5 Essential Summer Skin Care Steps, According to an Esthetician

5 Essential Summer Skin Care Steps, According to an Esthetician

There’s something about warmer temperatures that make us want to simplify every aspect of our lives. When it comes to summer skin care, layering serums and moisturizers suddenly feels superfluous. Days spent poolside or weeks living out of a travel toiletry bag certainly do not lend themselves to a lengthy regimen. Whether your reasoning is lightweight wear or just a carefree approach to caring for your skin, less is always more these days.

Thankfully, New York City–based esthetician and skin care expert Sean Garrette says you can condense your skin care regimen while maintaining a healthy glow. This means pivoting away from the nourishing, rich products that stock his fall and winter vanities. “My summer skin care philosophy is all about light hydrating layers and prioritizing sunscreen!” he says.

What’s more, this guidance extends to all skin types. “You should look at your skin type as a starting point and then look at your specific skin care concerns,” Garrette instructs. “Someone who has oily skin can also be suffering with dehydration—which is the lack of water in the skin, which could in turn cause the skin to produce more sebum, and appear to be more oily on the surface.”

For example, sensitive skin types might opt for calming ingredients like arnica, colloidal oatmeal, centella asiatica, and allantoin, while someone with dry skin might prioritize light layers of serums and gel creams to hydrate without clogging pores. If controlling blemishes is of concern, pair your pared-down regimen with your favorite acne treatment (like a solution featuring BHA or sulfur, per Garrette) and smooth fine lines with a wrinkle cream at night.

In any case, below, he details five steps to complete anyone’s summer skin care routine from start to finish.

1. Hydrating Cleanser

Unsurprisingly, your first step this summer will be a cleanser—Garrette recommends something hydrating that will not strip the skin of its natural oils.

Dior La Mousse Off/On Foaming Face Cleanser

A lightweight, cream-to-foam cleanser enriched with water lily from the Dior gardens that removes makeup, dirt, and oil while soothing the skin.

Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser

A pH-balanced, gel-cream cleanser infused with rose water, vitamin B4, xylitol, allantoin, and comfrey root extract to slough away impurities to reveal fresh, baby-soft skin.

Fresh Soy Face Cleanser

A coveted gentle face wash that uses soy proteins, cucumber extract, and aloe vera to condition, calm, and rejuvenate skin after each use.

Avène Milk Cleanser

A hydrating, restorative cleanser featuring thermal spring water, hyaluronic acid, and vitamin E to gently erase traces of dirt, oil, and makeup without water.

2. Hydrating Toner

A hydrating toner or essence is the next step. Essentially, this provides a layer of weightless moisture into the skin. Think the latest launch from Hailey Bieber—the Rhode Glazing Milk—or a classic Japanese option like SK-II’s essence.

SK-II Facial Treatment Essence

A cult-favorite essence containing more than 90% Pitera alongside hyaluronic acid and other moisturizing agents to target dark spots, fine lines, and dullness.

True Botanicals Microbiome Enzyme Essence

A silky essence featuring pineapple and papaya enzymes, AHA-rich finger lime, and buckwheat ferment to balance skin’s microbiome, gently exfoliate, and improve moisture retention.

Rhode Glazing Milk

A newly-launched hydrating toner-meets-essence containing ceramides, beta-glucan, magnesium, zinc, and copper to soothe skin and impart that enviable Hailey Bieber glow.

Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery Calming Toner

A calming, milky blend of hyaluronic acid, vitamins (C, E, and B3), alongside evening primrose and borage seed oil that helps nourish, soothe, and protect dry skin.

3. Hydrating Serum

The third step is your serum. According to Garrette, this “adds a layer of hydration without suffocating the skin.” We’d recommend opting for formulas featuring hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, ceramides, squalane, and aloe vera to quench thirsty skin. Those with dry skin will especially benefit from this step, as it’s an opportunity to layer as many serums as you’d like.

SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Gel

A coveted serum leading with hyaluronic acid and vitamin B5 to replenish moisture levels without clogging pores, making it ideal for acne-prone skin.

PCA Skin Hyaluronic Acid Boosting Serum

An acclaimed hyaluronic acid serum that pairs the hydrating ingredient with ceramides and niacinamide repair the skin barrier and plump fine lines.

Epi.Logic Master Plan Bioactive Face Serum

An intelligent hydrator where human-derived growth factors, peptides, hyaluronic acid, sea kelp, and beta-glucan come together to improve skin’s firmness, elasticity, and hydration.

Naturium Niacinamide Serum 12% Plus Zinc 2%

An elite drugstore serum enriched with 12% niacinamide and 2% zinc PCA to address uneven skin tone, enlarged pores, fine lines, and wrinkles.

4. Water-Cream Moisturizer

Now it’s time to lock in moisture with a lightweight moisturizer. Garrette endorses water-cream textures that “provide skin with moisture without feeling heavy.” Keep the same hydrating agents mentioned above in mind during your moisturizer selection too.

Tatcha The Water Cream

A lightweight, pore-refining water cream featuring a host of Japanese superfoods (like wild rose, leopard lily, green tea, rice, and algae) to smooth skin texture and balance oily skin.

Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Cream Hydrating Moisturizer

A concentrated gel-textured moisturizer powered by 30% hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and elderberry.

Tata Harper Water Lock Moisturizer

A silky-textured moisturizer that doubles as a smoothing face primer thanks to a blend of orange peptides, pomegranate spheres, and macro hyaluronic acid.

Osea Seabiotic Water Cream

A weightless water-cream moisturizer formulated to provide up to 72 hours of hydration through a blend of seaweed, squalane, hyaluronic acid, and pre-and probiotics.

5. Sunscreen

Finally, the last and arguably the most important step is sunscreen. “This is the season we’re exposed to the sun for longer periods of time and more often, so sun protection is a must during the summer months,” he explains. On the best facial sunscreens, experts typically recommend a broad-spectrum SPF of 30 or higher. Pro tip: pick up a sweat- and water-resistant formula to withstand the elements.

Chanel UV Essentiel Complete UV Protection Sunscreen SPF 50

A glow-boosting daily sunscreen infused with SPF 40, blue ginger, and Tahitian gardenia extract to keep skin moisturized and luminous.

EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46

A lightweight, cooling chemical sunscreen (SPF 50) featuring cress sprout and wild butterfly ginger root extract to strengthen and protect the skin barrier.

Summer Fridays ShadeDrops Mineral Milk Sunscreen SPF 30

A lightweight, serum sunscreen enriched with reef-friendly, mineral SPF 30, squalane, and antioxidants to protect, soften, and plump skin.

Supergoop! Every. Single. Face. Watery Lotion SPF 50

A lightweight, cooling chemical sunscreen (SPF 50) featuring cress sprout and wild butterfly ginger root extract to strengthen and protect the skin barrier.