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Facialist Joanna Vargas helps you pack for your next sun-filled getaway.

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FOR MANY OF us, summer can’t come soon enough. Just as in grade school, counting down the days until summer vacation seems to be a universal activity. As an esthetician, the second I hear about my clients’ vacation plans, I start making a list of what will be needed to take the best care of their skin while out having fun in the sun.

Let’s start with the obvious things, or as I like to call them, the nonnegotiable items. Sunscreen tops my list. Any good vacation must include plenty of sunscreen. I would recommend three types: a body SPF of 50+, a face SPF of 50+, and a sunscreen stick of SPF 50+. Face sunscreens tend to clog the pores less, and the best ones also contain some lovely skin-saving ingredients like antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. My favorite face sunscreen is the Suqqu Multi Skin Protector 50. It is super light, translucent for all skin tones, and protects against UVA/B damage quite well. It also has skin-care ingredients like bilberry, an antioxidant; olive leaf extract, an anti-inflammatory; and green tea, another powerful antioxidant.

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The sun is one of our biggest enemies when it comes to skin issues, so having a high-quality product on the skin to protect you is worth it. You may be wondering why I would also recommend a stick if I just raved about a great face SPF. The reason is simple: When you are out in the sun, on the beach, doing water sports, or really any outdoor activity, you need to pack something that makes reapplying easy. A stick like the Supergoop! Glow Stick SPF 50 reapplies easily, even when you are in the water or sweaty from your game of tennis. I couldn’t live without it.

Another nonnegotiable: pack a hat. In fact, pack several. No matter what sunscreen you choose, no matter how many times you reapply your sunscreen, you should be wearing a hat to protect against direct sun exposure on the face. A great face shield or visor to wear while in the water, plus a fabulous large-brimmed hat for your walk to lunch or dinner, will give your skin much-needed breaks from those damaging rays.

Now that we have covered the basics needed to survive the sun, let’s talk about helping the skin thrive. Hot, humid weather creates an increase in sebum production in the skin, leading to an increase in blackheads and breakouts. It also creates extreme dehydration in the skin, which can cause irritation and sensitivity. Sounds complicated, I know, but I think understanding that you can be breaking out and yet need to be gentle with the sun protection can help a great deal.

Under my sunscreen for the day I always apply an antioxidant serum. Antioxidants are ingredients and vitamins that protect the skin against free radical damage. Free radicals, if you don’t already know, are molecules that are looking to steal from our healthy cells, resulting in damage that can cause inflammation, fine lines, and loss of elasticity. That’s why using an antioxidant-rich serum on the skin before going into the sun is so important. It will quite literally help your sunscreen work better and protect the skin from the consequences of too much fun in the sun. Antioxidant serums typically include vitamins A, C, and E, but they can also be found in other ingredients like green tea, resveratrol (the red wine ingredient), and niacinamide. Antioxidant serums can also help aid the body’s ability to heal, so after exposure to the sun they are a very useful tool to help repair, regenerate, and soothe the skin.


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Most people think they must detox from too much fun in the sun. In reality, our bodies are the most amazing machines, designed to repair, detox, and heal all on their own. I would, however, suggest that once you return to your hotel room from the beach, use a washcloth with your favorite exfoliating cleanser to remove all the sunscreen from the pores. A washcloth is a simple yet luxurious way to remove the day from the skin’s surface. A bonus is that you are gently exfoliating the skin with its use, stimulating collagen and increasing circulation at the same time. This will help correct any rough skin texture created by applying sunscreen throughout the day, and will help your skin-care products penetrate better once your skin is clean. If your day ends with a breakout or two, never scrub over these, as you can spread bacteria easily and create more breakouts in its wake. Instead, I would apply a clay-based mask over the breakout after gently cleansing. This will help heal it faster.

I hope this helps you pack for your next trip. I look forward to seeing glowing skin when you return!

Sheet masks are my favorite way of getting people to step up their skin-care game at home. There is nothing more useful on a holiday than having a stash of sheet masks. Typically, sheet masks come individually wrapped, so you can throw several different types into your carry-on bag without adding weight or taking away valuable space for other liquids. I like sheet masks as a way of diagnosing and treating skin in the moment. One mask might address skin sensitivity, another hydration, while another might serve to exfoliate and brighten the skin. Using a sheet mask with stem cells or epidermal growth factor will help heal a sunburn faster than even fresh aloe can. On vacation I would recommend using a sheet mask after the shower and on a clean face. The frequency of use should really depend on what your skin needs. Use as needed, keeping the mask on for at least 20 minutes to give the skin a chance to soak up all the goodness and really heal.

Also worth saving space for in your bag: a soothing moisturizer for nighttime. The night is your body’s time to repair itself, and using a moisturizer over your serum helps repair the damage created by the sun while you sleep. I would suggest something that contains avocado oil, a great way of infusing repairing vitamins into the skin. My own Daily Hydrating Cream is a great example.

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Our Contributors

Joanna Vargas Writer

Joanna Vargas is a facialist and skin-care expert. Known for her powerfully refining and reshaping facials offered at her signature New York City and Los Angeles salons, she also has a line of products that reflect her unique combination of technique, technology, and all-natural ingredients formulated to beautify.

Vicki Ling Illustrator

Vicki Ling is a freelance illustrator currently based in New Orleans. Her clients include the New York Times, AFAR magazine, Morningstar Magazine, Trix Magazine, Warner Music, and the Swatch Group, among others.

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