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11 Expert-Approved Tips to Prevent Breakouts This Summer


Summertime means shedding those winter layers, lightening up your skincare products, and basking in the glow of the sun. But if you’re prone to summer breakouts, it can really affect how you feel about the season. Blemishes and breakouts are a bummer any time of the year, and during warmer months when we tend to show more skin, they can be even more of a struggle to accept. If you tend to experience summer acne, you’re not alone—and, according to dermatologist Deanna Mraz Robinson, MD, it’s actually quite common for a number of reasons.

“When the weather is hot and humid, we make more sweat, which when mixed with sebum and impurities, can clog pores, and lead to breakouts,” says Dr. Robinson. In addition, some of your go-to summer activities can cause acne flare-ups. “Some SPFs contain comedogenic ingredients like oils that can clog pores, and sensitive skin can be inflamed and irritated by frequent exposure to saltwater or chlorine, causing raised red bumps on the skin.”

Before you head indoors to wait out the season, we’ve got some helpful tips from Dr. Robinson to help prevent summer breakouts. Read on for 11 ways to keep your skin clearer, glowing, and bright this summer and beyond.

About the Expert:

Deanna Mraz Robinson, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist and president and co-founder of Modern Dermatology based in Connecticut.

How to Prevent Summer Breakouts

1. Switch up Your Cleanser

KATE SOMERVILLE® Eradikate® Daily Foaming Cleanser

You may have already changed up your winter skincare for summer months with lighter moisturizers, body lotions, and serums—but while you’re at it, don’t forget your cleanser. Take the opportunity to choose a formula that gets rid of dirt and excess oils and gets rid of acne-causing impurities. “You may need a heavier [nighttime] cleanser to break up excess oil and to wash off layers of SPF after beach days,” says Dr. Robinson. “Look for a cleanser with glycolic or lactic acid, which will help to decongest pores and remove impurities from the skin with mild exfoliation.”

Our Pick: KATE SOMERVILLE® Eradikate Cleanser. Use this cleanser daily to help clear pimples, unclog pores, balance oily skin, and prevent future breakouts. It’s powered by sulfur, which aids in eliminating existing breakouts and keeping new pimples from occurring, natural oat extract to help to reduce, absorb, and balance sebum, and honey and rice bran extracts help calm and soothe skin.

2. Protect Your Skin With Oil-Free SPF

MURAD Acne Control Oil and Pore Control Mattifier Broad Spectrum SPF 45 | PA++++

We’ll say it endlessly, SPF is a must all year round—no matter your skin type or tone. During summertime, when you’re likely reapplying more often, it’s important to use an oil-free, non pore-clogging formula that won’t cause acne breakouts. “Oil-free, broad-spectrum, mineral SPF 30+ is your best bet for sun protection. Moisturizer with SPF is great for days when you’re mostly indoors, but does not adequately protect your skin for extended periods of time in the sun,” says Dr. Robinson. “Reapply every two hours and after swimming or sweating. Unprotected sun exposure can make acne worse—and it can cause long-term hyperpigmentation scarring from healing acne lesions. As long as the product is oil-free and non-comedogenic, it won’t cause breakouts.”

Our Pick: MURAD Acne Control Oil and Pore Control Mattifier Broad Spectrum SPF 45 | PA++++. It’ll be the sunscreen of your dreams if you have acne-prone skin. It’s lightweight and helps control excess oils for up to 10 hours, and it minimizes the appearance of pores while mattifying and blurring imperfections.

3. Exfoliate Regularly

FIRST AID BEAUTY Facial Radiance Pads

Exfoliating is one of our favorite skincare steps—there’s nothing like knowing you’re shedding all those icky, dead skin cells so your healthy, refreshed skin underneath can shine. If you want to prevent summer breakouts, “Keep up exfoliation to keep pores clear and dead skin cells on the move,” says Dr. Robinson. Some ingredients that help? “Salicylic Acid is the shining star when it comes to acne. It is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) and is oil-soluble, meaning it can penetrate oil to reach a deeper level of the skin to clog pores. Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and retinol are great for exfoliating more surface-level skin cells. Only use retinol and AHAs in the p.m. and be sure to wash them off in the a.m. to avoid increased sun sensitivity.”

Our Pick: FIRST AID BEAUTY Facial Radiance Pads. These daily treatment pads contain just the right amount of lactic and glycolic acids to gently exfoliate without irritation. Skin is soothed by cucumber, licorice root, and Indian gooseberry to help tone and brighten, too.

4. Use a Hydrating (Non-Drying) Toner

ELEMIS Rehydrating Ginseng Toner

OK, we know toners can be polarizing—some of us swear by them and some of us never give them a thought. But if toners are your thing, the right formula can help with summer breakouts. “This isn’t a necessary step in your skincare routine,” says Dr. Robinson, “but if you do choose a toner, look for a balancing formula that isn’t going to overly dry out or strip the skin with astringent properties. Anything that overly cleans or strips the skin can actually cause the skin to make more sebum and lead to breakouts.”

