Everything You Need to Know About Protecting Your Skin This Summer

elle fanning in a tanning bed
Photograph by Juergen Teller for W Magazine, 2020.
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For many, summertime can bring with it skincare woes: dry skin, sunburns, clogged pores, and even oilier skin and more breakouts (the latter is often thanks in part to sunscreen—a vital necessity this season, but one that can oversaturate the skin). So W magazine sought out some much-needed seasonal insight from the renowned aesthetician, Keren Bartov. After nearly two decdes in the industry, Bartov is more than a familiar face behind the scenes of red carpet glam teams from London to Los Angeles. She’s worked on the visages of Kate Moss, Emma Stone, Natalie Portman, and Jodie Comer. Bartov’s clients swear by her expertise—and notably, her arsenal of cutting-edge tools and treatments that keep these famous faces coming back.

Let’s talk about pigmentation. What do you personally put on your face before you head out on a hot summer day?

I am fanatical about SPF and apply it every day, whatever the weather. Even when I’m in my clinic in London and it’s gray and raining outside, I apply SPF. When the weather heats up, I reapply SPF every hour on the hour, no matter what. Second, hats are permanent fixtures on my head in the sun—and more importantly, I am never without sunglasses. I make sure my sunglasses have UV400 protection, which blocks out block UVA and UVB rays—not all sunglasses do.

After having three children, hormonal pigmentation is something I, like most women, suffer from and I have to constantly manage it. The best way to do that in hot weather is to keep the affected areas blocked from the sun. It’s not always easy when you’re running around after three active boys, but it’s a necessity.

Courtesy of Keren Bartov

Which products do you use to take it all off at the end of the day?

I have two go-to’s for evening. The first one is Sisley’s Exfoliating Enzyme Mask—you leave it on for one minute and rinse off. It does a superb job cleaning and clearing the skin. Second, I often use and recommend my micellar water, because it has panthenol, calendula, and hyaluronic acid, so your skin is clean once you use it and it feels soft and never stripped, especially when you need moisture at night.

While they help pigmentation immediately, there are so many creams out there with harsh ingredients that end up inflaming skin and making it worse when you stop using them. What gentle product do you prefer to treat pigmentation?

Effective management of pigmentation involves a combination of medical skin treatments and skincare products with targeted ingredients, along with making the right lifestyle choices such as avoiding sun exposure without SPF. Consistency and patience are crucial; slow and steady progress is the key to success. Ingredients like retinols are beneficial for managing pigmentation, but using high-strength formulations without expert guidance can truly exacerbate the condition and lead to additional inflammatory skin issues, potentially causing long-term damage. So go low. Other effective ingredients for managing pigmentation I find helpful include vitamin C, niacinamide, glycolic acid, and tranexamic acid. But I like to stress that I always advise consulting a skin expert to determine the right combination and strength of these ingredients tailored to your skin if you are able to.

What are some skincare ingredients that excite you?

I always get excited about science-backed ingredients that I can see working on my clients’ skin, helping them to achieve their skincare goals. These ingredients may include long-standing staples like peptides and ceramides, which remain in use because of their proven efficacy. What I do not get excited about are “trending” ingredients that gain temporary popularity on social media. Many clients I see in my clinics have suffered adverse effects from following these beauty buzzwords.

What is the biggest piece of BS you’ve heard about skincare?

Recently I learned about “hybrid tanning and red-light therapy”—indoor tanning beds that offer the “benefits” of UV tanning with red light therapy. It claims you can get a tan while improving your skin tone, texture, reducing inflammation, and stimulating collagen production at the same time. I can’t believe these things are legal—indoor tanning beds are dangerous and potentially life-threatening, as well as the fastest way to age your skin. I was beyond furious. I still am.

What do you think is the most important skin innovation in the last five years?

Ultrasound and cold plasma are just two medical skincare breakthroughs of which I’m in absolute awe. Some women want diamonds—I want the latest medical skincare device that’s proven to move the needle, hah!

What do you use in the morning and night and why?

In the morning and night, I cleanse with my Advanced Cleansing Mousse. It’s a gentle, advanced formula that feels incredible on the skin, hydrates, soothes, and moisturizes while protecting the barrier function of the skin. It also effectively removes makeup. I follow with my Booster Peel & Glow Serum, a gentle multi-acid with a range of AHA and BHA acids, enzymes, and ceramides. It’s like a daily dose of one of my facial treatments. Right now I’m also using Rhode’s Barrier Restore Cream, which I’m a huge fan of. I love the entire Rhode range because I’m a big fan of peptides—they’re a powerhouse ingredient. Then I follow with an SPF.

What skincare products do you take with you when traveling?

Rhode Peptide Lip Treatment, the one with no fragrance. I carry it in my pocket when I’m traveling, and in addition to using it on my lips, I also use it under my eyes during a flight to hydrate and soothe the skin. It works instantly. Cosmoss Golden Nectar is another does-it-all brilliant product. I use this on my face, my body, and as a hair treatment. I also put a few drops under my tongue as it’s a great anti-inflammatory. Plus, Chanel La Crème Main. I work all day with my hands, so taking care of them is an essential beauty step for me. This cream is silky, absorbs easily, and instantly nourishes my skin and makes my nails and cuticles look and feel better.

What’s your favorite product to soothe a sunburn?

I recommend Seven Minerals Organic Aloe Vera Gel to friends or clients with sunburn. Because it’s made of cold pressed, organic aloe vera, it absorbs into the skin without stickiness and instantly soothes, calms, and relieves the skin.

Your favorite sunscreen?

It’s my own sunscreen—and it’s not that I only want to use my products, it’s just that I haven’t found anything better. The Keren Bartov Triple Active Cream + SPF 50 is what I use and love. It’s a high-tech, indoor-and-outdoor skin protector with antioxidant powers and skin tone enhancers. I wanted an SPF that gives the fullest of coverage with maximum skincare benefits.

For a beach day, when it’s really hot, what is the best way someone can protect their skin?

Plain and simple, SPF full-spectrum sunscreen reapplied every hour, and/or directly after swimming or coming into contact with water. A big hat that gives your face and neck shade, UV sunglasses, and sitting in the shade when the sun is at its hottest. If you want a tan, apply one (a fake one)—don’t bake to get one.