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How To Get Your Skin Glowing Just In Time For Back-To-School

Sun damage has nothing on this derm advice.

By Deanna Pai
Shutterstock/Javi_Indy

Between the all-day beach hangs and sweltering heat waves, there’s a chance summer hasn’t been all that fun for your skin. All the things we collectively love about the season — tons of sunlight, vacations, and quality time with friends — can sadly wreak havoc on your complexion and throw its balance completely out of whack. The fact is, even if you are proactive with SPF and all the moisturizer you can possibly get your hands on, it still might not be enough for your skin to get its ‘ish together.

But whatever sent your complexion into a spiral, no sweat. We’re calling in a pro to help you get your skin back in shape before you head back to school — whether it’s via Zoom or (finally!) IRL. Ahead, find a primer on how to address four common skin concerns. You’ll be ready to go by the time you get your syllabus.

Sun damage

Aside from sunburn — and worse, skin cancer — sun exposure can also trigger signs of aging. “These signs and symptoms include wrinkles, pigmentation changes, sun spots, freckles, laxity, uneven skin texture, and broken capillaries, especially around the nose and on [the] chest,” says Dr. Deanne Robinson, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in Westport, CT.

Good news, though: Offsetting that damage is relatively easy. “Start using an antioxidant serum in the a.m. to defend, repair, and brighten the skin, and a retinol or retinol alternative in the evenings to keep damaged skin cells on the move and new skin cells generating more quickly,” she says. (We’re fans of Keys Soulcare Promise Serum and Versed Press Restart Gentle Retinol Serum, respectively.) And, obviously, applying sunscreen with broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher, such as CeraVe Hydrating Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30, on a daily basis is non-negotiable.

While you should be going to a derm for a skin cancer check every year, you can also swing other in-office treatments to address these things, too, such as chemical peels for uneven skin tone and some lasers to tackle those broken capillaries.

Post-travel TLC

When you’ve got out-of-town trips in your future (or recent past), hydration is essential. “Air travel is dehydrating to the skin, and that effect is compounded by flying with a mask on — which probably means you aren’t drinking much water,” says Robinson. She recommends skipping the makeup and keeping your skin care simple with an antioxidant serum, moisturizer, and sunscreen with SPF 30.

Once you’ve landed, clear out any clogged pores. “Wash your face, apply a purifying face mask— look for one with clays or charcoals in it — and then apply your skin care routine,” she says. “If you’re extra-dry, use a heavier moisturizer at bedtime.” Clinique’s All About Clean™ 2-in-1 Charcoal Mask has a combo of charcoal and kaolin clay to deep-clean pores; if you’re in need of moisture, follow up with the new and improved Herbivore Pink Cloud Soft Moisture Cream, infused with vegan squalane and rosewater, after you rinse. And, forever and always, drink some water.

Summer maskne

Masking can be rough on skin as it is — think irritation and clogged pores — but in the sticky-hot weather, it gets even worse. “When we pair a mask with sweat and extra sebum, we’re more likely to see acne breakouts, a.k.a. maskne,” says Robinson.

She recommends keeping your skin clean between mask-wearing — and if you’re dealing with active blemishes, wear pimple patches under your mask. They work double-duty to both protect the offending zit and simultaneously help it heal. Mario Badescu’s Drying Patch is the daytime counterpart to the OG pink spot treatment; it features a blend of salicylic acid and anti-inflammatory niacinamide, so that zit won’t know what hit it.

Seasonal flares

Skin conditions like eczema and rosacea can get a million times worse in the summer — or so it feels. To keep things calm, “stick to your skin care routine and any topicals your doctor has prescribed to manage your rosacea, then protect it with unscented, non-comedogenic mineral SPF,” says Robinson.

Eczema can also pop up in the summer, especially if you spend most of it chilling in a chlorinated pool. “Be sure to take a shower immediately following your swim,” she says. Gentle sunscreen is still a must-have here, as well as a cream to protect the skin barrier. Try Avène’s Tolerance Control Skin Recovery Cream, which is proven to calm skin in 30 seconds (for real). Stick with it and you’ll be ready for whatever the semester brings.