Amid the laundry loads, piles of post and 2,437 unread work emails, there is one good thing about coming back home after a summer holiday: smugly receiving those “you look well” comments from family, friends and co-workers.
Despite having a very fair, easily irritated complexion, being without my fanciest skincare products and surviving on a diet of bread and Magnum ice creams, when I’m away on a sunny holiday my skin honestly never looks better. And I’m not just talking about that glow from having a hint of a tan – my skin feels more hydrated, I get fewer breakouts, and even my dark circles look lessened.
If this sounds familiar, here’s what else could be contributing to that getaway glow – and how you can keep it up once your plane touches down.
First, a disclaimer: we all know how bad prolonged exposure to UV light is for our skin, responsible for pronounced pigmentation and accelerated signs of ageing (plus, of course, more serious skin concerns), and you’ll be hard pressed to find a reputable skin expert who doesn’t hammer home the importance of wearing a good SPF50 on your face everyday.
But, for very short periods of time and always while wearing a high factor sun cream, UV rays can have SOME skin benefits, explains aesthetic doctor Sophie Shotter. “Sunlight can boost vitamin D levels within the body and it can also be beneficial for some skin complaints such as acne, eczema and psoriasis,” she says. “It will also boost serotonin levels, making us feel – and look – happier.”
At home hacks: Factor in some time outdoors every day, even if the weather isn’t as good, Dr Shotter advises. Regular walks and spending time in nature will help to boost serotonin levels (but keep up the daily SPF!). During the months when sunshine is in short supply, consider taking vitamin D capsules – they’re one of the few supplements that almost every skincare professional I speak to recommends.
I admit it: I was one of those people complaining that it was too hot during last month’s heatwave (funny how there seems to be less to moan about when there’s a pool to jump into or a frozen daiquiri to hydrate with…). But, sweaty faces aside, warm temperatures can be good for your skin. “Heat causes your blood vessels to dilate, which means your skin gets a richer supply of oxygen and micronutrients – this stimulates fibroblast cells, helping skin to repair itself,” says Dr Shotter.
At home hacks: When you’re cleaning your face in the evening, soak a flannel in warm water and place it over your face for a minute or two. You can also buy face gadgets with thermal therapy functions.
Travel tribulations aside, hopefully the most stressful moment on holiday is which cocktail to order next. “Being less stressed is definitely good for your skin,” says Dr Shotter. “This will result in lower cortisol levels, which can help to control inflammatory conditions and also help your skin to regenerate more effectively.”
At home hacks: While suggesting to “just be less stressed” is about as useful as a factor 2 sun cream, it’s worth considering how little lifestyle changes could make a difference. Perhaps you could go to bed an hour earlier, schedule in more time for self-care, or promise to actually switch off your laptop at the end of the working day. Making little changes like these could all help to improve your skin as well as your mind.
Less makeup, more moisture
While I would never normally spend a week makeup-free and slapping on a layer of moisturiser every two hours, that’s exactly what my skin gets treated to on holiday, in the form of regular SPF top-ups. “Wearing less make-up will reduce the likelihood of pores becoming blocked, potentially resulting in breakouts,” says Dr Shotter.
It’s worth noting that while dry skin types may welcome the additional hydration that regular sun cream application brings, some may find that SPFs irritate, or block pores. If you have sensitive skin try a mineral formula, whereas if you’re prone to breakouts look for the word "non-comedogenic" on the label.
At home hacks: If you want to increase your hydration levels without disrupting a full face of makeup, spritz on a face mist regularly throughout the day instead.
Speaking of skincare, when I’m away I really pare back my products to a minimal and gentle routine – and my skin seems to love it. “A simpler, pared back skin routine is great for many people who overuse and complicate products,” agrees Dr Shotter – although stresses that some skin types may need extra layers of moisture or problem-solving active ingredients in their routine.
At home hacks: While I’m not ready to get rid of the retinol for good (as no amount of relaxation is going to shift these rapidly emerging fine lines), it has encouraged me to cut back on its usage and focus on hydration more in my routine.
Despite regularly dips in and out for chlorine and seawater, if you usually live in an area of hard, mineral-heavy water, washing in softer tap water on holiday can be a joy – hair is less knotty, skin feels less dry and irritated, and you may get fewer breakouts.
At home hacks: Attaching a compact water filter onto your shower may help to filter out some of the minerals and metals in your water supply.
For more on Dr Sophie Shotter click here, and to book into her Illuminate skin clinics click here.
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