11 Things a skin expert wants you to know before you go on holiday

Some of these may surprise you…

We spoke to Justine Hextall, consultant dermatologist, about how you can protect and look after your skin during the Summer holidays…

1. You should wear sun screen on your flight

We all know we should slap on the sun cream before we hit the beach, but how many of us wear it for the flight?

‘UVA penetrates through glass, and for every 2,900 feet higher up your are, the UV exposure increases by 15%’ reveals Justine. ‘We know UVA is a risk factor in the development of melanoma. For example, flight attendants and pilots have twice the lifetime risk of melanoma. So make sure you take a travel sized sun cream in your hand luggage.’


2. Flying can seriously irritate your skin

Most of us have noticed our skin feeling slightly drier after a plane journey, but for some people, the effects can be more hard-hitting.

‘A common problem I see after flights is a condition called seborrheic dermatitis,’ says Justine. ‘The skin around eyes, eyebrows and laughter lines becomes red and flaky. This is felt to be a reaction to yeast on skin, exacerbated by the inflammatory skin changes associated with dehydration and stress caused by flying.’

If you notice these symptoms, Justine recommends applying Canesten cream twice a day for three days before and after flying (get this from your pharmacist). ‘Calming moisturisers such as Xerocalm AD balm by Avene will also hydrate and protect the skin pre and post flight’ says Justine.

3. Swimming pools aren’t great for your skin

Of course, we’re not suggesting that you forego the joy of messing about in the pool on holiday – after all, it’s one of the main joys of a sunny break. But, bear in mind that swimming pool water is very drying to the skin.

‘You may find that your skin becomes more dry and tight as the holiday progresses’ says Justine. ‘I advise that you rinse your face after swimming and use a mildly acidic wash to restore the pH balance of your skin, then apply an emollient sun cream.

‘If you know a dermatologist, you’ll notice that on holidays, they always jump straight in the shower after swimming!’ reveals Justine.


4. A ‘base tan’ is a bad idea

People often talk of getting a ‘base tan’ before they go away, often with the help of a sun bed, in order to stop them burning once they hit the beach.

‘This tan is a sign that your skin is producing more melanin, which is your body’s way of trying to protect against sun exposure’ says Justine. ‘However, the risks associated with using sun beds far outweigh the benefits of a so-called ‘base tan’.

5. You don’t need that much sun exposure to top up your vitamin D

‘If you are worried about not getting enough Vitamin D, let me reassure you that you only need as little as between 15 to 20 minutes of sun exposure to make enough’ Justine reassures us.

‘In fact, if you have too much sun exposure it can actually have the reverse effect and reduce the amount of Vitamin D that you produce’ she says.

6. You need protection from UVA, UVB and Infrared-A

‘UVA is associated with ageing, and UVB with burning’ explains Justine. ‘UVA penetrates deep into the dermis and causes a breakdown in collagen, a decrease in skin elasticity and premature skin ageing.

‘UVB is responsible for burning the skin and is what causes reddening and tightness.

‘Infrared-A penetrates the most deeply and causes premature ageing, decreased skin elasticity and increased wrinkling. It can also lead to the formation of free radicals, which can cause damage to skin DNA which could impact your long term skin health.’

So, when you’re purchasing sun cream, check to see if it tackles all the harmful rays your skin needs protecting from.

7. If your kids burn it increases their risk of cancer

It sounds scary, but this is really important to know.

‘Protecting your child’s skin on holiday is incredibly important’, emphasizes Justine. ‘They have sensitive skin, and sunburn in early years can significantly increase the risk of developing skin cancer, particularly melanoma, later in life.’


8. Prickly heat is worse in the Spring

Ever experienced the red, itchy bumps of prickly heat? Well, according to Justine, the time of year we go on holiday could affect our chances of suffering from it.

‘Many patients I see in my clinic get prickly heat when going on holiday, especially if they’re going away in Spring time’ says Justine. ‘If you’re going on holiday straight after the Winter, your skin will be less prepared than in the Summer, and sometimes this causes a reaction called polymorphic light eruption.

‘To prevent this, there are treatments your dermatologist can provide which will reduce the symptoms. Steroid tablets may be prescribed which should be taken at the first sign of the rash. Alternatively you could be prescribed some light treatments ahead of your holiday to prepare the skin for sun exposure, which may reduce the symptoms you experience.’

Justine says you may also benefit from lycopene supplements which have anti-oxidant properties (also found in tomatoes); this protects the skin from sun exposure.

9. Be careful of scars in the sun

Scars, particularly new ones, should be kept under cover from the sun.

‘Sun exposure on scars may cause hyperpigmentation, which takes time to fade’ says Justine. ‘Make sure you’re extra careful with scars and apply a high factor sun cream or, where possible, cover up the area.’


10. Bites affect us all differently

Have you ever been on holiday with someone and noticed that, while one of you gets absolutely covered in red, itchy bites, the other gets away scot-free?

‘Some people complain that they get bitten by mosquitoes more than others which may be true and is possibly related to blood type’ says Justine.

‘However, the way our bodies react to bites may make more of a difference. If you know that you react badly, make sure you pack antihistamines to ease the irritation; taking a daily tablet could ease symptoms significantly’ she advises.

11. Pigmentation could mean infection

‘If you notice that your sun tan is ruined by small scattered white patches that appear commonly on your chest and back, it might be that you are suffering from a common yeast infection’ reveals Justine.

‘The yeast affects the production of melanin that pigments our skin, so often becomes apparent on sunny holidays,’ she says. ‘If you think you’re suffering from this problem, then see your GP and the application of a simple anti-yeast cream should clear it up easily.’

Justine Hextall Consultant Dermatologist is campaigning to raise awareness of harmful Infrared-A rays with Ladival Sun Protection.

For more information visit Ladival.co.uk

(Images: Getty)