There’s something about warmer temperatures that make us want to simplify every aspect of our lives. When it comes to summer skin care, layering serums and moisturizers suddenly feels superfluous. Days spent poolside or weeks living out of a travel toiletry bag certainly do not lend themselves to a lengthy regimen. Whether your reasoning is lightweight wear or just a carefree approach to caring for your skin, less is always more these days.
Thankfully, New York City–based esthetician and skin care expert Sean Garrette says you can condense your skin care regimen while maintaining a healthy glow. This means pivoting away from the nourishing, rich products that stock his fall and winter vanities. “My summer skin care philosophy is all about light hydrating layers and prioritizing sunscreen!” he says.
What’s more, this guidance extends to all skin types. “You should look at your skin type as a starting point and then look at your specific skin care concerns,” Garrette instructs. “Someone who has oily skin can also be suffering with dehydration—which is the lack of water in the skin, which could in turn cause the skin to produce more sebum, and appear to be more oily on the surface.”
For example, sensitive skin types might opt for calming ingredients like arnica, colloidal oatmeal, centella asiatica, and allantoin, while someone with dry skin might prioritize light layers of serums and gel creams to hydrate without clogging pores. If controlling blemishes is of concern, pair your pared-down regimen with your favorite acne treatment (like a solution featuring BHA or sulfur, per Garrette) and smooth fine lines with a wrinkle cream at night.
In any case, below, he details five steps to complete anyone’s summer skin care routine from start to finish.
1. Hydrating Cleanser
Unsurprisingly, your first step this summer will be a cleanser—Garrette recommends something hydrating that will not strip the skin of its natural oils.
2. Hydrating Toner
A hydrating toner or essence is the next step. Essentially, this provides a layer of weightless moisture into the skin. Think the latest launch from Hailey Bieber—the Rhode Glazing Milk—or a classic Japanese option like SK-II’s essence.
3. Hydrating Serum
The third step is your serum. According to Garrette, this “adds a layer of hydration without suffocating the skin.” We’d recommend opting for formulas featuring hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, ceramides, squalane, and aloe vera to quench thirsty skin. Those with dry skin will especially benefit from this step, as it’s an opportunity to layer as many serums as you’d like.
4. Water-Cream Moisturizer
Now it’s time to lock in moisture with a lightweight moisturizer. Garrette endorses water-cream textures that “provide skin with moisture without feeling heavy.” Keep the same hydrating agents mentioned above in mind during your moisturizer selection too.
Finally, the last and arguably the most important step is sunscreen. “This is the season we’re exposed to the sun for longer periods of time and more often, so sun protection is a must during the summer months,” he explains. On the best facial sunscreens, experts typically recommend a broad-spectrum SPF of 30 or higher. Pro tip: pick up a sweat- and water-resistant formula to withstand the elements.