Do Not Use These 5 Skin Care Products on Sunny Days


By Emma McNab
January 27, 2023

We all know how important it is to keep our skin protected from harmful UV rays – that’s why a good-quality mineral-based and reef-safe SPF is an essential component in any good skincare routine. Not only does an SPF help protect your skin against premature aging, but it can also help prevent the development of some skin cancers.

However, certain products in your skincare route might actually be increasing your skin’s sensitivity to the sun. Products such as chemical exfoliants, retinol, and even some common acne treatments all contain active ingredients that can trigger heightened photosensitivity, making your skin more susceptible to sun damage.  


In this article, we’re going to take a look at five skincare products that you should try to use minimally during the hotter months, and how you can incorporate them into your skincare routine without damaging your skin. Let’s take a look!


When it comes to its anti-aging properties, there’s nothing more powerful than retinol. A derivative of Vitamin A, retinol is a topical retinoid that can help to increase your collagen production when applied topically. It also rapidly increases your skin cell turnover, and while this can help your skin appear more youthful, it also means that your ‘new’ skin is incredibly delicate. 


If you’re using retinol products in your skincare routine, we’d recommend only using them at night – and this applies to any time of the year. We’d also recommend cutting back on how often you use retinol during the warmer months; if you use it once every few days, cut back to once or two times a week. Don’t forget to wear plenty of SPF the next morning, too – an SPF50 would be ideal. 



Exfoliation is an integral part of any skincare routine, and in recent years AHAs have become a sought-after ingredient when it comes to exfoliating cleansers, masks, and serums. AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) are known as chemical exfoliants: they’re technically fruit enzymes, and help to slough off dead skin cells, unclog pores, and renew your complexion. Common AHAs include glycolic acid and lactic acid. 


While AHAs are fantastic for your skin, they can increase your skin’s sun sensitivity. This is because acid exfoliation works by removing the top layer of your skin, resulting in a baby-soft, delicate complexion that can be highly susceptible to sunburn and skin damage.


To prevent this, we’d recommend using skincare products with lower concentrations of AHAs during the summer months. You shouldn’t go over an AHA concentration of 5%, although you can increase this to 15% during colder months. Just like retinol, AHA products are also best used at night, and must be followed up with a strong SPF in the morning. 


Salicylic Acid

Another acid exfoliator, salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid, typically referred to as a BHA. This acid is a popular staple in anti-acne skincare routines, as it helps to unclog pores, shed dead skin cells, and help balance oily or acne-prone skin. 


While its exfoliating properties will have your skin feeling smooth and renewed, your new skin cells are going to be super sensitive to sun damage. If you end up exposing your skin to the summer sun after using a salicylic acid product, you’re increasing your chances of sunburn and irritation – this is why SPF is essential. 


If you’re using salicylic acid to treat acne problems and don’t want to stop using it entirely, you should use an acne-friendly SPF30-50, and think about wearing hats when you’re exposed to sunlight during the hottest hours of the day.


Used as a lightening treatment, hydroquinone can help to treat dark spots, age spots and other forms of hyperpigmentation on the skin. Hydroquinone works by decreasing the body’s production of melanin: melanin is a pigment that occurs naturally in the skin to protect it from sun damage and protect the skin from harmful UV rays. 


While effective at reducing skin discoloration, a hydroquinone-based skincare product will also end up reducing your skin’s natural ability to protect itself against UV damage. For this reason, we wouldn’t recommend using hydroquinone at all during the summer months. If you do use it, only apply small amounts – and of course, only at night. And don’t forget the SPF! 



Tretinoin is a highly-effective prescription acne treatment, usually applied to the skin topically via a gel or serum. Tretinoin can also be used to combat signs of aging, as it helps to increase skin cell turnover and boost your skin’s collagen production.


However, Tretinoin is also likely to make your skin more photosensitive. This is because this treatment fights acne by increasing your skin cell turnover: this means that your dead skin cells shed and reveal brighter, “new” skin that is going to be more vulnerable to sun damage than older skin. It’s therefore essential for you to wear a substantial SPF during the summer months if you’re using Tretinoin – especially as skin irritation is one of its principal side effects. 


Final Thoughts

If you’re going to be including any of the above products in your skincare routine during the summer, make sure that you’ve invested in a high quality SPF beforehand. A good SPF is your number-one ally in the fight against both skin cancer and skin aging – and you don’t just wear it on sunny days! For the highest possible protection, wear your SPF every day, all-year round. Or, to simplify matters, find a daily moisturizer that has mineral SPF built in. Easy!

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Emma McNab

Emma is a writer with a keen interest in all things skincare, wellness, and beauty.