From sunburns to rashes, these skincare products will prevent any issues you might encounter during your tropical vacation
Spring Break Skin Problems, Solved!
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We’re not trying to compare you to Count Dracula, but your first time in the sun after the cold winter hibernation can be a shock for your skin. Even just a few minutes of exposure can lead to overreactions—think unsightly sun bumps, breakouts, or sunburn. Luckily, you can fix any vacation skincare issue. Here’s how.
Photo: Corbis Images
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Your first day at the beach after months of sunless days can leave you feeling the burn. Stay protected with sunscreens that contain SPF 30 or more and high levels of zinc oxide, like Skinceuticals Sheer Physical UV Defense SPF 50, ($34; skinceuticals.com). Zinc oxide also helps block UVA rays—the culprit of sun-induced skin irritations, says Elizabeth Tanzi, co-director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington, DC. Spots to pay special attention to: your nose, ears, and forehead, says Paul Jarrod Frank, cosmetic dermatologist and founder of 5th Avenue Dermatology Surgery and Laser Center in NYC. “These areas are more prone to burning because they are the least protected from the sun,” he says.
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When you go from freezing temps to really warm weather, “your oil glands go into overdrive and start producing even more than normal, which can lead to breakouts,” says Tanzi. To stop a blemish in its tracks, pack an acne-fighter like Murad Acne Clearing Solution ($39; murad.com) and use it as a preventative measure throughout your trip. (And if your skin doesn’t clear up after a few weeks post-vacation, check out these Alternative Adult Acne Treatments.)
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Those tiny, pesky bumps that commonly crop up on your chest and the back of your arms or legs are actually a “condition called polymorphous—a light eruption or pimple—and usually pop up after the first few exposures of spring and summer,” says Frank. The solution to keeping bumps at bay: Dermadoctor KP Duty Dermatologist Body Scrub ($44; sephora.com). This gentle exfoliator sloughs away skin cells while green tea and willow bark ease inflammation.
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Another symptom of polymorphous is a sun rash. To avoid it, Tanzi suggests exposing the skin in very small amounts on that first day under the sun: “The skin will slowly get accustomed to the change and won’t overreact like it normally would,” she says. For the itchy spots your sunscreen may have missed (ouch!), treat the area with a topical cortisone cream. Try Aveeno 1% Hydrocortisone Anti-Itch Cream ($5.50; drugstores), which contains the highest percentage of cortisone in an over-the-counter formula. (And to heal persistent rashes on your hands, don’t miss 6 Hand Healers for Every Skincare Problem.)
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Since your skin will get its moisture from the hot and humid air, Frank suggests swapping your creamy moisturizer for a gel formula like Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel ($18; drugstores). Heavier creams may feel heavy sitting on top of your skin’s natural oils, making you look greasy. On the flip side, if you’re traveling somewhere hot and dry, you may not need to switch your moisturizer at all; just be sure to drink lots of water to stay hydrated, he says.
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To soothe skin that’s already been irritated by the sun, salt, and chlorine, apply a mask with glycolic acid, says Tanzi. A good bet: NUDE Skincare Miracle Mask ($48; sephora.com)—it’s formulated without parabens, fragrance, or any other skin-stinging ingredients. (Just don’t use it the week before and during your trip, since AHAS can make you sensitive to the sun.) For more derm-approved beauty, check out Skincare Products Dermatologists Love.)