Summer came early to southern California. My car thermostat read 100 yesterday. Taking care of my skin in the summer means I retire my winter standbys (like heavy creams) and dig out my summer skin care essentials, which always includes light-weight, oil free lotions and products with SPF. This year, I’ve also added a serum and brightening products to my summer skin care routine. Here are the five skin care steps most important to my summer beauty routine, which keeps my face protected and as youthful as possible. 1. Brightening Lotion For summer nights, I don’t need a heavy cream or lotion like I wear in the winter. Instead, I like a lighter formulation to restore moisture balance and also one that helps with brightening. (I’ll try anything to fade my brown spots). I like Dr. Andrew Weil for Origins Mega-Bright because it gets rid of dullness while making my skin look more luminous. It contains Rosa Roxburghii complex that helps to reduce dark spots and keep them from reappearing. 2. Retinoid If I could only suggest one new product to add to your skincare routine, it would be a retinoid, preferably a prescription version like Tretinoin. Retinoids have proven skincare benefits including: clearing acne, increasing collagen production, fading age spots, and reducing wrinkles. Many insurance plans now cover prescription retinoids. I use a prescription grade retinoid about 2-3 times a week. I just recently started using retinoid again because you are not allowed to use this vitamin A derivative while you are pregnant or nursing, as it can cause birth defects. When you first start using retinoid, it can be drying and cause skin irritation. Make sure to avoid contact with your under eye area. It can cause severe dryness since the under eye skin is so thin and doesn’t have the same oil production capacity. When I regularly use my retinoid, I have noticed improved skin texture, reduction of fine lines and dark spots and more glowing skin. If your insurance doesn’t cover retinoid, there are many over the counter versions, although less effective than the prescription version. If you add a retinoid to your skin care regime, just make sure to wear SPF, as retinoids make your skin more sensitive and prone to burning. 3. Brightening Skin Cleanser My skin tends to be oilier in the summer, so I look for a cleanser that gets deep into my skin to remove dirt, oil and sunscreen. I like brightening cleansers that help remove that dull outer layer while still being gentle. I opt for oil-free, alcohol free cleansers, so they don’t add oil or dry out my skin. Right now, I like the Aveeno Positively Radiant Brightening Cleanser. It has a light, refreshing scent, is hypoallergenic and noncomedogenic. It contains soy extract, which helps with blotchiness and discoloration to create a more even skin tone. 4. Antioxidant Serum I just recently added a serum to my summer skin care routine because serums are more effective than lotions and creams. Serums do a better job of penetrating the skin than lotions, so your skin gets the benefit of the higher concentration of the active ingredients to help repair and protect your skin. In the morning, I like to use Juice Beauty Antioxidant Serum. This serum helps prevent free radical cell damage, which our skin experiences every day through UV exposure and environmental toxins. The serum is lightweight and contains plant oil fatty acids for moisture and peptides, ALAs and CQ10 to help smooth fine lines. This product doesn’t contain parabens or sulphates, which I like. 5. SPF Lotion My biggest skincare sin of my youth was that I didn’t religiously wear sunscreen and I have the brown spots to show for it. I now slather my face and neck with at least an SPF 30 and try to stay covered if I’m out in the sun (think, big floppy hat, long-sleeves, or tons of SPF). If you are in the sun all day, make sure to reapply your sunscreen every hour, and more often if you are in the water. My new favorite daytime sunscreen is the Dermalogica Oil Free Matte SPF30 (c/o). I love this sunscreen because I am prone to becoming oily and shiny throughout the day and this formula helps keep my skin matte while giving me the sun coverage I need. It contains oil-absorbers that prevent shine without any powdery residue. Also, it smells really fresh. I absolutely hate when SPF face lotions have that sunscreen smell. This product has no sunscreen smell, and doesn’t irritate my skin like some sunscreens do. What are your favorite summer skin care essentials? I’m always on the hunt for great skin care products, so tell me about them!