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These are the musings of a skincare junkie + writer + brand guru with 25+ years of product wisdom put into action to demystify skin care. 

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Enjoying a refreshing alcohol-free summer “mocktail”!

Enjoying a refreshing alcohol-free summer “mocktail”!

About six months ago, I was somewhere else. Literally and figuratively. I was physically living on the other side of the City and living in what could best be described as hell frozen over — aka winter in New York. My skin was taking a beating but I had my strategy for keeping it moisturized, hydrated — and most importantly, healthy. It was right before Christmas when I wrote an article titled Skincarma Approved: 3 Top Facial Moisturizers For Winter Weather. If you’re in the southern hemisphere now and your reality is the reverse of mine, I invite you to read it here.

I remember thinking at the time — I can’t wait for summer to be sitting somewhere warm writing about my favorite warm-weather moisturizers. And here I am! I love life. Nothing is permanent, everything is ephemeral. It reminds me of the Old English epic poem Beowulf which I studied in college in Worcester, Massachusetts — an even colder place than I find myself now, and where two feet of snow on a January day was quite common. In a moment of lucidity immersed in Beowulf’s intense lines, somehow this one idea struck me and stayed with me to this day:

This too shall pass.

I adapt. We all do. Everything we experience in the present becomes the past. What torments us nearly always passes.

Three super lightweight moisturizers that I think are great for summer weather.

Three super lightweight moisturizers that I think are great for summer weather.

And so here I am. Warm weather, lighter clothing — and lighter skin care! It’s the season for gel-creams in particular. Gel-creams are a smart, effective way to deliver both quenching water-based hydration and lightweight oil-based moisture to the skin when temps climb. And just as important in winter, you’ve got to keep your skin hydrated to maintain optimum, healthy functions. In cold weather, the dry air around us sucks the water out of our skin, leaving it dehydrated. In the summer we simply sweat it out. Either way, replacing lost hydration is essential to maintaining your skin health.

There are hundreds (maybe thousands?!) of well-formulated gel-creams and other lightweight moisturizers out there that I could recommend. In fact, I have ten in all — this week, I’m reviewing five of them and perhaps next week I’ll review the others.

Super lightweight textures are everything in warmer weather.

Super lightweight textures are everything in warmer weather.

So, here are what I consider five solid summer moisturizers, each a lightweight, effective formula that I truly enjoy!


Dr. Jart Ceramidin Liquid

I had to start here! Dr. Jart was the first Korean skincare brand I discovered — and its iconic Ceramidin Liquid was the very first K-Beauty product I ever tried. Of course I loved it. The formula is so unusual that even Dr. Jart has a hard time describing what it is. Is it a toner? Is it a moisturizer? Is it a lotion? They probably couldn’t decide and I imagine someone in a conference room in their Seoul HQ saying, “Hey! Let’s just call it a ‘liquid’!”

But even though Ceramidin Liquid was my first K-Beauty product, this isn’t exactly the same one. Dr. Jart has reformulated its moisturizing liquid toner in the years since I first stumbled across it. The formula feels, smells and looks the same, but it’s been supercharged with Dr. Jart’s proprietary 5-Cera Complex — essentially a blend of all five ceramides useful in skin care. Ceramides are really important to healthy skin functioning as they’re our skin’s natural protection barrier. They’re composed of intercellular lipids that act as skin’s defense against environmental aggressors, helping to maintain moisture levels — all year round.


In addition to skin-strengthening ceramides, there’s a lot to love about the formula, particularly its plethora of antioxidant vitamins and botanical extracts including Centella Asiatica Extract, Fig Fruit Extract, Cocoa Seed Extract, and a fave of mine: Turmeric Root Extract. There are also a few moisture-replenishing plant oils in lower amounts, meaning that it doesn’t over-saturate your skin, or feel heavy throughout the day. The one drawback for me is the high level of denatured alcohol in the formula. If you’re oily or normal to oily, it won’t be an issue for you.

With the consistency of low-fat milk, Ceramidin Liquid is a good option for warmer weather and particularly oiler skin types in summer.


