Summer means a lot of things: weekend trips to the beach to lounge in the sun and play in the waves, then staying up late on warm nights with good friends and a bottle of wine. Unfortunately, these summer highlights are capable of taking their toll on our skin. This doesn’t mean that the best parts of summer have to disappear, just that the savvy beach bum should take steps to neutralize their effects.
Here Comes The Sun
The health and beauty dangers of too much sun exposure are well known, and it’s safe to say that anyone looking to get a serious natural tan is already aware of the risks they’re taking. On the other hand, a bit of sunburn sometimes seems like the price we pay for a day out in the summer; no matter how much sunblock gets slathered on, stocking up on aloe vera is rarely a bad idea. Yet the Skin Cancer Foundation reports that the risk of melanoma doubles if a person has had five or more sunburns during their lifetime—hardly a small annoyance. Hats, cover-ups, and regularly reapplied sunscreen are all must-haves for a day in the sun, in order to stay healthy and look great. If you really want to get your vitamin D and enjoy some sun on your body, go out before breakfast; sunbathing before eight in the morning carries much less risk. But no matter how little time you spend in the sun, remember to lather up. While at the beach try La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Melt-in Sunscreen (ARV $29.99) or Neutrogena Wet Skn Sunscreen Spray Broad Spectrum SPF 50.
Once the sunscreen’s applied, it’s time to hit the waves. Swimming might just be the holy grail of exercise—fun and effective—but both oceans and pools can leave your skin and hair feeling miserable. Salt’s drying properties are so strong that salted meat can keep for nearly a year—the opposite of what we want for our skin and hair! In this case, pre-swim tactics are less effective than those used after the beach, since few people want to oil themselves up before taking a dip. Feel free to enjoy the natural volumizing effects of saltwater for the rest of the day, but once you’re home make sure to take a shower and treat your hair to a bit of pampering. Look for products (either intensive treatments or leave-in conditioners) with jojoba oil, which mimics our natural sebum and can be immediately put to work in repairing damage. Phyto Phyojoba Intense Hydrating Mask ($35) will tackle the effects of salt water and help reconstruct hair’s natural protective film
Pure jojoba oil can even be used on the skin as quick, no-nonsense moisturizer. Or try Origins Ginger Gloss Smoothing Body Oil (ARV $21), formulated with jojoba.
On the other hand, if you have a skin condition like psoriasis or eczema, try to shower as soon as you Venus your way out of the waves; immersion in salt water can be healing and help with itching, but leaving salt on your skin for too long can reverse the effects.
Chlorinated water has no positive benefits for anyone’s health or beauty, but swimming pools are the only option for many people. Consider using a swim-cap, particularly if you have blonde hair—watch Esther Williams musicals for some style inspiration—and pay attention to your post-swim routine. Since chlorine is so drying, using your usual soap afterwards might not cut it. Look for an extra-strength moisturizing wash, or use conditioner in place of shower gel.
With all the conflicting information about just how much alcohol is healthy, it can be difficult to get a handle on how much is too much. However, it’s clear that there still is such a thing as “too much,” particularly when it comes to your skin, and that you might be doing damage long before you feel the buzz.
For one, alcohol causes capillaries near the surface of your skin to dilate—this is why drinking makes you feel warm and flushed, and with moderate intake the capillaries should go back to normal by the next day. Yet prolonged drinking can cause them to burst, leading to permanent, spider-webbed red marks. (This effect is also one of the reasons why alcohol can cause rosacea to flare up.) Secondly, alcohol is dehydrating; this might be obvious to anyone who’s ever battled a hangover with glasses of water, but it’s an important point when it comes to skincare. Many of the effects of alcohol—dull skin, premature aging, and breakouts—are caused by this factor. Luckily, both these problems can be solved by two simple steps: don’t drink to excess, and stay hydrated. Zero-alcohol beverages have gotten a bad rap, but studies show that they can still be fun. Over a million people binge-drink in Indiana each month, but the Indiana Alcohol Research Center has released a paper indicating that the taste of beer alone can be intoxicating. This means that switching to non-alcoholic drinks after a few of the real ones can keep the party going without binge-drinking. If you do stick with alcohol, remember to slowly drink a glass of water for every portion of alcohol you consume.
Summer is a time of fun and freedom, and taking care of your health and beauty doesn’t have to be a buzzkill. By spending a little time on the basics, you’ll end the summer as radiant as you began it.