After one of the toughest winters ever, hitting the road to soak up some much deserved sun is on everyone’s agenda. But before you pack your bags, take a second to consider what the season means for your lifelong friend—your skin. From plane rides to long beach sessions, a little care and prep can ensure a great holiday and even better skin ten years from now.
Recently, Parlour chatted with New York City dermatologist Dr. Carlos Charles on what the summer travel season means for skin. Dr. Charles puts his background in melanoma and pigmentation research to work every day at his Derma di Colore practice, which specializes in darker skin tones, so you know he had a lot to say about what the summer means for brown girls who love to travel. Get into it!
Dr. Charles on…Skin and Air Travel
What general precautions should women take with their skin to prepare for a flight?
We all know that flying exposes the skin to extremely dry, recycled air. As such, women should prepare for long trips by making certain that they have followed a few guidelines in the days leading up to any flight. Some very easy steps include: bathing with lukewarm (as opposed to hot) water, using fragrance free gentle soaps and limiting baths or showers to under 5 minutes.
Also, applying a fragrance free moisturizer immediately after bathing while the skin is still slightly wet can help to lock-in the moisture to create a protective barrier from the outside elements. Other more proactive steps to preparing skin for travel include the use of oils such as those by SW Basics of Brooklyn. They carry a lovely simple all natural body oil that can be used alone or along with your moisturizer after bathing.
For skin that is prone to eczema and allergic rashes, both the overall stress of flying compounded with the dry air can oftentimes exacerbate these skin conditions. Make sure that you have any topical medications on hand and that they are up to date for your trip. These include your dermatologist prescribed topical creams and fragrance free physical block sunscreens.
Last, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Make sure to drink plenty of water leading up to and during the flight.
What specifically would you recommend for flights of 6 hours or more?
In addition to the guidelines described above, I would add that one should make sure to stand-up, walk around and even stretch a bit at least every couple of hours. Not only will this help stave off any potentially blood clots in the legs, but increased circulation also helps to bring necessary nourishment and oxygen to the skin while aiding to carry away waste products, including free radicals, from working cells. Additionally, applying a therapeutic oil such as the RMS Beauty Oil the evening prior to and after a long flight can help to combat the characteristically dry air of airplane cockpits. Special attention should be given to the cuticles, nails and hands in addition to the face. All of these simple interventions can greatly enhance your skin’s appearance during a long flight.
Dr. Charles on…Skin and Sun
Beach season is here. What precautions should we take to protect our body and facial skin overall in addition to sunscreen?
Well, sunscreen is by far the most important element to protect our body and facial skin during beach season. In addition to sunscreen, one should avoid potential allergens that may be exacerbated by the UV rays. The most common allergens are present in heavily fragranced creams, moisturizers and sunscreens. Ditch the heavy fragrances at the beach and opt for fragrance free products.
One more tip, every summer I see a handful of patients that come in with very distinct oftentimes linear rash after a weekend at the beach. What’s the most common culprit for these rashes? Margaritas! Well, not exactly the margarita. These patients usually have handled limes for their cocktails or beers. The combination of the chemicals in the limes and the ultraviolet rays of the sun can lead to some dramatic looking and itchy rashes. So be careful when chopping, slicing and squeezing limes in the sunshine and make sure to get as much of the juice off of the skin as possible.
What sun protection products do you recommend for our skin?
There are many great sunscreens available on the market today. The key is finding a product line that works well with sensitive skin and will also blend in well without any white chalky residue on darker skin tones. Elta MD fits the bill on both fronts. Their UV Daily and UV Facial broad-spectrum sunscreens both contain physical blockers such as zinc and titanium dioxide that are best for sensitive skin while providing protection from both UVA and UVB rays.
For women who suffer from hyper-pigmentation/scarring, what can they so to ensure that their marks don’t darken in the sun but still have a nice, sun kissed look?
The truth is that the only way to keep hyper-pigmented spots from worsening is by using a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or greater. Not only will this help to keep dark marks at bay, but it will also help to protect the skin from other signs of aging such as increased pore size and textural imperfections. Fortunately, almost everyone will still take on some color even with the proper application of a good sunscreen.
Dr. Charles on…Skin and Foreign Treatments + Products
A great thing about travel is exploring foreign pharmacies/apothecaries for new and interesting products to try. What tips would you give to a woman so she can avoid purchasing a potential disaster? What should she look for in a product’s ingredients?
Whether in foreign pharmacies or at home, common sense always prevails when buying new products. Always keep in mind that on a beach vacation, any product can lead to unexpected skin reactions when combined with the sun’s rays. Therefore, I would recommend staying away from new products while on the beach. As mentioned earlier, fragrances oftentimes can act as allergens and new heavily scented products should be reserved for when you get home.
Also, I often see that some women will take the opportunity while abroad to purchase strong fading or bleaching creams that can’t be purchased at home. Unfortunately, many of these overseas fade creams commonly contain high strength steroids that can wreak havoc on the skin, leading to acne type rashes and more permanent changes such as stretch marks. I would recommend avoiding creams with high potency steroids such as clobetasol, halobetasol or fluocinonide. Also, creams containing hydroquinone in high concentrations (anything greater than 4%) can potentially lead to irritant and allergic rashes that can result in worsening of blemishes and dark marks.
Many women like to indulge in spa treatments while traveling too. What advice would you give to our readers on how to pick the right one?
In line with the recommendations above, one should avoid spas that use products containing excessive fragrances including so-called natural products. The right spa should pay special attention to the needs of customers that have sensitive skin and are susceptible to potential allergens. Lastly, cleanliness is of utmost importance when choosing the right spa. Instruments used for mani-pedis as well as moist towels can act as breeding grounds for bacteria such as pseudomonas which can lead to green nails and staphylococcus which can lead to various infections. Make sure that the spa you choose follows basic sanitary practices and that all of the equipment, machinery and linens appear hygienic from at least from a cursory inspection.
If you are in in New York City, you can find Dr. Charles at his Chelsea practice by making an appointment at Derma di Colore. You can also keep up with him via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Take care of you!
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