A day at the beach may be the quintessential mental image that comes up when we think about health: the warm sun on our skin, sand between the toes, smell of saltwater and a light breeze in the air. Nothing could be more wholesome or perfect. Of course, we know now that many of these sensory wonders that the beach holds for us are also our skin’s enemies, and the memory of a perfect afternoon can lead to years of skin damage. Here are some quick and easy tips to ensure that your skin bounces back after a day at the beach, aimed at combating some of the biggest beach issues.

Issue One: The Sun

We all know by now that sunscreen is a necessary evil and that you shouldn’t go to the beach without it. What you may not know, however, is just how necessary the sunscreen is, what kind to use, and how. Be sure to use extremely strong sunscreen when you’re going to the beach, even if you are trying to get a bit of a natural glow: the reflection of the light off of the waves intensifies the light and can seriously burn your skin if you’re not careful. Also be sure to apply sunscreen to your WHOLE body, not just your face or just the parts of you uncovered by your swimwear. Unless your swimsuit has a special lining, ultraviolet rays can pass through fabric— and give you sunburn, or worse, skin cancer.

Issue Two: The Saltwater

Through the scientific process of osmosis, water will pass through a membrane in order to equalize the salinity (saltiness) of water on both sides. Long scientific explanation short: saltwater can seriously dry out your skin. After you’re done with the beach for the day, rinse off your face and apply a deep moisturizer to begin repairing some of that damage. Even if you didn’t go swimming, the salt in the air can dry out your skin just as well.

Issue Three: The Sand

Again, that summer breeze can make this an issue, even when you’re not expecting it. Be sure to shake out all of your clothing and rinse off your whole body, including your face, when you’re done with the beach for the day— while some exfoliation is good, too much will leave your skin painful and raw, and the grains of sand are small enough that you may not even realize what’s doing it for days.

Skin Exfoliation to repair your skin

Exfoliation is a key element in a successful skin care routine, but it must be done appropriately and only when needed or it can be harmful instead. Here are some hints to help you know when to exfoliate and when not to.

Don’t overdo it

Exfoliating cleansers should be used regularly, but not daily. Exfoliating too soon after a prior exfoliation session can actually irritate the new skin that you just exposed. You can counteract the effect a little by using a more gentle exfoliant; sugar scrubs and kaolin-based exfoliating cleansers are less irritating than exfoliants with abrasives such as nut meal. However, you should still only exfoliate occasionally; twice a week is about as often as a face should be scrubbed heavily. Between exfoliation sessions, wash with your bare hands or a soft cloth and a non-abrasive, moisturizing cleanser.

Never exfoliate irritated skin

By the same token, since exfoliation is slightly irritating to the skin, never exfoliate when you’re sunburned, breaking out, or your skin is otherwise irritated. It will make it worse, and can even lead to injury or scarring. When your skin is irritated, use a soft cloth to loosen and remove dead skin rather than using an exfoliating product so your skin has some time to recover from whatever is wrong with it. The same holds true if you have any cuts or any other kind of broken skin. You may disturb the healing process with overenthusiastic cleaning.

Use a natural exfoliant

Look carefully at your cleanser before you buy it. Most exfoliants have particles made with ground nut shells, kaolin clay, salt, or sugar; these natural components are safe for your skin because they are gentle and not overly hard. Exposure to water softens or dissolves them, making their edges less sharp and abrasive. If the bits in your exfoliating cleanser are a strange color such as purple or blue, they are likely to be made of tiny plastic grains. These can be very harmful to your face, because they tend to have hard, sharp edges that cut into your skin rather than gently rubbing away the dead skin cells on top of it. The result of using one of these is having a face that feels tender and raw, because it will actually scrape away a layer of living skin. Plastic exfoliants accelerate the aging process while irritating your skin, so avoid them at without any exceptions.

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