Ah, holidays. I think we can all agree they’re the most stressful times of the year, right? From the mad dash through customs to the wrangling of ice cream-covered kids, often you arrive back at your desk in need of another break.

Sadly, the inevitable stressors start before you’ve even made it to the airport when packing is a trial in itself. Sure, you’ve got to unearth your linen shirts from storage, and decide which length of Orlebar Browns really is too short for poolside, but it’s packing grooming products that’s most important because, let’s be honest, wash bag missteps are those with the most dire consequences.

Get caught short of sun cream and you’re stuck with an unsightly set of burn lines the next time you disrobe in the gym; pack the wrong moisturiser or hair product and you’ll sabotage your style in every #selfie that’s supposed to make everyone back home seethe with envy.

Navigate the minefield with our pick of essentials your holiday regimen can’t do without. Then you can relax and worry about what really matters, like which side of midday is it actually OK to crack open your first beer.

1. Hair Clay

Ditch the wet-look gel, gents, and leave oil-slick hair with an open shirt collar to the oligarchs. Sure, Flavio Briatore gets the girls, but we’re not sure that’s down to his choice of hair product.

“I always recommend using lightweight, matte products, as they not only allow hair to maintain its natural movement and texture without weighing it down, but the matte effect also helps hair to appear thicker,” explains Aveda Master Barber, Stelios Nicolaou.

Rub a 2p-sized amount into your palms and apply evenly for a style that’ll hold without making your head sweat.


Aveda Men Pure-Formance Grooming Clay, available at Aveda, priced £21.

Aveda Men Pure-Formance Grooming Clay

2. Matte Moisturiser

The effect sun’s rays have on your face can leave you with a cloudy demeanour, so – since ageing prematurely is something you probably already feel like you’re doing at your desk – protecting yourself on holiday is essential.

Choose a moisturiser with a high SPF and make sure it’s made specifically for your face, rather than your body. That way the cream you choose is more likely to be matte, non-greasy and invisible.

You’re already going to be sweating in the sun, so why not kill two birds with a SPF that keeps shine in check in preparation for photo ops?

(Related: 8 tips for dealing with oily skin)


La Roche-Posay Althelios Matte Fluid SPF 30, available at Boots, priced £16.

La Roche-Posay Althelios Matte Fluid SPF 30

3. Shampoo

“I’d suggest taking a detoxing shampoo because hair is sensitised by sun, sea water and chlorine build-up, which can make it feel dry and sometimes become discoloured,” says Christel Lundqvist, founder of STIL Salon.

You can also opt for shampoo with a UV filter in it, so that you’re armed with a product that not only prevents sun damage, but rescues you from it too. “Couple this with a peppermint conditioner with a cooling effect to help calm the scalp after exposure to the sun,” suggests Lundqvist.

Either that, or you could keep your cap on in the pool? Nah, we didn’t think so.


Men's Holiday Shampoo Products

Sachajuan Hair In The Sun 125ml - Click to buyTIGI Bed Head for Men Clean Up Peppermint Conditioner 200ml - Click to buy

4. SPF

Classic sun creams no longer cut it. They’re either thick enough to absorb but feel clammy afterwards, or they’re too slick to sink in, leaving you streaked like a Jackson Pollock.

Instead, opt for a spray that evenly distributes and is quickly absorbed. Water-resistance is a must too. Obviously you’ll have to reapply after spending an hour doing lengths of the pool, but the product you plump for should at least have the staying power to resist sweat, or save you the faff of topping up if you’ve only dipped in for a quick cool-off.

Also, if you’re on holiday for a week, what’s the rush? Opt for a higher SPF (30’s a good one to aim for) and let your tan build up gradually. The colour you gain from using a higher SPF over a longer period of time is far superior to the burn-and-peel of a SPF 4.

Remember: there’s only ever one winner in a standoff with the sun.


Piz Buin Wet Skin Sun Spray, available at Boots, priced £11.

Piz Buin Wet Skin Sun Spray

5. Fragrance

Finding the perfect summer fragrance isn’t easy. The oud-based scent you deployed in dark bars throughout winter becomes overpowering and out of place once it hots up; too floral and it’s too feminine; too breezily aquatic and it won’t have the staying power to last the day.

“Choosing a fragrance that combines warmer notes with freshness works superbly well on skin exposed to heat,” explains Christophe Cervasel, co-founder of Atelier Cologne. “For instance, combining the notes of citrus bergamot with the warmth of the Turkish rose is energising, yet sensual.”

Or, away from the olfactive parlance, that means a fragrance which walks a tightrope between beachside freshness and a headiness that’ll turn heads come sundown.

(Related: The best new men’s fragrances for summer)


Atelier Cologne Rose Anonyme Cologne Absolue, available at House Of Fraser, priced £110 for 100ml.

Atelier Cologne Rose Anonyme Cologne Absolue

6. Travel Bottles

We’ve all done it. Forgotten to read the label of your favourite grooming product, only to realise at customs that it’s 5ml too large. You then have to leave it with a sausage-fingered security officer who you know will pocket it while you’re left desperately scrabbling around duty-free for an inevitably poor substitute.

Don’t leave it to chance. Decant the products you depend on into a set of travel-sized bottles from the likes of Amazon, Muji or high street favourites Boots and Superdrug. They’re fantastically cheap and are designed to meet the requirements of airport security policies. No more tears.


Superdrug Travel Bottle Set, available at Superdrug, priced £3.99.

Superdrug Travel Bottle Set

7. Lip Balm

Your smackers lack melanin – the skin pigment that protects you from the sun – and are therefore at high risk from skin-damaging UV rays. So when the mercury rises, break out the minerals – namely zinc oxide.

“Life is a constant search for the ultimate full block zinc to use on my lips,” explains Mike Lay, Reef Surf Ambassador, a man with sun protection at the top of his priorities list. “Find one that doesn’t come off in the sea, but wipes off once you’re out the sun.”

Zinc oxide is an inorganic compound that sits on top of your lips, rather than being absorbed, providing a physical barrier that deflects both UVA and UVB rays. Sweet, dude.


Hurraw Sun Protection Lip Balm, available at mypure.co.uk, priced £4.99.

Hurraw Sun Protection Lip Balm

Final Word

What will be in your wash bag this summer? Let us know in the comments section.

Still stuck on what clothes to wear? Try packing pieces made from warm-weather fabrics to stave off sweat.