Does sitting in the sun improve your skin complexion? Will a base tan protect you from burning? Do you still need to moisturize during summer? And will your clothes fend off sun damage?
When it comes to summer beauty and skin care, we all know the drill: use sunscreen, drink plenty of water, avoid prolonged sun exposure.
But there are also a ton of misconceptions out there which, taken to heart, can do you more harm than good. That’s why, in between weekend trips to the beach, nights out with friends, and last-minute schedule adjustments, you should also make sure you’re doing all the right things to protect your skin, maintain a healthy glow, and stay safe when it comes to outdoor activities.
For that, I sought the opinion of medical doctors, dermatologists and nutritionists, and compiled their advice into an expert-backed summer beauty guide.
Your Summer Beauty Guide: Best Hair, Eyes, and Skin Care Tips, According to Experts
Hair Care During Summer
You’re already aware that prolonged sun exposure will harm your skin, but did you know the same goes for your hair?
The sun’s UVA and UVB rays act pretty much like bleach on hair, damaging the cuticle (the outside cover of the hair strand) and causing discoloration, dry strands, split ends, frizziness, and premature aging.
The damage is even greater if you regularly expose your locks to heat styling, chlorine, or saltwater. These are known to attack the hair’s fibre, allowing sun and heat to penetrate it more easily and wreak irreversible havoc on your ‘do.
Particularly susceptible to damage are fine, light-colored, and African American hair types, as they lack the pigment and the thickness which can protect them from the sun’s rays.
The good news is you can keep your hair out of the harm’s way by taking these simple but effective measures:
1. Apply common sense wisdom. Even this study revealed that the best time of day to get a healthy dose of Vitamin D is actually at noon, the recommended exposure time is less than 10 minutes. Which means the general rule remains valid: avoid prolonged sun exposure during peak hours (11 a.m. – 4 p.m.)
2. Keep your hair covered. When you go out, wear a hat made from a tightly woven UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) fabric with a wide, three inch brim;
3. Prepare it for the plunge. Before swimming, prep your hair by wetting it with tap water or with a homemade conditioning spritz so it won’t absorb too much chlorine or saltwater; I use a mix of organic rose water with a few drops of argan oil.
4. Give your locks some after-care. After swimming, wash your hair with a clarifying shampoo to get rid of chlorine or salt, and to prevent buildup. Follow-up with a rich conditioner or a deeply moisturizing oil such as argan or coconut.
5. Protect your hair from heat styling. Wet or dry, coat it with an organic leave-in conditioner that provides heat protection.
Best summer hair care tips
- Once a week, treat it with an overnight hair mask made from organic coconut oil and organic castor oil.
- Use organic hair products formulated to provide UV protection.
- Wear a sun protective hat such as this one.
Eye Care During Summer
Although this season provides your eyes with plenty of delightful things to enjoy, it also makes them prone to a host of issues ranging from dryness and redness to sun damage and infections.
To protect the delicate eye tissue from harm and to maintain your flawless vision for years to come, you should:
1. Wear sunglasses with complete ultraviolet protection. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the best way to protect your eyes from sun damage is to consistently wear sunglasses that provide 100 percent UVA and UVB protection. If you’re thinking about price, here’s some good news: there are many affordable brands which carry this kind of sunglasses, so you have a wide variety of options to choose from. Don’t forget to wear them even on cloudy days.
2. Wear goggles when swimming. A 2008 study revealed that frequent exposure to chlorine damages the corneal epithelium, the layer which protects the cornea from irritants and pathogens. So every time you go for a dip in the pool, wear goggles. The same applies to swimming in the ocean, lakes, or rivers, since they are breeding grounds for many infection-causing microorganisms.
3. Wear a hat. Sunglasses don’t always offer full protection to eyes and eyelids, especially those models with gaps on the sides. Wearing a hat will complement them nicely, plus, hats are great for protecting the hair and the face, too!
4. Moisturize the area around your eyes. Eye creams aren’t exactly magic but they do a pretty good job of keeping dryness and fine lines at bay. For maximum benefits, use a fragrance-free cream that contains hyaluronic acid, peptides, vitamins C, E and K. If you prefer natural moisturizers, red raspberry seed oil and carrot seed oil are known to have powerful anti-aging properties and a natural SPF between 28 and 40 (depending on the oils’ quality).
