Spending summer submerged in an azure blue pool is all well and good until you look at your skin and hair when the holidays are over and reality bites. An incomprehensible number of hours spent dreaming of those warm breezes and sandy beaches mean that when they’re in front of us, we overindulge. But the sun, salty sea, chlorine and, of course, excess of cocktails can mean both our faces and our hair take a bashing. This is the Vogue guide to getting them back on track.
What actually happens to our skin on holiday?
“Sunbeams have a mixture of UV rays and some of these rays penetrate very deeply, while others penetrate superficially,” says skin specialist Debbie Thomas. “UVA penetrates deeply and permanently damages the DNA of cells, making them weaker, while UVB are the ones that cause the upper layers of skin to burn.”
The thing you really want to avoid is DNA damage because once one cell is damaged, it leaves a legacy to future cells and they will carry some of the same damage: “This is why we age. Sun damage becomes more and more visible, not just through pigmentation but also because the skin becomes more compromised and therefore prone to redness and visible wrinkles,” says Thomas. UVB also has its role to play; when we burn we damage the superficial layers of skin, which causes skin to feel inflamed, and contributes to uneven skin tone and the risk of skin cancer. The darker the skin, the more UV protection you will naturally have in-built, but all skin types should wear a high SPF while exposed to the sun because no one is fully protected.
It’s not just the UV rays that have their wicked way, though. It’s the heat, too, that triggers an inflammatory response within the skin. “It breaks down collagen and weakens the skin’s barrier function, which quite often results in skin becoming red, blotchy and irritated,” says Thomas. Try putting Caudalie’s Limited Edition Beauty Elixir in the fridge and spritz throughout the day to keep skin as cool as possible.
We also spend an inordinate amount of time swimming to cool off. Salt water is great for skin because it’s packed with amino acids and minerals like magnesium, but its cousin chlorine is a top culprit for irritating and drying skin out: “Those prone to acne and rosacea may find a short relief from breakouts while away, but after the holiday will be more prone to breaking out,” says Thomas, who puts it down to a combination of SPF, sweat, and the inflammation caused by heat. The skin also thickens slightly to protect itself, which can also cause breakouts when it no longer has the extreme sun to protect itself from.
How to look after skin after the sun
Post-sun skin will invariably feel a little hot and tight but, even if it isn’t and doesn’t appear red, your first port of call is to calm inflammation – you can’t always see it. “To neutralise some of the damage, you should use a good, high strength antioxidant,” recommends Thomas. Try Kate Somerville’s Restor8 Replenishing Serum or Sisley’s SisleYouth Anti-Pollution Moisturiser and apply them as much as possible. Skin-damaging free radicals continue to cause damage long after you’ve seen the sun, so ensure to apply at night when the skin’s repair mode kicks in.
The upper layers of skin will be parched, too, and for these you should look to reinstate your barrier function with products that contain lipids, like ceramides – Ren’s Flash Hydro-Boost Instant Plumping Emulsion is good for this – and a good quality hydrator, like Tata Harper’s Hyaluronic Gel Moisturizer, which is filled with antioxidants and lightweight enough for times when it’s too hot to wear too much on skin.
Suzanne Santos, Chief Customer Officer at Aesop, whose products were practically made for travelling, also recommends applying a clay-based, deep-cleansing masque to remove the build-up of sunscreen and oil – the Aesop Primrose Facial Cleansing Masque is excellent for this. Be careful to avoid any harsh ingredients, like retinol or AHAs, as these will dry out – and distress – skin further.
What happens to hair on holiday?
Despite waking up daily to the best, natural beachy hair you’ve ever experienced, that holiday blessing can come at a price if it’s a product of the pool. “Chlorinated pools are the worst,” says hair guru Larry King, “When you submerge hair in chlorinated water, the hair shaft absorbs the chemical, which then strips the hair of its natural oils, leaving it dry and stripped of oils.”
King describes chlorine as a colourist’s nemesis such is its ability to tinge the tone of hair’s colour; blonde hair can go a green tinge while darker hair can become dull and lifeless. “People forget that chlorine is actually a bleaching agent,” King says, who recommends the sea over a pool any day of the week.
Then there’s UV rays from the sun, which can affect hair as much as skin: “UV exposure can break down hair proteins which creates free radicals,” says King, “They cause hair to appear dull and leave it dry and brittle.” As important for hair as it is for skin, King recommends a good hair SPF like Redken’s One United, which also detangles and de-frizzles, to defend against damage.
How to look after hair post-sun
It’s important to think about your hair’s individual needs before you go away; those with blonde hair should pack a silver shampoo, conditioner and even mask to help neutralise any brassiness that occurs. Try Sachajuan’s Silver Shampoo and Conditioner and finish with Christophe Robin’s Shade Variation Mask in Baby Blonde – it contains violet pigments to offset brassy undertones.
King also recommends physically covering hair with a hat or headscarf to protect both hair and scalp from the sun. But if that’s a sun worshipper’s no-go: “Try massaging a thick hair mask [like Oribe’s Gold Lust Transformative Masque] into wet hair in the morning and leave it on all day, rinsing off after you leave the beach,” advises King. The heat from the sun will warm the mask and it will penetrate deeper into the hair, leaving it looking healthy and shiny for sundowners. Happy hair for a happy holiday.
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