Your hair, skin, and nails need a break as much as you do. Here, tips on how to cut back on primping to let your natural beauty shine.
Why it’s stressed-out: Many things that make summer fun for you are really tough on your hair. “Ultraviolet rays, salt, and chlorinated water compromise its outer layer, allowing moisture to seep out,” says Paradi Mirmirani, a dermatologist in Vallejo, California. Also, you’re probably sweating more—and therefore shampooing more—which further robs hair of hydration. (This is especially true if your shampoo has a high pH. Does your hair feel squeaky-clean after washing? Chances are you’ve got a high-pH shampoo.) Top that with all the stuff you’re using to manage your hair under these harsh circumstances—including heated tools and stylers that contain dehydrating alcohols (like SD alcohol 40, ethanol, propyl, and isopropyl)—and you’ve got a recipe for dull, fried hair.
What you can skip: First, shampoo every other day or less. On days you don’t wash your hair, just use a dry shampoo—which comes in either spray or powder form—to freshen hair, give it body and texture, and absorb oil at the roots without leaving it parched. A good one is Living Proof Straight ($29, livingproof.com). Another benefit: Using dry shampoo allows you to go longer between heat-styling sessions. On days that you do shampoo, afterward simply run a dollop of leave-in conditioner through your towel-dried hair from midshaft to ends. This will give you light hold plus some extra hydration, and you can forgo your usual styling products, says Matthew Preece, the owner of the Fred Segal Salon, in Santa Monica. Many leave-in conditioners are water-based (which means they’re gentle on hair) and use nonstripping alcohols, like lauryl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, and stearyl alcohol. One to try: Dove Hair Nourishing Oil Care Leave-In Smoothing Cream ($6 at drugstores).
Spa treat: To give your hair even more of a reprieve, try an apple-cider-vinegar rinse, which can be used once a week to deep-clean hair and make it shinier. Dilute ½ cup apple-cider vinegar with 1½ cups water, add a few drops of lavender essential oil to mask the smell, and pour the mixture into a spray bottle. Spritz the concoction onto dry roots and massage it into your scalp. Leave it on for five minutes, then rinse thoroughly.
SkinWhy it’s stressed-out: Cleansing too frequently or harshly (as you tend to do when you’re sweating a lot) can strip away three components of your skin that keep it moisturized—natural oils on the surface, ceramides (or fats), and natural moisturizing factors (NMFs), which are substances that retain water from inside the body, says Jeannette Graf, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York City. Without them, your skin won’t be as effectively hydrated, and the natural process of cell turnover may slow down, leaving skin dry and dull.
What you can skip: To start, sidestep your morning cleanser. Hopefully, you didn’t sleep in your makeup, so you don’t really need to lather up. Instead, splash your face with water and apply sunscreen or, if that’s too oily for you, a light moisturizer with an SPF of 15 or higher. Evening-only cleansing will suffice for most, except those with very oily or acne-prone skin. If your skin is normal to dry, once a week throughout the summer eliminate your evening cleanser, too. If you’re wearing makeup, remove it gently with a wipe, such as Neutrogena Make Up Remover Cleansing Towelettes Hydrating ($7 at drugstores). And while you’re (not) at it, after your once-a-week, water-only wash in the evening, skip any moisturizer you might normally use. This may help reduce oiliness during the day and prevent clogged pores, says Mona A. Gohara, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine. If you can’t fathom a night without moisturizer, at least downgrade to a light lotion or a serum, applying to dry areas only. Try Dior Hydra Life Skin Protect ($65, dior.com).
Spa treat: “A mask of plain full-fat yogurt and oatmeal can help replenish moisture and exfoliate all skin types,” says Stephanie Tourles, a holistic aesthetician in Orland, Maine, and the author of Organic Body Care Recipes ($19, amazon.com). The treatment also cools and calms overheated skin, red skin, and heat rash. Mix ½ cup of each ingredient, leave the mask on for 10 to 15 minutes, then rinse. Repeat up to three times a week.