Naisture Water Drop Cream

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that Naisture makes my favorite sheet mask — the Naisture Ginseng Mask Pack! In fact, I’ve probably gone through a hundred of them. (You can watch me mask with it here!) Given how well-formulated their sheet masks are, I was eager to explore more from the brand. When I came across Naisture’s Water Drop Cream I had to laugh. Doesn’t Dr. Jart also make a moisturizer called “Water Drop”?! It just shows you how important it is to protect your trademarks. As a skincare copywriter, I’d be mortified to see a brand knock off one of my product names verbatim. Like what kind of lazy ass copywriter does that?


All joking (and incredulity!) aside, Naisture’s Water Drop Cream is the most innovative of my five warmer weather recos. It has this unusual texture that’s such a pleasure to use. If you’re paying attention during application, you’ll feel something shift as you massage it in. Apparently, it’s formulated with encapsulated Hyaluronic Acid molecules that burst when applied to the skin. Naisture refers to them as “tiny water droplets” that instantly refresh and hydrate the skin. It’s just plain coolness in a tube!

Through this bursting technology, the texture transforms from a super lightweight gel into a liquid — that’s more like a watery toner. The formula just fascinates me! In addition to the HA, there are numerous antioxidant stem cells including, of course, what I know and love the brand for — Panax Ginseng Callus Culture Extract aka ginseng! Though it’s an effective, lightweight moisturizer, Naisture’s Water Drop is not a perfect formula. As with the Dr. Jart Ceramidin Liquid, this one also contains alcohol. Boo! 👻


Dr. Dennis Gross Hyaluronic Marine Oil-Free Moisture Cushion

I’ve been a fan of the Dr. Dennis Gross Hyaluronic Marine Oil-Free Moisture Cushion for a while now — in fact, many of Dr. Gross’ products are tried-and-true go-to’s for me, especially the Hyaluronic Marine Hydration Booster. With a gun to my head, if I were forced to admit which Hyaluronic Acid serum is the best of the 87,000 out there, I would likely answer the blue one from Dr. Gross (I’d be too freaked out to remember the actual product name.)

Violence isn’t necessary. It’s the Dr. Gross Hyaluronic Marine Hydration Booster, okay?

The Dr. Gross  Hyaluronic Marine Oil-Free Moisture Cushion  is a classic gel-cream.

The Dr. Gross Hyaluronic Marine Oil-Free Moisture Cushion is a classic gel-cream.

A Hyaluronic Acid serum is a true necessity all year round, but the Hyaluronic Marine Oil-Free Moisture Cushion is particularly useful in the summer. It’s more of a conventional gel-cream. If it looks like a gel-cream and feels like a gel-cream, it’s a gel-cream! I wish they’d just call it that. But no matter, it’s a refreshing, lightweight, pleasure-to-use moisturizer — and doesn't make the same alcoholic (haha!) mistake as the two prior moisturizers from Dr. Jart and Naisture.

Just really good, pro-skin health stuff here, including Sodium Hyaluronate — the salt form of Hyaluronic Acid that’s more compatible with our skin. I love the Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Watermelon Fruit Extract, and Coconut Fruit Extract. It makes me feel like I’m chilling under an umbrella by the ocean. There are also a few natural extracts that offer gentle enzymatic exfoliation — Sugar Cane Extract, Lemon Fruit Extract and Sugar Maple Extract.

Speaking of exfoliation, I’ve been pairing this gel-cream with Dr. Gross’ most famous product — the Alpha Beta Daily Peel. Interestingly, even though these AHA/BHA wipes are quite popular, I haven't really paid much attention to them as I’d only taken a look at the best-selling versions of them — all of which contain a high level of alcohol. But I recently discovered that the Alpha Beta Ultra Gentle Daily Peel for Sensitive Skin contains not a drop of alcohol. Yes! The two-step treatment takes just a few minutes each morning to literally reboot and light up your complexion. These two Dr. Gross products go together really well.

