On… stupid ol’ sunshine

Sunshine makes me anxious.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a monster. I love vacations. I love that bursting tingly feeling when you dive into a cold swimming pool before breakfast. I love bobbing in the sea, staring up at the sky, for very long periods of time. I love pastel sunsets and matching cocktails. I love the whole thing. But when my vacation is over, I want hot weather to be over, too.

My antipathy for sunshine is now at the point where, on a rare grey NYC August day, I feel a delicious sense of relief, and I think to myself, oh I can’t wait for winter.

I hate squinting and sweating. I hate feeling that I should be outside ‘enjoying’ the sunshine when I want to be inside, writing or eating or talking or drinking or sleeping. I hate that my skin is always paper-dry from chlorine and excessive SPF. I hate hog-tying my tiny translucent red-headed children to douse them in excessive SPF, too. I hate that the air never feels crisp, unless you’re in air-con, and then it feels fake-crisp. I hate not being able to wear leather pants. And tweed jackets and fake fur and tight jeans and boots and dark lipstick. I hate getting into cars and enduring that thick, hot airlessness until the aircon kicks in. I hate not being able to wear my beloved eleven-year-old eyeglasses because I have to wear contacts because I have to wear sunglasses because of the SUN and I don’t have prescription sunglasses because who has the time because one day we’ll all be dead probably soon because a fascist madman is in charge and I hate wondering if this summer is the summer that will make me finally get Botox because my face officially turned into Miracle Max even though I really don’t want Botox and frowning is super fucking important to me SEE I HAVE ANXIETY ABOUT IT ALL.

But let’s not be self-indulgent!

The point is that I can’t control sunshine. I can’t control the seasons. The only part of any of this that I can do anything about right now is dry skin. And so can you. Even if you love summer. That means moisturizing so heavily and so frequently that you could sit on your bathroom floor tiles and slide around, pinging off the walls like a pinball for hours.

In order for moisturizer to work, you need to exfoliate first, get rid of the dry, dull old skin. Now: unless it is the most joyful part of your day and the only reason you get up in the morning, please don’t use a liquid or cream body exfoliator. It is literally money down the drain. (The exception is Bliss Hot Salt Scrub. It is patented magic and warms up and tingles on your epidermis in the most delightful way. It also has oily unguents that moisturize while you scrub. It’s soul-cheering to use in the bath when it’s snowing outside. But it is not snowing outside right now. It is sunny. Sigh.) Be French, and use a gant de toilette, or be Korean, and use a scratchy towel thing, with any old shower gel or soap. (I used to use almond oil, but then it kept spilling everywhere and really annoyed me, so I stopped.)


This is the Korean scratchy towel thing. Look how happy she is! That is a woman who knows the joy of soft skin.


After your morning shower, apply this lovely L’Occitane moisturizer to your whole entire body. It’s shea butter. (I assume shea butter is made with milk from some kind of really hydrated cow in the land of Shea, yes?)

Because it’s summer, you can dance around naked for a while while it soaks in. (Darn, I forgot that you can’t really dance around naked for long in winter. Maybe summer DOES have some positives. Hmm.)


On your face, apply some hyaluronic acid and wait a few minutes, then apply your SPF. I don’t know how hyaluronic acid works and I don’t care enough to get a chemistry degree and find out, but I believe scientists describe hyaluronic acid as “kind of like a turbo hydration watery nothing that is also EVERYTHING?” I’ve been using that insanely cheap Ordinaries one because well, it seems just as good as the others (though on the whole I have a ‘the fuck am I supposed to do with SQUALENE?’ reaction to The Ordinaries no-frills skin brand). Once your SPF soaks in, apply whatever make-up blows your skirt up today, and get out there and kick some ass. And walk on the shady side of the street.


Then at night, things get serious. Clean your face. Aderma Oat Milk Soap Free Soothing Cleansing Gel is my favorite right now. I have used it on-and-off for years. I get bored of it and flirt with other cleansers, but I always come back to it. It forgives me because it has low self-esteem. I dry my face with a tiny white cotton face towel that I only use once before throwing in the washing basket. I bought a stack of them a year or so ago because eh, something about bacteria. It makes me feel fantastically profligate. Which is so tragic.

Then shower and exfoliate again, you filthy animal.