Our Pick: ELEMIS Rehydrating Ginseng Toner. This nourishing treatment toner helps maintain your skin’s natural pH level without the use of harsh ingredients. Infused with extracts of Korean ginseng, quillaja wood, and sweet betty flower, this hydrating formula helps to rebalance and moisturize your skin, so you look radiant and revitalized.

5. Hyaluronic Acid Serum Is Your Best Friend

NEOGEN DERMALOGY Double Vita Drop In Serum

Haven't heard of hyaluronic acid? It’s basically the Holy Grail ingredient when it comes to dewy, healthy, and hydrated skin—and it can help keep acne-causing oils under control. According to Dr. Robinson, “Hyaluronic acid is an excellent source of hydration for the skin and won’t add a greasy look or clog your pores. It’s great for acne-prone skin where hydrating is important as it helps the skin self-regulate the amount of sebum it needs to produce.”

Our Pick: NEOGEN DERMALOGY Double Vita Drop In Serum. This little bottle of liquid sunshine is here to brighten up your skin. It’s made with vitamin C-rich fruit extracts to help improve hyperpigmentation and blemishes while eight (!) different kinds of hyaluronic acids help brighten and moisturize your complexion.

6. Look for Soothing, Acne-Fighting Ingredients


When dealing with acne, it’s important to treat your skin gently. While harsh, drying formulas may be tempting to fight the acne battle head on, they don’t always get to the root of the problem. Plus, they can cause more damage to your skin in the long run. Gentle, acne-fighting formulas are your best bet. “If you’re having active breakouts, integrate antimicrobial ingredients to reduce the p. Acnes bacteria (aka acne-causing bacteria),” says Dr. Robinson. Benzoyl peroxide is great for acne—it is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory—and CoQ10 can help repair your skin and protect it from oxidative damage. 

Our Pick: GOLDFADEN MD Wake Up Call. This creamy overnight moisturizer is truly the stuff of dreams. Thanks to ingredients like avocado oil, CoQ10 (a potent antioxidant), and retinol, it helps reveal skin that looks and feels supple, smooth, and hydrated.

7. Say Yes to AHA’s

Natural oil cosmetics with shadows on a pink background. Flat lay style.

Photo by Anna Efetova / Getty Images

We talked about this popular class of exfoliating ingredients above, but they’re worth another mention for their many benefits. “Don’t skip your retinols and exfoliating AHAs in the summer, just be sure to only use them at night and wash them off in the morning before applying your skincare and SPF. While retinoids and AHAs can increase sun sensitivity, they are also really helpful in keeping damaged skin cells on the move, reducing hyperpigmentation, and keeping pores clear.”

8. Always Shower After a Workout

FIRST AID BEAUTY KP Bump Eraser Body Scrub with 10% AHA

After a gym sesh, no matter how much you want to down that protein-rich smoothie and take a nap, you must hit the showers ASAP to help prevent facial acne (and body acne). “Showering as soon as possible after a workout gets the excess sweat, sebum, and bacteria off of your skin [and transferred from your gym clothes] to prevent breakouts,” says Dr. Robinson. “It also cools the skin down after a sweaty workout to minimize skin on skin rubbing (chafing) which can cause irritation.”

Our Pick: FIRST AID BEAUTY KP Bump Eraser Body Scrub with 10% AHA. This scrub combines both chemical and physical exfoliants (including glycolic acid, lactic acid, and pumice beads) to help minimize the rough, bumpy skin by helping to gently loosen top layers of the skin and decongest pores.

9. Wash Your Hair to Prevent Forehead Breakouts

Shot of an attractive young woman washing her hair with shampoo in the shower at home

Moyo Studio / Getty Images

Tend to breakout along your hairline? Whether you shampoo your hair frequently or you like to extend your blowouts for days, washing more regularly can help. “Our hair can trap a lot of oil, environmental allergens, and comedogenic ingredients from styling products, so keeping hair clean and off of your face is a good strategy for avoiding hairline breakouts,” advises Dr. Robinson.

10. Nix Sweat with Body Powder

baby powder in hand, dangerous for breath system

Photo by Anchalee Phanmaha / Getty Images

Just like your face, your body can break out more during the summer due to heat and humidity, “Trapped sweat in the summer can breed more of the acne causing bacteria,” says Dr. Robinson. “The ARM & HAMMER Invisible Spray Powder for Body is a great formula with odor neutralizing ingredients to absorb moisture and sweat. It can be sprayed and applied on the body before working out or going out for the day.”

11. Drink Enough H₂O

Close-up of a glass of water shining in the sunlight on a bright green background

Photo by Elizabeth Fernandez / Getty Images

Getting your daily fill of water has endless health benefits, and it can majorly help your skin stay hydrated, happy, and less prone to acne. “Hydrated skin will not produce as much sebum as dehydrated skin, and excess sebum production is directly linked to acne,” says Dr. Robinson. “Hydrate from the inside out by drinking half your body weight in ounces of water daily—more for the days you’re sweating and swimming a lot!”

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About the author
Pia Bhattacharya
Pia is a New York-based beauty editor at IPSY with over 10 years experience including editorial, public relations, and copywriting. Her work has appeared in SELF magazine, in beauty and branding for Bloomingdale’s, and others.
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Article Last Updated June 25, 2024 12:00 AM