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How to get your skin summer-ready

The state of your skin come spring depends largely on how you’ve taken care of it all winter. If you’ve been meticulous about exfoliation, you can expect a smooth transition to the warmer months, but if you haven’t, now’s the time to shed the layer of dead, dull skin, so you can put your best face forward by summer.

This time of year, many of us also start to think about skin issues that will become visible to the world when we start wearing short sleeves, tank tops, skirts and shorts. This month is prime time to address these beauty concerns with treatments such as laser hair removal, Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) and skin resurfacing before the sun hits its height. Unless you live in a relatively “seasonless” locale like Miami or Los Angeles, early spring is a great opportunity to undergo laser-based treatments because you’re still relatively covered up. This is important because these treatments often turn on the cells that manufacture and package melanin, which can lead to pigment changes when exposed to the sun. Your skin can be in the clear of dark spots, wrinkles, hair and more by summer, but it’s essential to shield your skin from UV rays year-round in order to keep it this way. Here are a few of the most popular treatments in my practice this time of year:

  • IPL: Everyone is gearing up for being a little more exposed, and many patients want to get rid of excess pigment on their necks and chests. With IPL, a few treatments spaced three to four weeks apart gradually removes dark spots.
  • Laser hair removal: I do a lot of laser hair removal this time of year because I won’t perform it during the summer unless I know a patient is truly committed to avoiding the sun. Of course the legs and bikini area are extremely popular come spring, but this treatment is ideal for the chin, lip, cheeks, and beyond. Truth be told, I’d rather start these treatments in the fall so they are finished by spring, but some are better than none.
  • Peels: Exfoliating the face and body is the best first step to younger and healthier looking skin, and chemical peels achieve this with little to no downtime. Since a faux tan is the only way to go, I often recommend peels to my patients so they can be free of dead cell buildup and get the most natural-looking bronze—safely.
  • Sclerotherapy: The window for treating leg veins is coming to a close if you want to be ready for shorts and skirts by summer. Since sclerotherapy results in a bit of bruising (and you have to wear support stockings afterwards) I’d recommend scheduling this sooner rather than later.

Patients frequently ask how they should change their skincare regimen for the warmer, sunnier months. I believe very strongly that there is no recipe, per se, but that it should be intuitive. If you’re working hard to eliminate sun damage and visible signs of aging, the most important thing is to protect your skin from the ravages of the environment with antioxidants and sunblock every morning. But the second part of the skincare equation is biostimulation to fight the changes occurring within the skin that contribute to aging. If you focus on products that contain growth factors, peptides and retinol at night, it’s a very simple regimen.

The one skincare constant, day and night, is hydration, and this can be accomplished much more successfully if exfoliation is a constant part of your regimen. Exfoliation plays a major role in keeping moisture in the skin, since a buildup of dead, dry cells can actually prevent the hydration in your moisturizer from getting into the skin, and also stop active ingredients from penetrating. So first you need to exfoliate to allow the water in and let your moisturizer trap that moisture with emollients. And with exfoliation, less is often more since overdoing it leads to irritation, inflammation and other potential skin problems. Start with two to three times a week—and if you’re unsure, ask your dermatologist.

No conversation about spring and summer would be complete without discussing sunscreen. I can’t stress enough that it’s imperative to wear SPF every day. One of the biggest misconceptions is that putting it on with your makeup in the morning is enough. While that might be sufficient if you’re only traveling to the office, if you’re going to be outdoors—even just for lunch—you must reapply every hour and a half. And if you’re taking any steps to eliminate pigment, this is even more important.

There’s also confusion about the difference between physical and chemical sunscreens. Many of us are leaning more toward “natural” products these days, and chemical-free sunblocks that contain titanium or zinc are wonderful for every day use. But if you’re going to be out on the golf course or by the pool, I recommend a combination of physical and chemical sunscreens for maximum protection.

And my last bit of advice, as you get ready for spring and summer: Get the right sunglasses—and keep an extra pair in the car so you’re never without them. Make sure your sunglasses wrap around the sides of your face and cover your crow’s feet area. Getting Botox in this area is an absolute waste if you don’t shield this delicate skin from the sun!