help balance combo skin.
My Nighttime Skincare Routine
1. Makeup Remover:
Moving on to evening... my first step is always micellar water, and I decided to try out another one to share with you, the Darphin Azahar Cleansing Micellar Water. If you feel like splurging, it does the job, with 94 percent natural ingredients (although BIOeffect's micellar formula is technically more "clean"). It doesn't cause any irritation for me, but I'm also rinsing it off with the next step.
There's nothing like a foaming face wash in the summer to get off all the sweat and grime that's been seeping into your pores all day—am I right? I finally got around to trying Indie Lee Purifying Face Wash, which I bought a while back but somehow forgot about (I have way too many cleansers!).
This has a unique jelly texture that turns into a light creamy foam once you massage it over wet skin. Honestly, it's great (just like ALL the cleansers from this brand). It's gentle, sulfate-free and doesn't leave my skin feeling tight. Keep in mind that it's more for oily and combo skin, though. If you are dry, I think the Indie Lee Rosehip Cleanser is better for you.
3. Cleansing Brush:
As usual, I pair my cleanser with the Foreo Luna 2 for Combination Skin, my favourite gentle cleansing brush. Summer is when I use this puppy the most, since sunscreens have a tendency to clog pores and I'm paranoid of leaving any traces on my skin.
By the way, a new version of this brush has just come out, the Luna 3. The main difference is that there's now an app, so you can customize the treatment intensity with your phone. I'm not sure if they are discontinuing the older one but I hope not! Personally, I feel like I don't need the 3 as the 2 already works perfectly.
In the spring, I mentioned that I've started to incorporate a toner step in the evenings, after cleansing and before my acid. I was inspired by NYC facialist Christine Chin, who believes that skipping toner is the number one mistake most people make! My problem was finding the RIGHT toner. Most toners I've tried don't play well with the COSRX BHA for some reason, and my skin goes red, hot and flushed when I use them together. Then I got the idea to try Lotion P50 as my toner, and it didn't do that!
However, Lotion P50 isn't the most accessible product, so I wanted to find some other options I could recommend to you guys. Thank goodness for K-beauty. I found two more toners that are compatible with acids! Benton Aloe BHA Skin Toner contains soothing aloe vera, hydrating snail mucin and 0.5 percent salicylic acid. Pyunkang Yul Acne Toner has willow bark extract (a natural BHA), niacinamide and Centella Asiatica extract. They're both quite cheap!
After the toner, I apply COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid, same as the morning. In past routines, you might remember me using it only in the mornings, with another salicylic acid treatment at night. But since the spring, I've stuck with this twice a day, and I really notice that my skin is always clear now. Like, I can be walking around all day sweating, or going through PMS time, and not even have ONE pimple. This stuff is GOLD!
As much as I love A313 (reviewed here), I'm taking a little break from retinoids for the next month or so. One, because I finished the tube and had to order another, and two, because I plan to be spending a lot of time outside in August. This paper talks about retinoids and phototoxicity, so I just like to be careful!
Instead, I'm applying SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense, which was also in my spring routine. I use this about 20 minutes after the acid. It has five percent niacinamide, which acts as an antioxidant and will help me combat any sun-induced pigmentation. There are also tons of studies about niacinamide's ability to repair radiation-induced DNA damage (see here for a few). Yes, I am obsessed with niacinamide and prefer it to vitamin C!
7. Lash Serum:
In my last few routines, I've forgotten to include lash serum, so I wanted to let you know that I've been using neuLASH Lash Enhancing Serum for a while now. You just paint this along your upper lash lines, and it helps strengthen your lashes so that they hang around longer (and therefore look thicker). Coming from Latisse, I think this has helped me maintain those results!
8. Eye Cream:
Again, my "eye cream" right now is Truly Doll Skin Face Cream. No, it doesn't have any anti-aging ingredients, but it's keeping my eye area nice and hydrated. I wish more brands would take a cue from this company's ultra-simple formulas! With eye creams especially, the fewer ingredients, the better.
9. Lip Balm:
As always, my last step is some lanolin lip balm. All that's in Lanolips 101 Ointment Multipurpose Superbalm is medical-grade lanolin, which I think is the best thing for healing dry lips. Ever since I got onto this stuff, I NEVER experience chapping.
For a cheaper (but less cute) option, Lansinoh Lanolin Nipple Cream is the same thing!
I hope you enjoyed reading about this routine!
Even though I'd describe my skin as combination, I think a lot of these products would work for drier skin than mine, too. I can't say enough good things about Truly in particular. The fact that they can make such incredible creams without a long list of weird synthetic ingredients is just amazing to me!
I hope you also check out GEORGANIC, because that's another one I'd recommend for ALL skin. It's a K-beauty brand, by the way (as are COSRX, Benton and Pyunkang Yul). I'm a bit late to the party but I'm working on a Korean "clean skincare" guide to share with you soon. Stay tuned!
Shop My Skincare Routine
Have you tried any of the products in my summer routine?
Which skincare products are you loving lately?