A guide to summer skincare — from sunscreen to serums

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With the sun shining and temperatures creeping upward, it’s time to adjust our skincare routines for summer.

Toronto beauty expert Shakereen Chowdhury says going into the summer months, our bodies sweat more, which leads to skin naturally producing more oil. She says there needs to be a balance of hydration and oil production because with more oil production, people tend to experience breakouts or other skin irritations.

“That really does come back down to not only your products, but also what you eat,” she says, adding that you can do a lot for your skin by focusing on including things like dark greens and berries into your diet.

“They are packed with antioxidants, and that’s what you want to focus on.”

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Tiffany Lui, the founder of Bambeau, a Toronto-based online boutique selling Korean skincare products, agrees with Chowdhury — she says warmer temperatures and higher humidity levels can trigger heightened activity of sebaceous glands.

“This means oily skin will produce more oil and dry skin can become rough. Heat also causes pores to open up, trapping dirt and oil, which in turn causes more acne and breakouts without proper cleansing,” she says.

Lui recommends double cleansing, especially during the summer. Double cleansing means first using an oil or cleansing balm, then follow up right after with a water-based cleanser for a thorough face wash.

Additionally, she recommends using a clay mask once or twice a week as well as lightening up your skin routine. She recommends swapping out heavy creams for a gel moisturizer, using a hydrating toner rather than a milky one and using aloe products after sun exposure.

“Products that are light, airy and hydrating are key. Your skin should remain breathable without the feeling of a heavy layer to congest it,” says Lui.

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Protecting your skin from sun exposure

When it comes to protecting your skin against the sun, Dominique Baker, a skincare and hair expert from Ottawa, says some healthy habits include using mineral or chemical sunscreens, wearing protective layers and incorporating a spray or powder with SPF to reapply over makeup.

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As someone with acne-prone skin, Baker says she uses a sunscreen with niacinamide to lighten hyper-pigmentation and help keep acne under control.

“There’s also some sunscreens now with hyaluronic acid, which plumps your skin and reduces the look of fine lines,” she says, adding that tinted sunscreens have also become popular.

Baker says hyaluronic acid is great for the cottage or after being in the sun all day.

“I noticed when I do my skincare routine at night, my skin is super dry, and hyaluronic acid is so good for regulating that,” she says, pointing to L’Oréal’s Revitalift 1.5% Hyaluronic Acid Serum as one of her favourite drugstore products.

For those who want to reapply sunscreen while wearing makeup, Baker says she recommends Kate Somerville’s makeup setting spray, which sets your makeup and acts as a sunscreen.

Other products Baker recommends include powdered or brush-on sunscreen by Supergoop and Colorescience.

“They do a really great set of powder sunscreens but they don’t have enough colours for women of colour. But really great quality,” Baker says.

For people with darker skin tones, Baker says while she is continuing to look, Supergoop is the best bet as it’s a translucent powder that goes clear on anybody. But it can also leave a white cast on those with darker complexions, she warns.

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Other sunscreen recommendations of Baker’s include spray-on sunscreens by Sun Bum and Neutrogena’s Ultra Sheer Body Mist Sunscreen.

Similarly, Chowdhury emphasizes that sun protection is key, especially when it comes to protecting oneself against aging.

“If you’re somebody that cares about your skin potentially aging or showing signs of aging, you want to be quite aware of how you protect yourself,” she says.

When it comes to sunscreen, she recommends sticking to a minimum of SPF 30 and looking for products that have “broad spectrum” on the label.

She adds that physical/mineral sunscreens have a thicker consistency, leave a bit of a white film and sit on top of the skin, whereas chemical sunscreens are made with ingredients that deflect UV rays and absorb into the skin.

Chowdhury also flags that sunscreen can expire, and if it expires, it’s less effective. Water-resistant options are good to look out for, she says. Additionally, any blend of products with active ingredients like AHA/BHA, vitamin C and retinol must be worn with SPF in order to protect the skin, she adds.

“Sunscreen, moisturizing and cleansing. Those are three aspects that you want to have down pat first when it comes to your skincare routine, before moving on to active ingredients,” she says.

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“If you’re not protecting your skin from the sun, you might have adverse effects or reactions happening at the same time.”

Some of Chowdhury’s budget-friendly recommendations for sunscreen include Cerave Hydrating Mineral Sunscreen, along with tinted and untinted sunscreen from Andalou, COOLA and EltaMd.

“At the end of the day, any sunscreen is better than nothing,” she says.

Chowdhury also cautions Canadians to be wary of sunscreen with kids. Infants under six months shouldn’t have too much sun exposure due to their skin being thinner, she says.

“Kids, in general, have thinner skin so I always recommend for children to always stick to mineral SPF,” she says, pointing to Thinkbaby and Thinksport as examples she uses on her own kids.

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Additional summer skincare must-haves

During the pandemic, Canadians continue to wear masks, so breakouts and irritation are more likely to occur on skin that’s continually covered and unable to breathe.

“If temperatures are hot, this can be exacerbated,” says Lui.

Some of Lui’s recommendations include COSRX’s Salicylic Acid Cleanser, I’m From Mugwort Essence, Innisfree’s No Sebum Mineral Powder, Some By Mi’s AHA BHA PHA 30 Days Miracle Toner and Benton’s Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel.

Lui also recommends a good vitamin C product as it helps to treat dark spots, prevent new ones from forming and reduce current ones.

“It also has anti-inflammatory properties to promote a healthier-looking complexion,” she says, adding that applying vitamin C can add an extra layer of protection against environmental stressors like UV, pollution and free radicals.

A big appeal to Korean beauty skincare, in particular, is its affordability in comparison with western brands of the same or similar quality, Lui says, adding that these products have a “myriad of benefits.”

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She points to how gentle Korean skincare products are, both nurturing and nourishing the skin. They use natural ingredients that are formulated for daily use on sensitive skin and they focus on prevention, among other things.

If you like to wear a subtle scent in the summer, Baker recommends Guerlain’s Aqua Allegoria Bergamote Calabria.

“It smells like a lemon grove in the middle of … Italy. It’s fresh and beautiful and so easy to wear. And so I really love fragrances for summer. I feel like it just gives us this summery mood and it’s feminine and beautiful,” she says.

Baker also points to makeup products for the summer, like bright coral lipsticks such as MAC’s Ruby Woo lipstick or highlighters like Nars’ St. Barths.

Just as you fine-tune your summer wardrobe, looking after your skin is just as important. So switch up that skincare routine — your body’s largest organ will thank you as you head out into the sun.

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