The Skincare Ingredients You Should Definitely Avoid In The Summer

Affording endless fun-in-the-sun activities and outfit ideas to experiment with from dusk to dawn, summer is arguably the most exciting time of the year. While the warm weather lets you ditch wool sweaters for sheer swimsuit cover-ups, it might require you to stash away your cold-weather skincare staples, too.

Since summertime arrives with higher humidity and more intense UV rays, your skincare regimen also needs a shift to suit the demands of the season and look its best, as dermatologist Dr. Rachel Nazarian tells Well+Good. For instance, if deep hydration is essential in colder and drier climates, over-moisturizing in humid weather can result in clogged pores and acne, dermatologist Dr. Kaleroy Papantoniou explains to Glizour. Therefore, it's important to know when and how to switch creams up to keep your skin radiant and healthy.

Below are five skincare ingredients that might be your winter saviors but which you should steer clear of when the weather heats up.

Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs)

AHAs and BHAs have long been considered holy grail ingredients for those with skin issues. If you have troubles with enlarged pores, blackheads, pumps, and pigmentation, AHAs and BHAs, with their rich, exfoliating properties, are your best friends. Glycolic acid and lactic acid in AHAs can sweep away dead skin cells and improve your skin texture, while salicylic acid in BHAs can break blockage in your clogged pores and deal with sun-related discoloration, per a study in the Jundishapur Journal of Natural Pharmaceutical Products.

Having said that, the use of AHAs and BHAs can make your skin sensitive to sun damage, per the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. For this reason, it's advisable that you reserve the use of AHAs and BHAs for your evening skincare routine. If you apply these acids in the daytime, make sure to wear enough photoprotection such as sunscreen, shades, and protective clothing.


Derivatives of vitamin A, retinoids have been proven to bring massive benefits to your skin. According to a study in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, retinoids can stimulate collagen, treat acne, even your skin tone, and reduce wrinkles to give you an overall healthy look. Some of the most popular retinoids for the treatment of acne and photoaging, both over-the-counter and prescribed, are retinol, tretinoin, Differin (also known as adapalene), and retinol esters.

While you can use retinoids in your everyday skincare routine, it's highly recommended that you wear the topical product at night and sunscreen during the day for maximum effects. The reason is that retinoids themselves are sensitive to UV rays, as explained by dermatologist Dr. Alexis Parcells (via Byrdie). Even though retinoids won't likely give you any sun damage if you have sunscreen on, their efficacy can be compromised by the sunlight. In other words, UV rays make your retinoid medication less effective. 

Fragrance compounds

Fragrance compounds, including natural and synthetic essential oils, should be avoided because they have the potential to cause rashes and swelling. An in-vitro study in the journal Acta Dermato-Venereologica shows that fragrance compounds in cosmetics react to UV rays and can trigger acute skin irritation. Cinnamal, isoeugenol, limonene, and linalool are some of the most typical fragrance allergens you tend to overlook while browsing through labels on the back of your beauty products, says dermatologist Dr. Emma Wedgeworth (via Refinery29). She also notes that only a small portion of thousands of fragrance molecules used to scent products can cause skin irritation.

Meanwhile, cosmetic chemist Benjamin Fuchs claims that aroma compounds are among "the most toxic chemicals next to preservatives" and do have damaging effects on your skin, including causing inflammation and skin cancer (via Very Good Light). Therefore, if you have sensitive skin, be extra careful when shopping for leave-on and wash-off products that include fragrance substances.

Citrus essential oils

According to a study in the journal Archives of Dermatological Research, using citrus essential oils can wreak havoc on your skin. Lemon oil, lime oil, and bitter orange oil are several citrus oils that include oxypeucedanin, a chemical that causes phototoxicity. When exposed to damaging UV light, citrus oil is activated and able to trigger an unwanted skin reaction, potentially causing hives, blisters, and unwanted pigmentation.

The amount of essential oil you apply to your skin before heading outdoors will determine how your skin is affected, One Essential Community notes. For your safety, use citrus essential oil in a product that can be washed off easily such as body wash or body lotion. By diluting the essential oil you use with other products and testing out the mixture on a small patch of your skin, you might avoid a phototoxic reaction. To avoid direct sunlight after slathering on citrus oils, cover up before you go out. If you have pre-existing inflammatory skin conditions, consult your dermatologist before using essential oils for your skin.

Oil in sunscreen

Less is more when it comes to summer skincare, as dermatologist Dr. Marie Hayag explains to StyleCaster. Essentially, you need to go easy on your moisturizers and night cream and shift more focus to SPF to dodge harmful UV rays. If your skin is on the oily side, you should go for a lightweight, non-comedogenic sunscreen with a matte finish. For a face wash, prioritize water-based or lightweight gel-based cleansers over heavy, oil-based formulas.

While broad-spectrum sunscreens offer good protection from UVA and UVB rays, some active and inactive UV-blocking ingredients can clog your pores and contribute to your breakouts. When you shop for sunscreens, look for those with labels such as "oil-free," "non-comedogenic," or "no sebum." Mineral sunscreen in powder form, according to dermatologist Dr. Hadley King (via NBC News), is an ideal option for those with oily and acne-prone skin because it absorbs excess oil and prolongs the wear of your makeup while providing decent sun protection.

All of this information could seem a little intimidating if you're new to the skincare industry. At the end of the day, applying sunscreen at least 15 minutes before stepping outside is the most crucial step you need to master. If you have a skin issue, talk to a dermatologist for advice on formulating a skincare routine tailored to your skin conditions.