Skincare ingredients you should never wear in the sun

Skincare ingredients you should never wear in the sun

We all know that you should never set foot outside unless you’re wearing a high sun protection factor (SPF). After all, the sun is the number one cause of premature ageing, not to mention skin cancer. But did you know there are skincare products we should never wear in the sun? 

Better for bedtime 

While active ingredients like retinol and alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) can do amazing things for your skin, they can also increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun. It means that if you wear them during the day without sun protection, your skin might be more likely to burn. They can also encourage an unwanted response like pigmentation – often the very thing you’re trying to treat. So, to help you out here’s a quick list of just a few skincare ingredients that are best suited to wear at night or teamed with a very high SPF.


If you’re concerned about wrinkles, you’ll definitely want retinol in your routine. It stimulates collagen production to help keep your skin looking firmer and less wrinkled for longer. Better yet, it encourages your skin cells to regenerate at a faster rate to reveal fresher, more evenly-toned skin. Still, because of its exfoliating action, it can make you more sensitive to sunburn and increase your risk of sun damage. (Ironically, this is one of many things it repairs!) Another reason to avoid using retinol in the sun? It breaks down in the presence of light so you’ll always get maximum bang for your buck when you wear it indoors or at night. 

Exfoliating acids

It’s time to give those “old school” grainy scrubs a rest. For the most part, they aren’t “scrubby” enough to exfoliate correctly or, at worst, are too harsh and cause micro-tears in your skin. Your best bet is a chemical exfoliator that contains some effective yet gentle acid such as alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) or enzymes. These gently dissolve the bonds between your skin cells, causing them to slough away the same way you naturally exfoliate, but at a faster rate. Again, however, due to the “peeling” nature of these type of active ingredients, you’re increasing your skin’s sun sensitivity. So, use them, but don’t use them in direct sunlight without UV protection. 

Benzoyl peroxide

Are you struggling with acne or the occasional breakout? Chances are you’ve got a benzoyl peroxide treatment in your artillery. It’s a great antibacterial ingredient that can get deep into your pores to kill acne-causing bacteria while reducing inflammation. But yes, again, it can cause sun sensitivity. If you’re going to wear it indoors, there’s not going to be an issue. However, if you’re slathering it all over your T-zone before heading out for a daytime jog, you can expect to come back with a sunburn!

The last word

As we said, these are just a FEW skincare ingredients that don’t pair well with unprotected sun exposure. (Although in saying that – you should never expose your skin to the sun without applying sunscreen!) Many ingredients don’t play well in the sun so, to ensure you’re not dutifully using anti-ageing products but wearing them in a way that does more harm than good, chat to any of our highly-skilled skincare therapists. They’ll be able to tell you which products are best to wear when and suggest a high protection factor that might allow you to wear treatment products that contain small amounts of photosensitising actives in a way that isn’t going to harm your skin. This way, your skin can reap the maximum benefit from your routine – come day or night, rain or sunshine! 

Read the Dec 2020 Online Skin Shop newsletter here


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