I Asked a Dermatologist to Makeover My Skincare Routine—This Is What She Changed

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If you’re like me and haven’t switched up your skincare routine in years, this message is for you: Just like your wardrobe, your skincare should change with the seasons. The body needs different things from season to season (and I’m not just talking about craving iced coffee over a pumpkin spice latte), and your skin is no exception. Because I overuse heavy facial oils year-round and haven’t made too many upgrades to my routine since my mom bought me a line of Clinique products 12 years ago, I knew it was time to go to the experts. 

Enter Dr. Caroline Robinson, MD, FAAD, a board-certified general, medical, and cosmetic dermatologist and NOW Wellness Expert. She’s cooler than your average MD (just check out her Instagram) and understands that while it would be ideal to spend 24/7 out of the sun, it’s just not plausible—or enjoyable—come summertime.

As for why you need to change your skincare routine when Memorial Day comes around? “Updating your skincare as the seasons change is very important to keep your skin balanced,” she explained. “With seasonal changes come changes in humidity, which could mean an increase in oiliness and breakouts in acne-prone patients. Overall, the steps of your core routine do not need to change season to season, but the products that you use within your routine should.” Read on for Dr. Robinson’s tips on changing up your skincare routine for the summer skin of your dreams. 



Switch to lighter moisturizers

I love a heavy cream and thick oil as much as the next girl, but according to Dr. Robinson, they should mostly be reserved for dry winter months; during the summer, switch to lighter formulas that won’t clog pores or feel heavy on the skin. But FYI, just because you’re lightening up your routine does not mean you should skip moisturizer altogether.

“The tendency in the summer is to skip moisturizer. However, keeping our skin moisturized is one of the most important steps to control oil,” Dr. Robinson explained. “I recommend that my patients swap their heavier winter moisturizers for a lightweight one for summer. Gel moisturizers that contain hyaluronic acid, glycerin, or other humectants are a great choice because they are able to attract water to the skin in a weightless way.” Bottom line: Pick a moisturizer that feels lightweight on your skin instead of heavy creams and oils. 


Opt for multitasking products

While we’re on the subject of lighter formulas, Dr. Robinson believes that you can (and should) simplify your skincare routine in the summer without foregoing all the ingredients that keep your skin looking healthy. “I recommend looking for multitasking products or products with more than one function,” she suggested. “This allows you to decrease the layers of product applied to the skin.” Fewer layers mean less weight (and way less time spent on your morning routine), so look for products that have more than one purpose. For example, try a sunscreen that functions as a moisturizer or primer and also contains antioxidants (Dr. Robinson likes Revision Skincare Intelleshade Clear), so that you’re getting sun protection, hydration, and glow benefits from just one product rather than three. 



Reapply SPF

So you already know that SPF is a crucial part of your skincare routine year-round, but did you know that just patting it on as the last step in your morning routine isn’t enough? I always feel proud of myself for consistently applying an SPF moisturizer after my serum and toner, but I’m also guilty of not thinking about sunscreen again all day long. “During the summer months, we spend more time outdoors, and it’s so important to reapply sunscreen every two hours,” Dr. Robinson recommended. That’s right: Reapplying sunscreen is not just for beach days. Keep a travel-sized SPF in your car, at your desk, or in your purse so you can easily reapply it every couple of hours, whether it’s before you take a short walk on your lunch break or spend the entire day in the sun. 


Add ingredients that boost glow

Ah, summer: the season of no-makeup makeup, un-styled hair, and a flawless (faux) tan. We all want to have that lit-from-within glow that is as synonymous with summer as watermelons and frozen margaritas. As someone who struggles with dullness and hyperpigmentation, you know I grilled Dr. Robinson on which ingredients I should add to my routine to get that summer glow (no makeup necessary). “Retinol (a vitamin-A derived active), is great for regulating skin cell turnover, improving texture, and unclogging pores.” Win, win, win!

However, some people can be sensitive to retinol. Talk to your dermatologist before using it if you have sensitive skin or start with a small amount for one night to see how your skin reacts. Dr. Robinson also recommended Bakuchiol if retinol is too harsh for you, as it’s a plant-based ingredient that can have many of the same benefits as retinol but without the irritation (she likes this one). Another summer skin standout ingredient: vitamin C. Dr. Robinson recommended incorporating vitamin C into your morning skincare routine because it’s a potent antioxidant that helps even skin (goodbye, hyperpigmentation!) and improves overall radiance (she recommends this one).



Exfoliate weekly

Since I experience redness, dryness, and irritation in the winter months, I focus less on exfoliation and more on soothing from the start of November until the end of February (colloidal oatmeal is my winter BFF). But with less sensitivity and more exposure to clogged pores (read: sweat, being outside, and more sunscreen), exfoliation during the summer season is crucial.

“To prevent sweat, oil, dirt, and debris from clogging pores and causing unnecessary breakouts, I recommend exfoliating once a week,” Dr. Robinson said. But before you reach for the apricot scrubs of exfoliation past, know that the process doesn’t look like what it did in middle school. Instead of overly harsh scrubs that strip the skin, opt for chemical exfoliants with alpha or beta hydroxy acids. If you’re looking for a physical exfoliant (I have to admit, they’re pretty satisfying), Dr. Robinson recommends a gentle formula with dissolvable particles. If you have sensitive skin, a mild alpha hydroxy acid face wash can get the job done without irritating the skin.