I love Dr. Gross’ alcohol-free  Alpha Beta Ultra Gentle Daily Peel for Sensitive Skin !


Pure Heals Centella 70 Cream

Yeah these Pure Heals under-eye charcoal masks are a life saver.

Yeah these Pure Heals under-eye charcoal masks are a life saver.

Pure Heals. Where have I heard that name before? Oh, yes, of course — they make those dope black charcoal under-eye masks that I love when my eye area is puffy first thing in the morning. I’ve been using those so long, I barely knew Pure Heals had anything else worth trying — or even cared! Turns out they have a lot of really fun, effective skin care.

The Pure Heals Centella 70 Cream contains, well, 70% Centella Asiatica Extract. That means it’s a great irritation soother — in addition to delivering skin-replenishing moisture and antioxidant protection to the skin. In fact, it smells really herbaceous and medicinal — likely from the high Centella content.

Centella Asiatica is a K-Beauty superstar ingredient, one that I think kind of defines K-Beauty formulation. My skincare muse, Paula Begoun gives it her “BEST” ingredient rating and describes it this way:

Centella asiatica is an antioxidant-rich extract that may be listed on labels as asiatic acid, hydrocotyl, or gotu kola. It is a source of amino acids and has soothing properties. Concentrations of 5% show notable improvement in skin’s moisture content.”


There are like 80 ingredients in the INCI and with Centella Asiatica Extract at 70%, I don’t think it makes much sense to look beyond the top ten. The second ingredient is Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Water and there’s also a very high level of brightening antioxidant Niacinamide. This is just a powerfully soothing moisturizer. It happens to be the thickest of the five so it doesn’t absorb as quickly, but it doesn’t take long to work its magic.


The Inkey List Snow Mushroom Cream

And that brings me to the fifth of my super lightweight summer moisturizers. The Inkey List’s new Snow Mushroom cream sounds like something out of a fairy tale. Like if Cinderella had shown herself a little more self-love on self-care Sunday, Snow Mushroom cream might just be her favorite moisturizer. In fact, wasn’t she dead broke? It hasn’t hit the market yet, but with Inkey’s accessible pricing strategy, I have to assume it’ll be offered at about £8.99 or $10 — well under the brand’s $15 pricing maximum!

Hey, so it’s not available just yet. But it’s coming. And it’s gonna be cool. But snow mushroom? I’ve heard of snow mushrooms in Chinese cuisine but really did have to Google it.

Tremella fuciformis is a species of fungus; it produces white, frond-like, gelatinous basidiocarps (fruiting bodies). It is widespread, especially in the tropics, where it can be found on the dead branches of broadleaf trees. This fungus is commercially cultivated and is one of the most popular fungi in the cuisine and medicine of China.


In fact, there’s a lot of great reading about snow mushrooms online. I’m not particularly wowed by exotic sounding ingredients in skin care — but if the ingredient works, I’m down. There’s a really fun article on The Zoe Report called, Snow Mushroom Skincare Products Could Replace All Your Hyaluronic Acid Serums. From the article: “With its capacity for locking in moisture, snow mushroom in skincare products is about to replace hyaluronic acid as the gold-standard.”

Wow, that’s a high bar. And it’s something to look forward to. In the meantime, Inkey’s Snow Mushroom moisturizer is ahead of the trend. With a very tight ingredient list — comprised of just 15 ingredients — it’s got a thick, translucent gel texture. It’s not watery and doesn’t absorb instantly like, say, Naisture’s Water Drop. It’s deceptively rich and quite a high-performance moisturizer with two standard humectants, Butylene Glycol and Glycerin alongside emollient, water-binding Lecithin. There are no added antioxidants in the formula — again, it’s quite simply focused on locking water and moisture in the skin to prevent dehydration.


Back to that assertion that Snow Mushroom has the humectant power of Hyaluronic Acid, the Zoe Report also reported this: “In a laboratory, hyaluronic acid can hold 1000 times its weight in water, and snow mushroom can hold 500 times its weight,” Dr. Tanuj Nakra, co-founder of AVYA Skincare, tells The Zoe Report. “However, snow mushroom’s gelatinous molecules are smaller than that of hyaluronic acid, so they penetrate the skin much better — leading to more noticeable, real-world results.”

