• Summer is a "critical" time of year to practice good skincare, one dermatologist told Insider.
  • Dr. Julia Tzu, medical director at Wall Street Dermatology, makes four changes to her routine in summer.
  • "Good sun protection will make a huge impact on the overall beauty and health of the skin," Tzu said.

A dermatologist told Insider that summer is a "critical time" of year for good skincare.

"Good sun protection will make a huge impact on the overall beauty and health of the skin," Dr. Julia Tzu, the medical director of Wall Street Dermatology, said.

While Tzu recommends wearing sunscreen year-round ("there is UV radiation present even during the wintertime, just in lower amounts"), summer is the time we're most at-risk for irreversible sun damage with long-term effects, such as discoloration and wrinkles.

Tzu has so-called combination skin, when the forehead, nose, and chin have thicker skin — and with more oil glands than the rest of the facial skin. 

Generally, people with combination skin should prioritize an effective skin cleanser and avoid oil-based skincare, thicker creams, and ointments, she said.

But, during the summer months, these are the four specific changes she makes to her skincare routine:

Increase the sun protection factor of sunscreen to SPF 40 and above

Tzu says she ensures she wears a sunscreen with SPF 40 and above during summertime, compared to SPF 30 in winter.

All skin types are equally damaged by UV rays, so increasing SPF is a "good idea" for everyone to protect against sun damage and skin cancer when UV rays are strongest, Tzu said.

Exfoliate more frequently

During the winter months Tzu doesn't exfoliate because it is too irritating for her skin, especially since she uses a topical retinoid, which is a chemical exfoliant.

In the summer she does it once a week because the heat drives our skin to secrete more — whether it's sweat, oils, or dead skin cells — which can build up and cause break-outs. 

Exfoliation helps to de-clog pores, she said.

In the fall and spring, when it's less hot and sweaty, she exfoliates about once every two weeks.

Tzu said that exfoliation is important for people with combination or oily skin. People with dry skin can also exfoliate but have to be careful not to irritate their skin, she added.

Increase the strength and frequency of topical retinoids

Retinoids can decrease "pore clogging," which can be a concern for people with oily and combination skin, Tzu said.

Tzu uses a prescription retinoid every night in the summer, in addition to an exfoliating scrub, and either uses it less in the winter — for example every two to three nights — or switches to a weaker prescription one. 

A prescription retinoid is usually stronger and more irritating than an over the counter version, she said. 

People with dry skin need to be careful about using retinoids, she said, and recommended consulting a dermatologist. 

Use a lighter moisturizer at night

Tzu said that a lighter moisturizer feels "less suffocating" for her skin.

What constitutes a "heavy" or "light" moisturizer can vary, but Tzu said that, generally, lotions are lighter than creams. "You'd have to try out the cream to know for sure," she said.

Tzu uses a heavier cream moisturizer in the winter when the air and her skin are usually drier, she said.

People with other skin types can make changes too

Other skin types are: normal, oily, sensitive, and dry.

Tzu said that people with normal skin — when the skin is neither bothersomely oily nor dry — don't need to make any changes during summer, aside from following a baseline skincare routine that can include: cleansers, antioxidant serums, moisturizers, and sunscreen

People with oily skin — when it feels or looks excessively oily and shiny — should prioritize an "effective cleanser" and exfoliant during the summer months, she said.

Tzu said that people with sensitive skin — that becomes easily irritated, itchy, dry, red, or is prone to rashes — should always use hypoallergenic products and avoid physical and chemical exfoliants.

"During the summer, the only difference would be to use a hypoallergenic, physical sunscreen," she said.

People with dry skin — which tends to look and feel dry and dehydrated — generally "fare better during the summer due to higher humidity," but they should avoid harsh cleansers or exfoliants, and prioritize a gentle, hydrating, cleanser.

"Don't skip out on daytime moisturizers," she said, adding: "remember to moisturize the neck and eye area." 

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