One of the benefits to the summer is that your skin may feel more moisturized. A summer glow, if you will. Unfortunately, for some people, that glow is more like an oil slick.
If you notice your skin feels oilier in summer, know that that’s pretty normal. “Your sebaceous glands produce oil that coats and protects your skin,” explains Angela Lamb, MD, associate professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai in New York City.
When the weather is warmer and more humid during the summer, you tend to perspire more, which prompts increased oil production and decreases cellular turnover, she says. In combination, this can clog pores and increase the risk of acne breakouts.
But, there are things you can do about it. Here, dermatologists explain how you can get a handle on oily summer skin and return to the summertime glow you’re going for:
1. Change Your Moisturizer
With higher humidity it might seem as if you don’t need a moisturizer at all, but keep in mind that heat, humidity, and sweat can also lead to dryness and irritation in the summer, says Sapna Westley, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. Transitioning from a heavier moisturizer to one that’s lightweight can help keep pores clear.
Look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid. “Hyaluronic acid is a less occlusive form of moisture,” she explains. Keep in mind that everyone’s needs are different. You may find that your skin does best after cleansing using a lightweight moisturizer and then topping it off with a facial sunscreen. Others will be able to go from cleansing to an SPF moisturizer. Play around with your routine to see what option feels right for you.
2. Add in Salicylic or Glycolic Acids
Salicylic acid and glycolic acids both exfoliate skin, which can help keep pores clear from increased oil production, and this is why Dr. Westley recommends adding either one to your routine during the summer as tolerated. These active ingredients can be found in products like cleansers, toners, or serums. Salicylic can be used in the morning or night, though if you’re going with glycolic acid, stick to using it at night.
Initially, choose one product (not both) and add it into your routine slowly, she advises. Doing so can limit potential irritation. “If you dry your skin out too much, you can end up with rebound oiliness,” she explains. Start by using your salicylic or glycolic product twice a week and then increase from there if it works with your skin. And be sure to use sunscreen with either one, as they both can make skin more sensitive to sun.
3. Consider a Retinoid or Retinol
Retinoids and retinols are vitamin A derivatives, and are available in both over-the-counter and prescription products. Retinoids are stronger versions of retinols, and retinoids are often (but not only) found in topical prescription products. “I’m a huge proponent of retinoids for general skin health, but they can also decrease oil production because they shrink the sebaceous glands,” says Westley.
She adds that some people are hesitant to use retinoids or retinols in the summer because they can make skin more sun sensitive. However, you can use them safely in the summer. Make sure to apply it in the evening and stay diligent about applying a broad-spectrum SPF 30 facial sunscreen and use other sun protective measures, such as wearing a wide-brimmed hat.
4. Switch Up Your Sunscreen
Speaking of sunscreen, oily summer complexions can benefit from changing to a more lightweight sunscreen. But don’t skip sunscreen out of the worry that your skin is too oily and that adding SPF will clog your pores. Sunscreen is incredibly important to protect your skin from both UVB rays that cause burns and UVA rays that contribute to signs of skin aging, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). (Both are implicated in increasing skin cancer risk.)
Westley says that finding the right one for you might take some trial and error, but you can start with a gel-based sports sunscreen, which tends to absorb well, or one that’s labeled lightweight or oil-free. These products may also say on the front of the label that they “won’t cause breakouts.”
5. Touch Up With Blotting Paper
Blotting paper is a thin sheet that absorbs oil and decreases shine on skin — all without ruining your makeup. You can gently tap these across your T-zone (forehead, nose, and chin) midday when you need to remove some oil from skin, suggests Dr. Lamb.
6. Try a Little Powder
After blotting your skin, consider touching up your makeup by dusting on a little bronzing powder, since the powder will also help absorb excess oil, says Lamb. Another option is to use a mineral powder sunscreen, which can be dusted on in the middle of the day, adds Westley. “This shouldn’t be your primary sunscreen, but you can use these products to touch-up your sunscreen, they can also absorb some oil, and it gives you some coverage, too,” she says.
7. Look for Mattifying Products
Primers are products that are applied after your skincare routine and before your makeup — they give a nice, even finish to the skin. Many primers are “mattifying,” and you can locate them by looking for “mattifying” or “matte” in their name.
“These products absorb oil off of the skin surface with ingredients like silica,” says Lamb. Some also have salicylic acid to further control oil. Mattifying products may also include setting spray (used after makeup), as well as powders, sunscreens, and foundation. Apply these all over your face, if desired, or focus on your T-zone to control oil as needed.