Spring is here, and for those of us in most parts of the country (sorry, South Dakota), gone are the days of snow boots and warm jackets. As the days become longer and warmer, swimsuit season is probably on your mind, and there’s no better time than now to start prepping your skin. After all, Memorial Day is just weeks away. So we asked top dermatologists to share their secrets for gorgeous, glowing skin through summer. Ahead, the tricks and product picks you need before you buy that itty-bitty bikini you’ve been eyeing.
Smooth things over
When it comes to hair removal, whatever you do, don’t shave on dry skin. “Start every shaving session in a warm bath or shower to soften the hair, which makes it easier to shave,” says Sejal Shah, MD, a cosmetic dermatologist in NYC and founder of SmarterSkin Dermatology. “For best results, gently exfoliate the area before shaving, apply a shaving cream, and use a fresh, sharp razor.” Try to glide the razor over each area only once to avoid irritation or razor burn, and always apply moisturizer after shaving, she adds.
“To get dull, tired, winter skin ready for spring, I use a chemical exfoliation wash or lotion containing AHA or BHA acids,” says Heather Rogers, MD, a dermatologist in Seattle and founder of Restore. “This breaks down the dead skin cells on the top layer of skin and allows your moisturizer to penetrate deeper for ultimate hydration and glow.” Don’t over-exfoliate with physical scrubs, loofahs or brushes, she explains, because these can remove living cells and cause damage and abrasions to the skin which can lead to further dehydration.
Apply antioxidants after dark
Antioxidants applied in the morning help neutralize UV-generated free radicals before they can harm the skin, but as you start to expose your skin to more sun this spring, you may want to consider applying them before bed, too. “This is when I start to think about adding on a nighttime antioxidant,” says Mona Gohara, MD, associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine. “A study from Yale showed that damage to your skin cells is still occurring many hours after intense UV exposure, such as from a trip to the beach, so I make sure to apply a vitamin C at night.” She recommends pre-packaged ampules, like Elizabeth Arden Skin Illuminating Brightening Night Capsules with Advanced MIx Concentrate ($84; macys.com).
Beat body blemishes
The combination of sweat and oil can lead to dreaded blemishes on your chest, back, and even your booty. “Differin Gel is a great product to help get rid of body acne, and it’s now the only acne-treating retinoid available without a prescription,” says Dendy Engelman, MD, a board certified dermatologist in NYC. “It is highly effective in helping keep pores open and clear to minimize breakouts, and it is much better tolerated that most retinoids.”
Apply sunscreen nude
Before a day at the beach or the pool, generously apply sunscreen while naked to ensure you don’t miss any spots. You’ll need about the amount you can hold in your palm to fully cover all exposed areas of your body. Keep in mind that it takes about 15 minutes for chemical sunscreens to sink in—whereas physical sunscreens start working immediately.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
Just because it’s hot and humid outside, and your skin may feel oily or sweaty as a result, doesn’t mean you should skip moisturizer. In fact, skin oil production is a separate issue from skin hydration, explains Joshua Zeichner, MD, Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Department of Dermatology. “Plus, when you are preparing your skin for summer by shaving or exfoliating, you may be disrupting your skin barrier, leading to irritation, inflammation, and dryness.” Swap your heavy cream for a lightweight lotion. “The newest generation of moisturizers contain the same tried-and-true ingredients in new formulations that are easy to spread, don’t leave the skin feeling heavy or greasy, and offer as much hydration as heavier counterparts without weighing you down in heat of summer,” he says. Try Vaseline Intensive Care Advanced Repair Lotion Unscented ($6; target.com).
Lessen the look of cellulite
“Exfoliating the skin for swimsuit season is crucial,” says Purvisha Patel, MD, a dermatologist in Germantown, TN, and founder of Visha Skincare. It helps with everything from shaving and waxing to reducing the appearance of cellulite.” For cellulite, she explains, which is caused by the entrapment of fat lobules within fibrous bands under the surface of the skin, gently exfoliating in circular motions helps decrease the approach of such bands and the appearance of dimpled skin. Try Visha Skincare Sugar Shrink Body Scrub ($36; vishaskincare.com).
Keep skin calm
“Do not go into a hot tub, pool, or any body of water right after waxing, especially if you received a bikini wax,” says Jeanette Haylock, gotoBrazils Waxing Center Education Manager. Heat, chlorine, and salt may irritate, sting, and feel uncomfortable, she explains. Give your skin 48 hours to repair.
Fake a sun-kissed glow
For a believable bronze, opt for a gradual tanning body lotion. Because it gradually adds color, you have more control over the finish—plus, you can use it in place of your everyday moisturizer (win, win!). Start by exfoliating and cleansing with a pH balanced wash to smooth and neutralize the skin for an even application, then ensure all areas are covered using upward circular motions. One of the most flattering gradual glow lotions we’ve found: St. Tropez Gradual Tan Everyday Tinted Body Lotion ($30; sephora.com).