Summer gives us a much-needed wellness boost. Who doesn't feel a surge of well-being and health on holiday? But, the season also takes its toll on our skin. Long and often hot days, being on our feet more, journeys, a lack of hydration, stress and more are all part of the summer season.
As skincare is more than skin deep, we address our health within too. We've rounded up our top 12 all-natural skincare tips for getting a summer glow; one that lasts when holidays are long gone.
Natural Sunscreens - read the labels
If we're being sun sensible and slathering on sunscreen, we need to do quite some homework before we buy sun protection. The one area of natural skincare that has languished behind in development is sunscreen. Until relatively recently, it has proved near impossible to find effective sunscreens in cream or lotion form that don't contain parabens, phthalates, PEGs (polyethylene glycols), Propylene Glycol and SLS/SLES or contain myriad other chemicals that are less desireable to find in skincare.
Sunscreen ingredients are a contentious area of the beauty and personal care industry. Basically, apart from the ingredients listed above, we recommend avoiding ones that include a synthetic chemical oxybenzone. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) considers it a potential endocrine disruptor though not all agree.
There's a good round up here of the debate and the safety of sunscreens as well as information on what that all important SPF (sun protection factor) means on the labeling too.
There is consensus, that safer sunscreens are those that use mineral elements. The two most widely used minerals in all natural skin care aimed at sun protection by deflecting its rays are Zinc oxide and Titanium dioxide or both together. Zinc oxide is considered the better of the two. Whichever of these key protective elements are in your sunscreen, or mineral make-up with an SPF, then ensure it's non-nano; meaning that the mineral element has particles too large to penetrate the skin cells below the epidermis (dead skin upper layer).
As ever, go over the small print with a hawk eye as natural sunscreen with proven, effective SPF factors are hard to find - if not impossible. It is one area of skincare we recommend using bona fide brands for and please do not be tempted to make your own DIY sunscreen. Remember, those reflective mineral particles do not make for high-protection SPF sunscreens. They deflect but do not protect. Read reviews online on a potential sunscreen brand before you buy.
You might have expected us to mention coconut oil in the section on natural sunscreens. We'd hesitate to do that as while coconut oil does have naturally occurring SPF, it's in the region of 2-8 and can be considered 'lite' protection. It's only effective against UVB (burn factor) and not UVA (ageing factor) rays. And, as natural oils vary from harvest to harvest and tree to tree almost, it's impossible to give coconut - or any other natural seed or fruit oil - a set SPF in any case.
However, coconut oil can have its uses for beach-weathered hair. A small amount teased into damp hair will help hold the hair's moisture in, and create an occlusive layer on the hair shafts. The oil is solid below 76 degrees F (24 C) but if you're in hot climates, it will be runny. If it is, you can also try mixing it with other oils like olive, hemp or avocado all of which are nourishing.
Coconut has a lovely exotic scent for summer holidays by the sea (that's why it is included for its perfume not just mild SPF in sunscreens). It's wise to protect your hair with an oil like coconut before heading to the beach. Don't go overboard on the amount you use as too much coconut oil can be damaging to certain hair types like dry and brittle hair. A small amount is just fine!
If you don't like coconut oil, then try argan oil or those mentioned above. Wash any oils out at the end of the day as together with sea or chlorinated pool water they will clog the hair shafts and could potentially give them too much protein. When not washing out the oils, try to wash your hair in cool to cold water in summer as this will stop the hair shaft opening up and keep your natural oil protection in place for longer.
Salt and sugar scrubs made of natural crystals mixed with a carrier oil (try sunflower, sweet almond, jojoba, grapeseed or coconut) are ideal to remove the clogging layer of sunscreens and sweat that build up over a summer day. Yes, oil removes oil! We've a DIY salt scrub recipe here.
Gently does it though as don't forget, tanned skin is really dead skin and even more flaky than your regular epidermis (stratum corneum layer). While you need to exfoliate off the dirt and grease to unclog pores and get a smooth, silky skin feeling, you don't want to remove the epidermis' shield to expose too much new skin.
Salt scrubs can actually work in two ways: exofoliating; and also moisturizing as natural salt attracts and holds water on your skin. With either salt or sugar, avoid the face and decollete'. With salt, your body will also gain the benefits of those sea minerals held within it. If you're on holiday by the sea, check if there's a local, naturally harvested salt you can use. It'll save you suitcase space to buy local!
Hydrate and Cool your Skin
Pounding hot city streets or basking on beaches, your skin will be working hard perspiring, expelling toxins and helping cool your system. But also dehydrating your body in the process. It goes without saying that you need to keep hydrated with pure water. Don't down 3 litres in one go though as there are dangers associated with excess water drinking and overhydration. But conversely, don't wait til you feel thirsty before you drink.
If you're passing water that's a light, barely yellow colour, then you're doing well keeping the right level of hydration. If it's deep yellow or brownish, and beginning to be a bit whiffy, then you are dehydrated. OK, we got down to basics here with that description but it is a good quick test when you're out and about!
Apart from inner hydration, can carry a small spray nozzle bottle with you containing hydrosols; also called floral waters. Refill each day fresh and use on your body only, spraying underarms and shoulders. Try 100ml geranium and 100ml neroli hydrosols with 10 drops of sweet orange essential oil and 10 drops of tangerine essential oil. This makes a citrus and lightly floral scented water that is heaven on hots days.