NailsWhy they’re stressed-out: “Research has found repetitive and prolonged wetting and drying of fingernails to be a probable cause of splitting nails,” says Nia Terezakis, a dermatologist in New Orleans and a clinical professor of dermatology at Tulane University. Not only are your hands more likely to get wet frequently in the summer but, because this is mani-pedi season, you may also be spending more time at the salon having your cuticles pushed back with metal instruments. Bad news here: Those tools can scrape away the microscopic protective cells on the nail surface that keep nails hydrated, supple, and strong.
What you can skip: Although it’s hard to resist those coral fingertips, says Kim D’Amato, the founder of Priti Organic Spa, a natural salon in New York City, “in warmer weather I often recommend getting a salon manicure less frequently and just buffing nails in between appointments for a quick, healthy, high-shine look.” For optimal results, buff your nails only in the direction they grow, not back and forth, using a buffer that’s soft to the touch, not gritty like a file, says Terezakis. Another quick, easy way to ensure that nails stay healthy and strong? Pop a biotin pill (try the Vitamin Shoppe Biotin, $7 for 100 capsules, vitaminshoppe.com). This B vitamin has been shown to improve nail quality. (Of course, talk to your doctor before taking any supplements.)
Spa treat: “Sugar scrubs hydrate nails and help remove dry skin from around the nail beds,” says D’Amato. Mix 2 cups sugar with 1 cup olive oil, which is high in antioxidants and nail-strengthening vitamin E. Rub the mixture all over your hands, paying special attention to your cuticles. Remove it with a warm washcloth after 15 minutes.
BodyWhy it’s stressed-out: Guess what happens to your skin when you submerge yourself in water repeatedly. Some of the stuff that keeps it in good condition is washed away. On the surface of your skin, there is a normal presence of bacterial flora, such as staph epidermis and corynebacteria, which play a key role in maintaining proper skin function, says Jeanette Jacknin, a dermatologist in Scottsdale, Arizona.
What you can skip: For starters, trade in your long, hot showers for quick, lukewarm ones. And in place of regular body moisturizers, body creams, and thick balms and butters, use one good antioxidant-packed product in the evening only. This will help limit the impact of free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can cause skin aging. (During the day, sunscreen will supply sufficient moisture.) One of the latest go-to antioxidants? Sea buckthorn. Try Fresh Seaberry Restorative Body Cream ($28.50, fresh.com for stores). The fast-absorbing formula makes this cream quick and easy to apply.
Spa treat: Once a week, do a wet body scrub using a gentle ayate (cactus fiber) exfoliating cloth (available at health-food stores). Mix 1 cup olive oil, 1 cup of a natural exfoliant, such as sea salt, sugar, or coffee grounds (summer bonus—the caffeine in coffee is said to improve the look of cellulite), and a few tablespoons of honey for extra hydration. Before you step into the shower, lightly rub a small amount of the mixture into your skin, beginning at your feet and working your way up. After you’re finished, rinse with warm water and pat your skin dry. Put on lotion only if your skin feels tight.
FeetWhy they’re stressed-out: Not only are sandal-clad feet exposed to the elements—wind, sun, and sand—which can be drying, but the repetitive pounding of your heels on pavement (in flip-flops or bare feet) can also cause calluses to form, which may lead to painful cracked skin. Worse, those refreshing sprays and lotions meant to deodorize feet can cause bacterial and fungal infections between the toes if used too often: Bacteria thrive in moist areas, says podiatrist Eric Reynolds, a foot and ankle surgeon in Jersey City.
What you can skip: Ditch the spritzes and sprays. When possible, give the flip-flops a break in favor of breathable high-tech socks or cotton socks and sneakers. And resist the temptation to have a salon technician take a razor to your callused heels. The treatment may feel satisfying, but it’s frowned upon by doctors, since micro-tears in the skin are the perfect breeding ground for infections. Instead, exfoliate in the shower with a gentle foot file, such as the Tweezerman Glide Away Foot File ($10, tweezerman.com).
Spa treat: For a refreshing foot bath, soak your feet in brewed and cooled black tea for 30 minutes to minimize perspiration and odor. Tea contains tannins, plant polyphenols that can act as an astringent and help reduce sweating, says Graf. The tannins in tea may also reduce odor.
so... whos with me? home spa day!