5. Apply sunscreen on your eyelids. Whether you’re afraid of getting sunscreen in your eyes or it simply doesn’t cross your mind to apply it on your eyelids, you should. In the past few years, there’s been an increase in the number of cancers detected on this area and the best way to prevent it – as you might not always wear a hat or sunglasses – is by wearing sunscreen instead. You could also try a sunscreen stick, as they are more waxy, therefore less likely to drip into your eyes.
6. Drink plenty of water to keep them lubricated. Dehydration makes it harder for the body to produce tears, leading to dry eye symptoms and other vision problems. Drinking an adequate quantity of water every day will prevent and reverse many of the negative effects of dehydration, as well as providing fluid for normal eye function.
7. Use eye drops to get rid of dryness. Sometimes, things such as allergens, irritants and air conditioning will cause your eyes to feel tired or excessively dry. Using eyedrops will alleviate your symptoms, however, you should always consult a qualified ophthalmologist first, especially if the problem persists.
8. Eat foods that support healthy eyes. We often take our spotless eyesight for granted, which explains why we fail so bad at preventing eye disease and vision deterioration. If you want to start now, and you should, the best precaution you can take is to follow a healthy diet, rich in foods that promote eye health. Some of the best ones are: dark leafy greens (kale and spinach), carrots and orange bell peppers, organic eggs and wild salmon, blackcurrants and blueberries.
9. Avoid reading on your gadgets at the beach. The researchers from University of Mexico ran an interesting experiment last year and they found that the glare reflected by an iPad could increase UV exposure by 85 percent, while an iPhone can increase it by 36 percent. Unless devices are designed to be less reflective, or to have built-in UV sensors so people could track their exposure, the safest solution for beach or poolside readers is to do it the old fashioned way with, you know, books.
10. Avoid rubbing your eyes. I know, rubbing your eyes feels pretty damn good, especially when you’re tired, sleepy, or suffering from eye strain. But, if you do it too hard or too often, you can give yourself dark circles, puffy eyes, conjunctivitis, or corneal abrasion. So, even if it feels good, it’s probably best to refrain from it altogether.
Skin Care During Summer
Your skin is amazing. With an understated complexity, it’s the ultimate multitasker, simultaneously protecting your body, adjusting your temperature, and translating sensations, all while looking after itself.
But your skin is not just an organ; it’s also the uppermost layer of the ensemble you call self-image and a canvas for self-expression. Which is precisely why, even if we’re biologically conditioned to age, we’d do just about anything to ward of the signs. And while we’re not yet able to completely stop the ageing process, there are things we can do to slow it down.
When it comes to skin care, here’s what matters most: sun protection, water intake, and diet.
A 2013 study conducted on 298 women revealed that the sun’s UV rays are responsible for 80 percent of skin ageing, including wrinkles, pigmentation, reduced skin elasticity, and the degradation of its texture. The remaining 20 percent were split between factors such as gravity, the natural ageing process, pollution, diet, tobacco, illness, and stress.
This being said, if you want your skin to remain young, radiant, and healthy for as long as possible, here’s what you need to do:
1. Drink plenty of water. Did you know your skin is 64 percent water? This vital liquid is essential to maintaining a healthy skin, as it delivers nutrients to the skin cells, it replenishes the skin tissue and increases its elasticity. Drinking enough water alleviates disorders such as psoriasis, eczema, and rosacea, and helps the body flush out toxins and metabolic waste. But just how much water do you need for a smooth and glowing complexion? Dr. Frank Lipman, a New York-based physician, recommends to “calculate half your body weight in pounds and drink that amount of water, in ounces. For example, a person weighing 120 lbs should aim for 60 ounces of water each day.”
2. Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen. The sun’s UV rays are incredibly powerful even when it’s cloudy, all the more reason to wear protection everyday. When shopping for sunscreen, my advice is to choose a broad-spectrum one (protects against both UVA and UVB), with an SPF of at least 30. Don’t fall for super-high SPF numbers because incremental sun protection diminishes as SPF increases, especially at higher levels. For example, sunscreens with SPF from 50 to 100 effectively block just 1-2% more UV rays than an SPF 30 product.
How to apply sunscreen correctly: use a tablespoon of product for your face and about two ounces for your body. Dot it on your skin instead of squeezing a giant blob all at once and keep in mind that the thinner the layer, the less protection it provides. Apply it with at least 20 minutes before heading out and reapply every 90 minutes throughout the day (always after swimming!).