If you can, take cold showers during periods of extreme heat as this closes the pores and can reduce dehydration as well as help by stimulating your tired body. A word about hydrosols and floral waters: hydrosols true are a by-product of the steam distillation extraction of essential oils from flowers, leaves, twigs, seeds and herbs. Floral waters may be another name for hydrosols but you need to check the labels carefully. Some floral waters are made by simply adding a few drops of essential oil to distilled water. The former is what you need and check too if it's made from organic botanical material.
Body Oils for Moisturizing
Why natural seed oils and not lighter body lotions? Well, oils actually absorb quicker on your skin than many body lotions which are water based. Oils can leave your skin silky smooth quicker and while at first they may seem greasy, they are have immense emollient powers that make them ideal for protecting and nurturing your skin after a day on the beach
Body lotions' main ingredient will likely be water. So why carry half a bottle of water with you on holiday when you could carry a full bottle of a beneficial seed oils? If you're worried about the immediate greasy effect, then use your chosen oil at night, applying after a shower.
We suggest lighter oils for summer such as grapeseed, sweet almond oil or sunflower. Make sure you find organic and pure natural carrier oils; don't be tempted to use your sunflower oil from the kitchen cupboard. All these oils are high in vitamin E, which is particularly useful as an anti-ageing ingredient. Given the sun you'll be getting, that's a real bonus.
We've a full post on the benefits of sweet almond oil in skincare. It also helps sooth chapped or broken skin thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties; another point in its favour given summer's ravaging of skin. Jojoba, which is actually a liquid wax not an oil, has a make-up similar to the skin's own sebum and is easily absorbed and is light. It too is a good choice and it also has a fairly neutral scent.
When it comes to face moisturizers, try serums that are oil-based. Opt for those containing powerful antioxidant active botanicals that can help counteract the development of free radicals encouraged by exposure to the sun.
Eat a Rainbow of Antioxidants
This is one all-natural skin care regimen that's easy to get in the habit of when on holiday. In hot climates, like Olentium's Mediterranean home or in exotic tropics, you'll be tempted by the array of gem-like fruits and vegetables on offer.
In the heat, you rarely feel like heavier foods anyway. Nearly all fresh fruits and vegetables are great sources of antioxidants but try to eat more peppers, tomatoes, raspberries, blueberries and melons of all kinds. Watermelons are ace thirst quenchers too and don't spit the pips as they have incredibly valuable minerals within. Cantaloup melons can boost your skin's natural SFP factor too.
A diet rich in Vitamin C and E is an ideal SPF meal too. There is some evidence linking our intake of these Vitamins to limiting our skin's susceptibility to sunburn. Of course, don't rely on them, but do add them to your diet and keep the habit of eating more fruit and vegetables in winter too.
From the most enormous wide-brimmed straw hats (rollable and foldable these days for ease of scrunching in a suitcase) to decent eye protection, shading yourself is vital. The larger the brim, the better. Don't rely on a baseball hat which give no protection to your neck, decollete' or shoulders.
A wide hat is so chic and retro and redolent of Riviera Mediterranean living in the 50s and 60s! Go large on your eyewear too. Huge sunnies don't look out of place in summer and cover the sensitive skin around your eye too. Ciao Bella! is what we say to this tip!
Stop the Shine
If you do want to add a bit of colour, matt down the shine and glam up a bit, then you'll need some summer make-up. In fact, if you've been wearing that wide-brimmed hat and covering up with a loose-fitting kaftan top in cotton or linen, chances are you might be a bit pale, though skin safer for it.
Luckily today, there are some good mineral make-ups on the market that conceal the shine and keep you matt. Some also have SPF built in. We particularly like Bareminerals SPF 25 Mineral Powder. It does contain Titanium Dioxide (see Sunscreens up top for more on that) but it is recommended by the US Skin Cancer Foundation.
As we keep on saying, do your homework on mineral make-ups to ensure that brands hyping up the mineral content aren't also sneaking in some of the regular list of chemicals that all natural skin care adherents among us don't want!
Hands tend to get thought of more in winter than summer but they are uber exposed to sun and age quickly. Think liver spots. So don't neglect sunscreen on your hands - and feet for that matter too. If you do have pigmentation on your hands, try cutting some fresh strawberries in half and placing them on the pigmentation areas for around 10 minutes at a time.
Fresh strawberries and strawberry seed oil are rich in ellagic acid which is a natural lightener.
Despite all precautions, the sun can sneak up and burn you SPF precautions or not! If you're on holiday in Greece, then the locals' favourite is what you need - Greek yoghurt. The lactic acid in plain yogurts has immediate skin soothing and calming effects. Smear some plain yoghurt on the sore or sunburned areas and leave on for 30 minutes before showering off in cool water. Another age-old remedy is to use Aloe Vera gel. Here at Olentium, we often just break off an Aloe leaf and apply.
Choose a commercial gel brand that doesn't include a high percentage of other agents in it. Clearly, there will be some other additives to preserve and aid its application, but check the label closely and the usage instructions too. Applying aloe vera up to three times a day will speed up the sunburn healing dramatically.
Go Steady on Alcohol
It's holiday time so who isn't going to have that sundowner apero or chilled Chablis? Just don't overdo it on the alcohol as it's dehydrating at the very least! And you might find that extra glass or two downed on holiday slips in to your routine back home.
There is no safe level of alcohol and don't think sticking to red wine with its anti-oxidant phenol properties is doing you good. Apparently, there is no real hard evidence of the French Paradox of red wine drinking lowering coronary heart disease and bowel cancer. Read more on the research behind red wine and resveratol here.
Have fun in summer and stay skin safe! Here's to your new all natural skincare routine that will last once the holiday memories fade.