5 Things I Learned About My Skin After a Week at the Beach

5 Things I Learned About My Skin After a Week at the Beach

Spending a week at the beach is both one of the most trying and the most beneficial things that you can do for your skin. You expose yourself to the elements, get rid of the makeup and the city grime, and really take things back to basics - for better or worse.

Here’s what I learned during that process.

1. Makeup Isn’t Always My Friend

A beach vacation is a messy business. There’s saltwater, sand, sweat, dirt, and a whole bunch of other things going on - even if you do it “fancy.” And if you’re in and out of the water, you just can’t maintain a full face of makeup.

That’s why, during my trip, I went makeup-free for the majority of the time (save a nice dinner or two). And I really think that my skin thanked me for it.

The reality of wearing makeup every day is much more trying on the skin than even the most active of beach days. With constant wear, makeup can:

  • Clog pores and cause breakouts
  • Exacerbate fine lines and wrinkles
  • Expose your skin to toxic chemicals
  • Cause contact dermatitis
  • Prevent you from shedding dead skin cells and throw off the skin's renewal process

This is especially true if you keep your makeup on for long periods of time or occasionally sleep in your makeup.

After a few days makeup-free, I found improvements in:

  • Skin texture: My face felt smooth, even, and generally less bumpy (probably a combination of going makeup-free and all the natural exfoliation I was getting).
  • Blemishes: I thought that a week of sand and sun would cause severe breakouts. Surprisingly, my skin actually cleared up and many of my pesky zits and blackheads went away.
  • Balance: With my combination skin, I normally notice a ton of shine halfway through the day, along with dry areas on my nose and in other small patches. That wasn’t the case on this trip - my skin felt more even and balanced overall.

Plus, it was nice to take a break and spend less time getting ready.

2. The Importance of Exfoliation

Seeing your bare skin in the light of day can be a  little uncomfortable - especially if you have dry spots, congestion, and other imperfections staring back at you.

Guess what? If you’re slathering on sunscreen and exposing your face to wind, sand, and sun, chances are you’re going to see those things.

That’s why I really upped my exfoliation game, making sure to add an exfoliant to my routine at least three nights a week. Not sure where to start here? Well, there are two main categories here:

Physical Exfoliants: Scrubs like our Zen Out of Ten detox scrub slough off dead skin cells and accelerate cell turnover.

Chemical exfoliants: These products use AHA's and BHA's for gentle, daily exfoliation.

Just remember to keep a gentle hand and be wary of over-doing it. Three applications a week will be more than enough for anyone.

3. How to Really Hydrate

Properly hydrating can be tough, and more often than not we tend to get it wrong which is why a full 75% of Americans are thought to be chronically dehydrated - yikes! And the one day of my trip that I accidentally skipped water and moisturizer, I saw some major consequences:

  • My skin was tight, sensitive, and dull
  • There were flaky, itchy patches on my skin.
  • I felt lethargic.

So where do you get started with fixing something so intense? Well, it was a multi-pronged strategy that included:

  • Drinking plenty of water: According to one interesting rule of thumb, you should drink half your weight in ounces of water. So someone that weighs 120 pounds should drink about 60 ounces of water a day. I followed this rule for the rest of the trip and saw some instant improvement in my skin’s tone and texture.
  • Limiting alcohol: While I enjoyed those beachside beers, I realize that they weren’t really doing me any favors. That’s because alcohol turns off the body’s anti-diuretic hormone (the hormone that signals your body to urinate less once you start getting dehydrated). So if you’re already a little dehydrated and you start drinking, you'll pee out whatever water you still have left in your system - not great.
  • Incorporating a gentle cleanser: If your skin is dehydrated, the last thing that you want is a harsh cleanser that’s going to strip away the natural oils and barriers you have left. Instead, try a more natural cleansing oil or a non-stripping, hydrating gel cleanser.
  • Protecting my skin’s natural barrier: You don’t want to strip this away if your body’s already dehydrated. Your natural barrier keeps your skin moisturized, prevents infection, guards against fine lines, and more - so it’s got some pretty important jobs. Protect it with a combination of a hyaluronic acid moisturizer and a face oil. The moisturizer will penetrate the skin for lasting hydration as the face oil locks it in and keeps pollutants out.

Remember, we’re not talking about dry skin here. Dry skin is a permanent skin type - like combination or oily skin - while dehydrated skinis a temporary skin condition that anyone can suffer from (even those with oily skin) if they’re not properly hydrated.

Not sure where you’re at?

Consider: is this a new problem or a condition that you’ve dealt with your whole life. If it’s the latter, your skin type is probably dry.

Alternatively, do a pinch test: take a small amount of skin around your cheek area and squeeze it lightly. If it wrinkles or doesn’t fall back into place right when you release, you’re likely dealing with dehydrated skin.

How to Win the Sunburn Battle

Then there were the sunburns. I tried my best to use SPF, but admittedly missed a hard-to-reach spot or two (and probably didn’t reapply as often as I should). And while a part of me wanted that sun-kissed glow, I knew this was ultimately a bad idea. After all, any tan or redness is a sign that UV radiation has damaged the genetic material (DNA) in your skin cells - and I would really rather have my DNA intact.

Here’s how I combatted the problem:

  • Protective clothing: It probably made me look like like a grandmother, but I was sure to wear a long-sleeved rash guard and a big hat throughout the trip. At the very least, this would protect my face and décolletage.
  • Sunglasses and lip balm with SPF: You might not usually think about your lips and your eyes when you consider sun protection, but they're important. After all, these are some of the most sensitive parts of your face, and they shouldn’t be compromised by some extra UV.
  • The right SPF: Even if you’re using sunscreen and reapplying it as you should, this will all be for naught if you’re not choosing an appropriate SPF. The higher the better, though you should at least go with 15 SPF (which will protect you for an average of 300 minutes, or 5 hours).

What’s My Real Skin Type

This has been an ongoing internal debate for years - and mostly because it’s been hard for me to get an accurate baseline when it comes to my skin. Sometimes it feels tight, flaky, and dry. Other times, it’s shiny, broken out and oily. Still other times it's reactive and sensitive. What gives?

Overall, it’s a bit of a mess that I don’t know what to do with.

A week at the beach really helped me get back to basics: I wasn’t wearing makeup, I was getting consistent vitamin D, I was cleansing as I should, and I was restoring my skin’s natural barrier.

My skin revealed itself to be a combination skin type (learn more about skin types).

Here’s to many more adventures and healthy skin days. Cheers!