Seriously, Cinderella would have loved it!

Finally, of course…

you need a summer sunscreen,

you need a summer sunscreen,

you need a summer sunscreen.


MDSolarSciences Mineral 48 Creme

It’s almost July. The sun is at its annual peak — and that means more intense, damaging UV rays are going to reach deep into your skin and compromise your collagen. Remember, if you can see the sun, the sun can see you!

So, while sunscreen is important all year round, like everything else, you want to switch it up from season to season. And my recent discovery of MDSolarSciences Mineral 48 Creme is just perfect for hot weather. It’s got a lightweight, mattifying texture that makes it ideal for humid days.


Mineral Creme SPF 48 is a mineral sunscreen with a blend of 2% Titanium Dioxide and 17% Zinc Oxide — and leaves only a minimal grayish white cast on application that dissipates before I’m out the door. That’s when it works its mattifying magic that keeps my skin looking healthy and fresh, not greasy and slick. MDSolarSciences powered up their non-comedogenic formula with three of the most potent antioxidant botanical extracts — Green Tea Extract, Cranberry Fruit Extract and Pomegranate Extract. That’s some serious antioxidant power! Perhaps the most intriguing of the formula’s ingredients is Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate — a stable oil-soluble form of vitamin C that is similar in potency to L-Ascorbic Acid, the purest form of Vitamin C. According to Ms. Begoun, “Some researchers believe this form of vitamin C has a greater affinity for skin because its fatty acid component helps aid penetration. It pairs well with other forms of vitamin C and retinol for enhanced effectiveness.”

I hope this deep dive into lightweight summer skin care is helpful as you put together your ideal regimen for taking the best care of your skin in the warmer weather. Even Cinderella can’t escape the heat!




The Ingredient List of the Dr. Jart Ceramidin Liquid:

Water, Dipropylene Glycol, Alcohol, Betaine, Propanediol, Glycosyl Trehalose, 1,2-Hexanediol, Erythritol, Pentylene Glycol, Glycerin, Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysate, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Triethylhexanoin, Diphenyl Dimethicone, Triethylhexanoin, Panthenol, Butylene Glycol, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Centella Asiatica Extract, Icus Carica (Fig) Fruit Extract, Melia Azadirachta Leaf Extract, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Extract, Amaranthus Caudatus Seed Extract, Ulmus Davidiana Root Extract, Curcuma Longa (Turmeric) Root Extract, Ocimum Sanctum Leaf Extract, Corallina Officinalis Extract, Pyracantha Fortuneana Fruit Extract, Carbomer, Cellulose Gum, Sucrose Distearate, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Ethylhexylglycerin, Methylpropanediol, Disodium Edta, Glyceryl Polymethacrylate, Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Oil, C12-14 Pareth-12, Polyglyceryl-10 Myristate, Pelargonium Graveolens Flower Oil, Dextrin, Glyceryl Stearate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Oil, Pogostemon Cablin Oil, Cholesterol, Ceramide EOP, Ceramide AP, Ceramide AS, Ceramide NS.

The Ingredient List of the Naisture Water Drop Cream:

Water (Aqua), Cyclopentasiloxane, Cyclohexasiloxane, Butylene Glycol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Glycerin, Sodium Chloride, Alcohol, Chlorphenesin, Cetyl PEG/PPG-10/1 Dimethicone, Dimethicone/PEG-10/15 Crosspolymer, Centella Asiatica Extract, Hyaluronic Acid, Panax Ginseng Callus Culture Extract, Daucus Carota (Carrot) Callus Culture Extract, Camellia Sinensis Callus Culture Extract, Chrysanthemum Indicum Callus Culture Extract, Phaseolus Radiatus Meristem Cell Culture Extract, Bambusa Vulgaris Callus Culture Extract, Polysorbate 20, Lecithin, sh-Oligopeptide-1, Hibiscus Esculentus Fruit Extract, Gossypium Herbaceum (Cotton) Seed Extract, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance.

