Repair Your Summer Skin

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From our Friend Jolene Edgar at Health magazine

No matter how hard you try to protect your skin with sky-high SPFs and floppy hats, UV rays still manage to make their mark during the summer months. "The sun strips away moisture and revs up pigment-making cells, leaving skin dull, dehydrated, and uneven," says Kenneth Howe, MD, clinical instructor of dermatology at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City. And when skin is dry, fine lines are more noticeable.

The good news? Sun damage can be easily remedied-so easily, you can do it in your sleep. It's best to repair damage at night rather than during the day, Dr. Howe says, "because the most potent pigment- and wrinkle-fighting formulas rely on ingredients that make skin more vulnerable to sunlight." Just follow these simple steps before bed.

Cleanse and exfoliate

A glycolic acid-based wash works to diminish spots and lines while you cleanse. Try Glytone Mild Cream Wash ($28). "Glycolic acid sloughs away dead skin cells gently, without upsetting sensitive skin. But it can react to UV rays, so it's best to use it at night to prevent sunburns," Dr. Howe says.

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Fight wrinkles and dullness

Exfoliating vitamin-A creams stimulate collagen production and speed cell turnover, making skin plumper and more radiant. Prescription retinoids-like Retin-A, Renova, and Differin-are better for long-term results, but they can be quite irritating to some, causing redness and flaking. If you have sensitive skin, try a less potent, over-the-counter retinol like RoC Multi-Correxion Night Treatment ($24.99). A weekly at-home peel will also swiftly and safely sweep away dead cells, giving skin a glow and helping anti-aging ingredients penetrate better. Look for glycolic acid formulas that contain built-in soothers. Here's one to try: L'Oréal Paris Advanced Revitalift Glycolic Peel Kit ($24.99).

Hydrate parched skin

When the sun saps moisture from your skin, the enzymes that regulate its natural shedding process stop functioning properly. "Dead cells then build up on its surface, preventing it from reflecting light and giving off a healthy glow," Dr. Howe explains. Be sure to slather on a rich night cream, like Burt's Bees Radiance Night Cream ($15) over your wrinkle remedy to replenish thirsty skin. And to keep your skin smooth, treat it to a weekly moisturizing mask that's loaded with humectants, natural oils, and butters. Our pick: The Body Shop Vitamin E Sink-In Moisture Mask ($18.50).

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Target dark spots

If your skin is only slightly mottled or simply too delicate for prescription potions, use an over-the-counter serum that contains Sepiwhite, a new amino acid shown to painlessly hamper the skin's pigment-making process. We like Olay Definity Night Anti-Spot Treatment ($24.99).

To deal with more serious spots or melasma-stubborn brown patches that are stirred up by hormones and sun exposure-ask your doctor about prescription-strength bleaching creams containing 4% hydroquinone and tretinoin, like Triluma; it works by shutting down pigment-producing enzymes.

"Apply them to dark areas only," Dr. Howe says. "Treating the entire face can blunt the skin's normal tanning process, which leaves it unable to protect itself from UV light."

Morning must-do

"The spots and fine lines that you've worked so hard to get rid of overnight will quickly reappear if you forgo SPF in the morning," Dr. Howe warns. Protect skin daily by applying a moisturizing sunscreen (SPF 30 ) with antioxidants and mild brighteners, like soy, licorice, and niacinamide (vitamin B3).

Three we like: Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer SPF 30 ($13.99), Dermalogica Pure Light SPF 30 ($60), and Canyon Ranch Your Transformation SPF 30 ($75).

Check out these exciting healthy skincare features from our friends at Health.com:

Stay Safe in the Sun

Black Women and Skin Cancer

Look Younger From the Neck Down

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Here are a few more skincare picks from the ESSENCE.com beauty editor.