3. Moisturize. A lot of women believe they don’t need to use a moisturizer during summer, since their skin feels plumper and hydrated enough. But that’s because, triggered by heat and humidity, the skin’s sebaceous glands start producing more oil than they usually do. A light moisturizer that contains humectants will act as a barrier between the skin and the surrounding environment, preventing moisture loss and dehydration.
4. Exfoliate at least once a week. As dead skin cells pile-up on the surface of your skin, your complexion becomes dull, dry, and rough. By exfoliating, you are removing these dead cells, allowing your more radiant, healthier summer skin to shine through. Exfoliation also opens the way for moisturizing products to be absorbed deeper into the skin, boosting their efficiency and their anti-ageing effects.
When is the best time to exfoliate? Well, if you wear makeup on a daily basis, then you should exfoliate in the evening, during your cleansing routine. On the other hand, if you have oily skin or your complexion looks dull when you wake up, it’s best to do it in the morning. However, never exfoliate before going to the beach, as it will leave your skin vulnerable and prone to burning. As for the type of exfoliant you should use, dermatologists advise against large, jagged particles that can cause micro-tears in the skin and recommend choosing a gentle one instead. I, for one, exfoliate with organic coffee grounds or green clay – they’re all natural, gentler on the skin, and better for the environment.
5. Refresh with natural face and body mists. Mists are those kinds of products that you never knew you needed until you tried them. They have so many uses, it’s incredible: they hydrate the skin and prime it for make-up, they increase the absorption of moisturizers and masks and, best of all, they refresh your face and body on the go, which makes them especially useful at the beach. I use organic rose water as a toner and to dilute my face and hair oils before application (it helps them sink in faster, without leaving a greasy residue).
6. Eat foods that promote healthy skin. Believe it or not, it’s true: you are what you eat. A diet rich in sugar, processed foods, and unhealthy fats will translate into dull skin, enlarged pores, excessive oiliness or dryness, breakouts, and dark circles under the eyes. On the other hand, a daily menu that includes high-quality lean proteins, fiber, healthy oils, fruits, vegetables, and spices will nurture a healthy, glowing skin. So, what’s a girl to eat for a fresh and dewy look? Blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, and tomatoes are best at fighting aging and sun damage; broccoli and bell peppers will boost your vitamin C intake and your skin’s collagen production; avocado, chia seeds, and quinoa support healthy skin cell function and regeneration; spinach, artichokes, and miso soup help clear up acne, while turmeric improves the overall skin complexion.
7. Get enough sleep. I know, I know, summer is for late-night parties and get-togethers with friends, and skipping a night or two isn’t really that bad (try telling that to my 33 year old self!). But repeated sleep deprivation can lead to dull skin, fine lines, dark under-eye circles, break-outs and rashes. Lack of sleep also triggers an increased secretion of cortisol, aka the stress hormone, which slows down the production of collagen in the skin, among other nasty side-effects. The remedy? A good night’s rest, of course!
8. Wear protective clothing. Generally speaking, clothes can offer a fair amount of protection against UV rays, but not all clothing is created equal. Their efficiency pretty much varies, depending on their fibres, weave, weight, color, and coverage. As a rule, light-colored, lightweight and loosely-woven fabrics are not that good at blocking UV radiation, while darker, tightly-woven fabric provide the best protection there is. Also, synthetics such as polyesters do a much better job than, let’s say, cotton. Learning about this pretty much blew my mind since I was convinced it’s the other way around!
9. Avoid tanning beds. Tanning beds are, literally, the worst thing that can happen to your skin and there’s absolutely nothing which justifies using them! Aside from drying up your skin, they’re linked to melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. And if you’re under 35 and you’re thinking of using them, don’t: they’ll increase your risk of developing melanoma by 75%! There are much safer ways to give yourself a summery skin color, such as self-tanning lotions, sprays, and towels.
10. Avoid midday sun…but only after you’ve taken your daily dose of vitamin D. Despite our growing fear of it, the sun is not out to kill us. While too much of it is no doubt harmful, sun exposure in the right amount at the right time is actually one of our greatest allies in protecting our health. So when it’s the right time, I hear you ask? Not when you think, that’s for sure. According to this study, the best time to be out in the sun and stock up on Vitamin D is at midday, when UVB rays (which are required to synthesize vitamin D) are at their strongest. Now, before you shake your head in disbelief, the experts recommend no more than 10 minutes of exposure, which will be enough to give your body the good stuff, without any of the bad stuff. Well, sort of.