Then apply a little Cerave SA Lotion to your whole body (but not your face). The salicylic acid helps with clogged sweaty pores, inflammation, blah blah ask a dermatologist or Allure if you need to know everything so much. As you stand there in your naked glory, waiting for the Cerave to soak in, you can contemplate the meaning of life and/or the relative symmetry of your boobs while smearing something unguenty all over your face.


This Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Overnight Hydrating Mask stuff is quite the little charmer. It’s a GIANT pot, and it’s pretty cheap. Gloop on a nice mask of it a couple of times a week and go to sleep. It feels sort of hot and sparky. You’ll know what I mean when you do it. You’ll wake with your skin all sticky and plump. Normally waking up sticky and plump would freak me the fuck out, but trust me, it’s a good thing.



Other nights, I use La Roche Posay Hydraphase Riche, which has replaced my beloved Korres – for the moment – as my moisturizer under dear old Yu-Be. I like to try new moisturizers now and again. It keeps my old favorites on their toes. Only Yu-Be is irreplaceable. It’s the salt of skin care: boring, but makes everything else better. Sometimes you don’t even know how much better it makes things until you go without for a while and then go back to it and say ‘SALT! Yes. I like you.’


THEN, because your Cerave stuff is all soaked in to your limbs by now, apply a layer of – yup – Yu-Be Body. It’s yellow and weird, like the face cream, but nothing else compares for moisturizing dryer-than-dry skin. Then go to bed. Unless you are tired and bored of everything. Then skip all of the above steps and go and have a drink with your best friends, watching a beautiful summer sunset, because that will make you feel better than any moisturizer ever could. I love sunset. (Darn, that’s TWO things I like about summer. Wait I also like sunrise. THREE. Three things that I like about summer. Okay, let’s just forget the whole thing.)







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17 thoughts on “On… stupid ol’ sunshine

  1. Betg

    OK so squalane is amazing and you use it like a moisturizing oil but is so so much better and your skin will never break out from it, it’s super safe, and will looooove it. Try it its amazing. I use the “Timeless” brand on Amazon but the Ordinary’s looks good too.

    1. GemmaBurgess Post author

      Okay you have convinced me, squalene is ON the list and I cannot wait, it sounds like just my thing. So what do I do with Nianamacide or whatever it is?

  2. Kelly Maloney

    First-time commenter, long-time creeper, had to post though because: This is exactly how I feel about summer. I copy-pasted it into an email and immediately sent it to my sisters who understand me NOT AT ALL about this. It lent validation to my love for all things October-April. Anyway, I’m also going to check out all the links, I need a new skincare routine yesterday.

    1. GemmaBurgess Post author

      Yes! Maybe we should start a club for people who hate summer. The deal is, we have to become migratory. We will live in the northern hemisphere October to April, and southern hemisphere May to September. Buenos Aires, anyone?

  3. Beth

    If you want to read more about squalane, read this blog (I have absolutely no connection to it, just has made my skin amazing. Check out his post on urea, have been getting glowing skin from putting gormel foot cream on my face :o )–https://simpleskincarescience.com/squalene-squalane-oil-review-acne/.

    Niacinamide apparently “increases skin hydration, helps barrier function, brightens skin tone, and treats hyperpigmentation in addition to having anti-wrinkle effects comparable to prescription tretinoin.” So I dunno, sounds good? I’m just not sure how to put so many things on a face at once. But squalane 100% i think you will absolutely love it. Also have been loving makeup artists choice mandelic acid peel and an azaleic acid cream (the ordinary has one, but have been using ecological formulas one on amazon, tingles at first but is amazing) if ur looking for reccs :)

  4. Stephanie

    Great post! Niacinamide is an anti-inflammatory vitamin that increases collagen in your skin. I consider it an ‘active’ and would use it right after cleansing. If I don’t feel like using niacinaminde, I would use retinol (I like Shani Darden’s Retinol Reform – holy moly, this stuff makes my skin incroyable), or an acid like Biologique Recherche’s P50, the Ordinary salicylid acid, or Vitamin C.

    Hyaluronic acid goes over the actives. The hyaluronic acid molecule holds 1000 times it’s weight in water! So you’ll wake up looking 12 years old. Then, I use squalane. Squalane oil is a ‘dry’ oil, so it doesn’t feel greasy! Plus, it doesn’t smell weird, or like anything at all. Lastly, if I’m feeling dry, I use a heavy moisturizer with ceramides in it (I’m loving Liquid Gold).

