Summer Beauty

shutterstock_205612294

The height of the holiday season is here – and with luck, we’ll all be making hay while the sun shines. (If you can make hay, that is, from a sun lounger.) Now, we don’t want to stray into grandmothers-sucking-eggs territory here: you’d have to have been living in a cave not to have grasped by now the importance of sunscreen, in summer. (A cave being probably the only place it’s not essential!) But there are plenty of other savvy summer sun secrets which can not only ensure you acquire a gorgeous, golden glow, but will keep your skin safe – and help maintain a radiant tan, long after the sun’s gone down on your holiday memories…

Choose make-up with an SPF. Bronzers, foundations, tinted moisturiser and even sheer lipglosses within the ‘summer colours’ offered by beauty brands are increasingly formulated to incorporate some level of sun protection. Think of them as a useful extra ‘insurance policy’: they’re not enough on their own to shield your precious face (not least because nobody should be slathering on a foundation from ear-to-ear!), but they provide a little extra layer of defence against sun damage. Which is so much easier to prevent than reverse…

Take to the shade. You’ll still tan – more gradually, but as someone who’s never sunbathed directly I can affirm: it is possible to acquire a sun-kissed glow without direct sun exposure. (The bonus: a shade-acquired tan lasts longer, too: direct sun exposure is incredibly drying to skin, which promptly goes ‘lizard-y’ when you’re back home.) Don’t think you can get away without using sun protection, though: an SPF15 is ideal. But the simple rule is: if you can see blue sky, UV can reach you, even if you’re under a tree or parasol. (It bounces off sand, water, pool tiles etc.) Clothes offer some level of sun protection, too: make sure they’re tight-weaved (or buy specific, SPF-rated clothing) – but remember: you need to stay buttoned up to get the benefit.

Eat your sun protection! Foods can’t replace sun products, but eating the right nutrients when the sun’s shining can, albeit in a fairly modest way, boost your skin’s ability to withstand damage – from within, in this case. The foods which are most ‘sun-protective’ are tomatoes (cooked, rather than raw, to release the protective lycopene), and carotenoids. The ‘SPF power’ of foods is related to certain antioxidant compounds, which are found in highest levels in watermelon, green tea, blue and purple berries, summer squash, coloured peppers and carrots. All delicious, summery foods that it’s easy to load up on without notching up very many calories, either…

Choose wide-armed sunglasses. The thin, fragile, expressive zone around the eyes is particularly vulnerable to sun damage. Many people have problems applying sun protection in the eye zone, however, because richer creams ‘travel’ easily into the eyes. (Fine lines can act like train tracks for sun products, leading to stinging, itching and redness.) There are precious few sun products targeted specifically at eyes, but gel-formulas tend to be most budge-proof. One of your smartest moves, however, is probably to select sunglasses that have the widest arms and biggest lenses, which will literally act like a physical barrier to prevent UV damage to the eye area. If it was good enough for Jackie O…

And slap on a hat. Your mother was right, darn it. Ideally, choose a wide-brimmed hat (at least four inches of brim, or wider) which will stop the sun striking your shoulders and décolletage. If you’re going somewhere windy, pack some hairpins to pin through the weave into your hair.

On which note: be extra-generous applying suncream to the chest. You know how noses tend to go red in the sun? The chest area is, like the top of the nose, angled in such a way to make it extra-vulnerable to sunlight. Obviously a lot depends whether you’re a Barbara Windsor or a Jane Birkin in the bust department, but it’s a simple fact that many people happily slather sunscreen on faces, yet stop at chin level. Make like a Frenchwoman: apply facial sunscreen to your chest, and double by layering body sunscreen over the top, for extra protection. The No. 1 reason for not applying cream to the décolletage, generally, is not wanting to get it on the neckline of your clothing; the solution is to apply before you get dressed. The second reason many people avoid applying SPF to the chest is irritation: it’s a prime area for ‘prickly heat’. In which case, scrutinise ingredients lists, and switch to a product that is based on zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, rather than chemical sunscreens; you may well find that simple step stops your holiday from being ruined by an infernally itchy, lumpy rash.

Don’t be too zealous with the facial scrub. We all love these because they slough away dead surface layers to reveal brighter, more radiant skin. But while exfoliation renders skin softer and clearer-looking, it also makes skin a little thinner – and therefore more vulnerable to UV light, when right now, we need every layer of protection we can muster. So during summer, go easy: don’t use a scrub more than once or twice a month, with the lightest circular movements. (If you use your ring finger, it’s easier not to go overboard with the scrubbing action.) NB The same is true of peels, and retinoid-based treatment creams.

If you’re on medication, check with your doctor before you hit that sun lounger. Certain antibiotics – in particular those used to treat acne and urinary infections, blood pressure, as well as some sulphur-based drugs, can make skin more sun-sensitive and put you at risk of a burn – even with very, very minimal exposure. If in doubt, ask your doctor or pharmacist to double-check the contraindications: better safe than red, raw, sun-damaged and confined to your hotel room.

And don’t rely on the SPF in a fake tan. Many fake tanners now boast an SPF on the label. But while there may be some sun-protective ingredients in the cream or gel you apply, that protection will only be active the very first time you go in the sun after you’ve used the self-tanner. (And even then, protection is likely to be minimal.) Your skin may have turned a gorgeous bronze, can’t-tell-from-real shade of (bottled) tan – but remember: your skin’s essentially as unprotected as if it was still pastry-white. As for sunbeds…? Don’t get us started on those, but it’s being increasingly widely recognised they do far more harm than good, before you go anywhere near a beach.

And at the end of the day, take the heat out of your skin. I have a theory. It’s unsubstantiated. But you know the way that when you have a real burn (say from an oven shelf), the key is to cool it under running cold water, and the burn may never actually materialise…? Well, I cool off regularly in the pool or sea to keep my skin temperature down, for the same reason. Certainly, if you do accidentally get sunburned, do everything you can to get the heat out of your skin as soon as possible: a cool bath, yoghurt, aloe vera gel, cold flannels. Specifically cooling after-suns are a boon (and it’s a wonderful soothing feeling to chill these in the mini-bar and apply, after sun exposure).

And whatever you do, have a gorgeous, golden, healthy August…

Beauty Tips | , , , , , , , ,