For all intents and purposes, few situations are as stressful as a holiday. We know, we know: first world problems. But from the mad dash through customs to the wrangling of ice-cream-covered kids (yours or otherwise), it’s not uncommon to arrive back at your desk in need of another break. To make matters worse, the inevitable stressors start long before you’ve even made it to the airport – notably when attempting to build a beach-ready grooming routine. 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 smug holiday selfie from now until reboarding. 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 when it’s actually acceptable to crack open your first beer. (PS, it’s not 7.45am in the departures lounge.)
Even if you are spending your summer on a yacht in Lake Como, ditch the wet-look gel, and leave oil-slick hair 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 on holiday, 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,” says Aveda master barber, Stelios Nicolaou. Warm up a medium coin-sized amount in your palms (this helps make the product easier to control) and apply evenly to your locks for a style that’ll hold without making your head sweat.
The effect the sun’s rays have on your face can leave you with a cloudy demeanour, so – since premature ageing is something you probably already feel like you’re doing at your desk – protecting yourself on holiday is essential. Choose a moisturiser with a minimum SPF of 30 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 invisible, non-greasy and above all, won’t block your pores. Given that you’re already going to be sweating in the sun, earn bonus points with an SPF that keeps shine in check in preparation for photo ops.
Skin and hair are made up of the same stuff (keratin), so it makes sense that lazy days around the pool can be equally bad on both. “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 London-based STIL Salon. To combat this, arm yourself with a detoxing shampoo – ideally with a UV filter – and couple it with a peppermint conditioner for a cooling effect that will help calm the scalp after exposure to the sun. Either that, or keep your cap on in the pool. Nah, we didn’t think so.
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, pack a spray that distributes evenly 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 after a quick dip. A word to the wise: opt for a high SPF no less than 30 and let your tan build up gradually. The colour you gain from using a higher SPF over a longer period is far superior to the burn-and-peel of an SPF 4. Remember, there’s only ever one winner in a standoff with the sun.
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, a surfer and ambassador for Californian surf brand Reef. “The aim is to find one that doesn’t come off in the sea, but wipes off once you’re out of 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.
The sun will always be skin’s public enemy number one on holiday, but smaller particulate matter from smog, soot and exhaust fumes could also be doing the dirty on your face. Cities like London, Beijing and Cairo regularly exceed the World Health Organisation’s recommended pollution levels which, in non-nerd speak, means irritated skin, clogged pores and accelerated ageing. To avoid taking these effects back as a souvenir from a city break, up your anti-oxidants with preventative formulas rich in skin-saving ingredients like vitamin E, and use alongside a gentle scrub twice a week to speed up cell turnover.
Long-haul flights sap the skin of moisture long before you have a chance to lay out under that big ball of radioactive mass. The combination of dry cabin air, reduced blood flow and general stress of being wedged into a seat the size of a toaster creates the perfect storm for a less-than-glowing complexion. Hiding in the overhead bin won’t help. Instead, arm yourself with a hydrating serum to stop your face and beard from looking like a Shar Pei’s nads. Helpfully, ingredients like rosehip can also calm sunburn and act as an aftershave balm after landing.
We’ve all been there: arriving at your holiday destination only to find that every one of the 13 Cuban collar shirts you packed for the five-night stay is covered in body wash. As well as being the cause of all kinds of face-based turbulence, changes in air pressure while rocketing through the sky in a tin shed is to blame for these spillages. To prevent leaks from going viral when hopping between time zones, cart your grooming kit in a stylish and practical wash bag, the best of which are cut from water-resistant leather, rubber or cotton twill.
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 things hot up; too floral and it’s too feminine; too breezily aquatic and it won’t have the staying power to last the day. Take the Goldilocks approach with a holiday spritz that’s just right. “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 Turkish rose is energising, yet sensual.” 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.
There are few things worse than being forced to leave your go-to grooming product at airport security, all because you failed to spot that it was 5ml too large. Aside from the annoyance of knowing a sausage-fingered customs officer just pocketed your moisturiser, failing to plan ahead will also leave you desperately scrambling 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, pots and spray containers. They’re fantastically cheap and designed to meet all carry-on requirements. No more tears.
Travel Grooming Kits
Packing for a holiday is hard, plain and simple. After unearthing your linen shirts from storage and agonising over which length of swimmers really is too short, any responsibility you can shirk is a winner. If relying on hand luggage alone, rather than decanting your grooming products into pots, opt for a pre-packed selection of miniatures, which tick off the essentials while staying within regulations. On overnight flights or when travelling for business, it’s never a bad idea to throw a travel toothbrush into your carry-on to freshen up before landing. And despite containing scissors, there are plenty of manicure sets that meet international luggage restrictions. Just don’t be that guy clipping his toenails on the red eye.