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  • Writer's pictureCarissa Abraham

The Skincare Ingredients Causing Harsh Sunburns, Dark Spots, Acne-Scarring, and Sensitivity

Updated: Jul 20, 2022

While your year-round skincare routine is important, your Summer skincare routine is even more crucial to your skin’s well being because of the heightened risk of sun damage and scarring. It’s no secret that the sun increases your skin’s sensitivity, but what many people don’t realize is how skin care products that overturn skin cells rapidly also increase your skin’s sensitivity to sun. Here are some skincare products to completely avoid, and some to use with caution while exposed to sunlight through the summer.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids - AHAs

AHAs are chemical exfoliants that help clear away dead skin from the outermost layer of your skin. The most common AHAs found in skincare are Glycolic, Lactic and Mandelic Acids. Glycolic is the most popular AHA that’s great for most skin types, while Lactic is best for sensitive skin, and Mandelic is best for those with hyperpigmentation and dark spots.

Because AHAs are used to exfoliate dead skin away to reveal new skin cells at a quick speed, this increases your skin’s sensitivity to sun and susceptibility to sun damage.

Beta Hydroxy Acid - BHAs and Benzoyl Peroxide

The most well known BHA is Salicylic Acid, which is most commonly used for those with acne-prone and oily skin. BHAs exfoliate deep into the second layer of your skin to get rid of the dead skin buildup. Similar to AHAs, it causes a quick skin cell turnover. If you have acne and are using Salicylic Acid, not only can it increase your skin’s sensitivity, but it also increases the likelihood of develop acne-scarring, so it’s best to put the BHAs on hold if you plan on being exposed to the sun regularly over the summer.

Benzoyl Peroxide works to kill the acne-causing bacteria deep within the top two layers of skin. It helps dry up sebum to unclog your pores. It’s particularly great for whiteheads and cystic acne. The same concept as BHAs, benzoyl peroxide combined with the sun can cause sensitivity and scarring.


Ahh, retinol. My favorite skincare ingredient. Retinol is the only ingredient that can effectively slow down the aging process because it speeds up cell turnover to help soften those fine lines and wrinkles, so it keeps your skin looking fresh! Because it speeds up cell turnover, your skin can become more sensitive to UV rays, BUT the UV rays will also break down retinol and make it less effective. You’d be wasting the product and risking sun damage. If you choose to use retinol during the summer months, only use it at nighttime, try to avoid it if you’re going on a sunny vacation, and MOST IMPORTANTLY: WEAR SUNSCREEN when using this product (and everyday)!

Chemical peels

For all of the reasons I mentioned above about AHAs and BHAs, they apply to chemical peels here, too. Chemical peels are made up of various acids across AHAs and BHAs. The main difference is that chemical peels are 100x stronger than standalone acids. Chemical peels contain anywhere from 20%-70% of acids - and they do cause your skin to peel (see below from my chemical peel back in the winter). Chemical peels are meant to defeat texture and drastically improve dark spots and hyperpigmentation, so doing these in the summer will literally reverse everything the peel is meant to do!

I can't stop you from using these products during the summer months, I can only hope you don't, but if you choose to ignore everything I just said, at least pay attention to this: WEAR YOUR SUNSCREEN! You'll save yourself from so much preventable damage.


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