POSTED ON MAY 28, 2008:
The Sun is a Stripper
Beat the heat with these tips for a healthy, summer glow
So Not Sexy. It's important to know how to take care of yourself during the summer, so that you, can enjoy the activities without fear of turning into a tomato-red, skin-peeling, straw-haired freak. Summer should be sexy, right?
Nearly two years ago, I had a month long jaunt across six European countries. My best friend and I spent 28 straight days, hauling ass to look at every ancient item and anything full of culture. We had only two fights the whole time, a triumph considering we spent every waking hour with one another. One of the arguments occurred near the end of our trip, on the Greek island of Corfu. We stopped in a gorgeous section of the sea so that everyone could dive in and enjoy the cool water. Everyone dashed off the side of the boat and I followed, suit with trepidation, submerging myself in the sea. I rose to the surface and swam to my friend. She was amazed at the beauty and the experience, and I know this because she said, "Isn't this amazing?" And I responded, "Yeah, it's all right. But I'm really worried about my hair. Salt water and sun are really bad for my hair because it strips the color."
According to my friend, I apparently can't have any fun. If I were going to enjoy the beautiful water and sun that summer provides, Greece would probably have been the place to do so. But I can't enjoy pools or oceans (I don't even consider lakes/rivers an option) because chlorine and salt water strip hair color. I love my unnatural hair color. I've invested mucho dinero during the years to make it this shade and I intend on keeping it this way.
And then of course, there is the sun. Good grief. Take a look at the picture of me above. For me, sun equals burn equals pain. And that's why it's important to know how to take care of yourself during the summer--so that you, unlike myself--can enjoy the activities without fear of turning into a tomato-red, skin-peeling, straw-haired freak. Summer should be sexy, right?
Don't Sweat It
Men and women. Any age, any ethnicity, anyone. Summer skin care is overwhelmingly important to everyone. Let's say we're talking about your face. Summer weather is much hotter and that inevitably leads to sweat. Sweat clogs your pores and suddenly your face resembles a constellation chart. Rather than becoming the next Cassiopeia, keep a continuous skin care regimen. Wash your face in the morning and don't neglect nighttime cleansing, which washes all of the grime collected after a sweaty day. During the day, follow up your skin cleaning with a facial moisturizer. Moisturizer is also important for frequent pool users. While the effects chlorine can have on your face at first appear to be wonderful (it will appear as though your face is clearing up) it acts as a harsh drying agent on your skin. That's why it's important to find something light and/or grease free (this keeps you from further clogging your pores) and something with at least a smidgen of SPF.
The misconception about sunscreen is that it is meant only for long days spent in the sun. And that's certainly true, but sunscreen should really be used year round and most certainly in the summer. Ladies can wear it under makeup and guys should just wear it. For a typical day, you can get away with something with a SPF that is less than 10, but if you're spending a lengthy time outdoors, opt for something at least about 15. Don't neglect any part of the face, including the outer edges of the ear. Men who are bald or balding also need to remember to include SPF on those less hair-covered parts of the head.
The rest of the body requires sunscreen as well. If the activity involves sweating or water, make sure to apply it 10 to 20 minutes before you begin your activity so that it has times to soak into your skin. Read the instructions on the bottle and reapply as many times as needed. Go for the lotion, or my personal new favorite, a refreshing UV-protecting mist.
And the appearance of the sun in the sky has nothing to do with it. Cloudy days are actually worse for sunburns because UV rays are stronger on less sunny days. It also doesn't matter if you're wearing the smallest bikini or a banana hammock or a beekeeper's suit--UV rays can penetrate through clothing, especially if that clothing is light and/or wet.
I am about to sound like a downer. Everyone covets bronzed, glowy skin. Healthy, glowing skin is about striking a reasonable balance so that you get the sexy tan you want without the unsexy side effects--saggy leathery skin as an adult, sun spots or burnt, peeling skin. Or you know, skin cancer.
That's why beauty scientists have been cracking away at products that make a person appear tan without all the crazy side effects. I'm talking tanning beds, spray tans, tanning lotions and the new lotions that create natural tan/glow/increase pigmentation.
Tanning beds, what can I say? If you want to enclose your nude or partially nude body in a glowing pod of cancer on a regular basis just to look a little darker you just go ahead and do so. I don't advise it.
Nor am I advising spray tans. It's a sound idea because it is a safe alternative to the sun and to tanning beds. Unfortunately, the color only lasts somewhere between five to 10 days. Oh, and sometimes people come out looking like an Oompa Loompa. Spray tanning: safe for your health, but an otherwise dangerous look.
The safest and most aesthetically pleasing option is the tanning lotions. These new lotions induce a natural tan/glow. It's obviously a safe alternative, but I don't know if the results are what people necessarily strive for. They won't make it appear you spent a week on the French Rivera. But the tanning lotions do work and work well if done correctly.
To get an even application, exfoliate like crazy. By using a grit-based exfoliator (typically salt or sugar) you remove the dead skin cells off the surface of your skin. If you don't exfoliate then the lotion will concentrate on the dry areas of dead skin and appear darker. Particularly dry areas like the knees and elbows won't be the same shade as the rest of your body without schlepping off dead skin.
It's important to cover every part of your skin with the lotion (don't want any random pockets of pale) and to wash your hands thoroughly after lathering the tanning lotion. If you don't then your palms will be a weird tan shade.
If you do find yourself in a burnt situation, make sure to apply plenty of aloe vera. It's green, it's cooling, and it's hydrating. Drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated internally and resist the urge to peal. Because that's super gross.
Summer skin care is invaluable. Summer hair care, if not taken care of, doesn't have the same hazardous effects, but should be a concern. As I stated earlier in this article, color or any chemically treated hair can be largely affected with exposure to the elements. The sun can bleach out your color whether your hair is wet or not. Chlorine can also take away the color; salt water is even worse. In addition, problems can include having your hair dry out, or worse, turn green.
To prevent dry, brittle hair (that suddenly felt like a shampoo commercial), do not use any sort of product aimed at lightening hair. Remember to wash your hair as soon as possible when returning from any kind of swimming. Use hydrating products like a thick conditioner or hair treatment on a weekly or bi-weekly timeframe. You can also, obviously, throw on a hat, but that can be damaging to your skin. Trapping heat and sweat on your forehead causes breakouts.
There's also that sexy look of green that can occur, especially on blondes that spend a majority of their time in the pool. I discovered that one at home remedy is to douse your head in a tomato-based product, everything from sauce to ketchup. I thought that was only if a skunk sprayed you, but I guess tomatoes have more "healing" powers than we think. Do I recommend this? I don't know, but if you do it, please let me know if it works. For prevention, I would recommend washing as soon as you possibly can. If you've already been afflicted with green hair (imagine if you had the green hair and orangey fake tan? You would most definitely be an Oompa Loompa!), there are products on the market to help rid your hair of that color deposit. Otherwise, you have to be careful--the only other way to go back to your natural color is to wait it out or cut it out.
Now you have the tools and reminders to keep you safe and having fun this summer. Maybe I can too. But probably not.
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