    Looking forward to checking out your recommendations!

    1. GemmaBurgess Post author

      Thank you thank you thank you!! And I am getting Liquid Gold immediately. And which Vitamin C do you use? I’ll write another skincare post soon. I love all these recommendations…

      1. Stephanie

        I like Timeless! It’s the exact same as Skinceuticals but a fraction of the price. I tried The Ordinary (Vit C 23% suspension with Hyaluronic Acid spheres) and haaaated it. It feels so gritty. The other version they sell contains silicones, which make the product feel nicer but they just kind of sit on top of your skin and prevent any skincare layered on top from working.

        If you use Vit C, avoid niacinamide within 20 minutes! The two mixed together can cause a bit of flushing on your face.

        I see you mentioned SK-II in another comment. CosRX Galactomyces essence is the same yeast ferment and is a pretty incredible dupe. For like $20, it’s worth trying out!

  5. Irina

    Oh, I was hoping you will write a new skincare post, thanks :)
    Totally agree, the more older I get the more I hate hot weather, even by the sea during our family vacation I was dreaming about staying in the apartment under the aircon :)
    My new addiction is called Korean cleansers :) , most of them are cheap and very good, do not dry out skin and remove all remaining make-up. I tried these ones, all good:
    This stick is especially popular among beauty bloggers:
    But my favorite is this rice cleansing foam:
    And as I live in Budapest, I decided to try out some Omorovicza products, they are pricey as hell, but nothing can stand in the way of a local patriot :) OK, I bought only their Mix & Match Travel set, this way I could choose three products in travel size. I chose the Balancing Moisturizer (which is not too small, 30 ml), the Deep Cleansing Mud Mask and the most hyped Rejuvenating Night Cream. The mask is awesome, it’s better than the one I used from Seacret. The night cream is a bit oily for me, but I have oily/combination skin, so for those who have drier skin it might be perfect. I haven’t tried the moisturizer yet, but I can share later if you are interested.
    Sorry for the long comment, please remove the review part if it’s boring or useless.

    1. GemmaBurgess Post author

      I LOVE all these – and I love the recommendations and the long post!! Please tell me more more more. I am getting all of these. And lucky you re Omorovicza – wow, so expensive, but I have been dying to try. I bit the bullet on the stinky Biologique Recherché mask and the P50 stuff last year – I use them but I don’t think they’re as life-changing as everyone says. Until I use them up, I am not letting myself buy more SK-II – otherwise I start to feel like the Imelda Marcos of skincare.

      1. Irina

        OK, I’m glad that my comment was not annoying :) . Meanwhile I’ve tested the Omorovicza Balancing Moisturizer and it’s very good, absorbs quickly and has a slight herbal scent which is acceptable for me. I’m also dying to try Biologique Recherché P50, but it is hard to purchase it. Please share your experiences. I read in the reviews that it can cause break outs, but afterwards you’ll get an incredibly smooth surface.
        I used to apply the cheaper version of SK-II facial essence, Missha Time Revolution the first treatment essence, but I haven’t experienced any ‘revolutionary’ results. If you are looking for an excellent Vitamin-C serum, I can recommend one, which I really love, it is also a Korean stuff: BRTC VITALIZER C-10 Ampoule. There are tons of similar serums on the market, but I tried only this one and it worked perfectly, my skin looked much tighter, refreshed after using it.
        I’ve just ordered the Verso Super Eye Serum, I have deep dark circles under my eye, I’m really hoping for some results as I’ve read very good reviews about it.

    1. GemmaBurgess Post author

      Exactly. Blue skies, sunshine, very nice, and so on… But today it’s cloudy in NYC and I’m SO HAPPY

  6. jen

    Oh jesus, you dont know how much we hate summer in AZ. WE count the months until October. Cereve & squalene on my list. Ive ony used that free sample of squalene i keep getting in the nail.

    1. GemmaBurgess Post author

      Oh gosh I cannot imagine. And me too I am now a would-be squalene convert! – picking some up next time I’m in Rickys…

  7. Jen

    Gemma, have you ever tried Japanese sunscreens? Or what do you think of them in general? They sound magical but the worry wart in me’s like they’re not rated by the EWG.

    P.S. love your writing!


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