The Ingredient List of the Dr. Dennis Gross Hyaluronic Marine Oil-Free Moisture Cushion:

Water, Cyclopentasiloxane, Cetearyl Alcohol, Dimethicone, Butylene Glycol, Stearyl Dimethicone, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Octadecene, Glyceryl Behenate, Sodium Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Sodium Hyaluronate, Caulerpa Lentillifera Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Tocopherol, Phospholipids, Citrullus Lanatus (Watermelon) Fruit Extract, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Fruit Extract, Citrus Sinensis (Orange) Fruit Extract, Cinnamomum Cassia Bark Extract, Saccharide Isomerate, Vaccinium Myrtillus Fruit/Leaf Extract, Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid, Saccharum Officinarum (Sugar Cane) Extract, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Extract, Citrus Limon (Lemon) Fruit Extract, Acer Saccharum (Sugar Maple) Extract, Collagen Amino Acids, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Lactobacillus Ferment, Acrylates/Carbamate Copolymer, Isohexadecane, Polysorbate 80, Dimethicone Crosspolymer-3, Ethylhexylglycerin, Isododecane, Disodium EDTA-Copper, Ceteareth-20, Potassium Cetyl Phosphate, Sorbitan Oleate, Linalool, Limonene, Fragrance (Parfum), Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde, Citronellal, Hydroxycitronellal, Citral, Citric Acid, Sorbic Acid, Phenoxyethanol.

The Ingredient List of the Pure Heals Centella 70 Cream:

Centella Asiatica Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Water, Butylene Glycol, Cyclopentasiloxane, Diglycerin, Niacinamide, Cyclohexasiloxane, Betaine, Aqua, Sodium Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Cetearyl Alcohol, Oenothera Biennis Oil, Isohexadecane, Cetyl Palmitate, Benzyl Alcohol, Sorbitan Olivate, Sorbitan Palmitate, Caprylhydroxamic Acid, Polysorbate 80, 1,2-Hexanediol, Boswellia Serrata Resin Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Chamomilla Recutita Flower/Leaf Extract, Citrus Grandis Fruit Extract, Magnolia Kobus Bark Extract, Propolis Extract, Salix Alba Bark Extract, Thujopsis Dolabrata Branch Extract, Pentylene Glycol, Sorbitan Oleate, Propanediol, Caprylyl Glycol, Adenosine, Eucalyptus Globulus Leaf Oil, Disodium Edta, Dehydroacetic Acid, Limonene, Arginine, Bacillus/Soybean Ferment Extract, Borago Officinalis Seed Oil, Simmondsia Chinensis Seed Oil, Hydrolyzed Pea Protein, Phytosterols, Lecithin, Olea Europaea Fruit Oil, Squalane, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Phenoxyethanol, Butyrospermum Parkii Butter, Ceramide 3 /0218.

The Ingredient List of The Inkey List Snow Mushroom Cream:

Water, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Sodium Acrylates Copolymer, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Caproyl Prolinate, Lecithin, Tremella Fuciformis (Mushroom) Extract, Carbomer, Madecassoside, Sodium Hydroxide, Ethylhexylglycerin, Glyceryl Polyacrylate, Trisodium, Ethylenediamine Disuccinate.

The Ingredient List of the MDSolarSciences Mineral 48 Creme:

Actives: 2% Titanium Dioxide, 17% Zinc Oxide
Dimethicone, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Glyceryl Isostearate, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Silica, Dimethicone/ Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Butyloctyl Salicylate, Polysilicone-15, Iron Oxides, PEG/PPG-18/18 Dimethicone, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Extract, Vaccinium Macrocarpon (Cranberry) Fruit Extract, Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Extract.

If you can see the sun, the sun can see you! Orpheus says, “wear sunscreen every day!”

If you can see the sun, the sun can see you! Orpheus says, “wear sunscreen every day!”