Post-vacation men's skincare recovery regime

Top tips by men's skincare and grooming expert Jeremy Langmead for maintaining holiday-fresh skin

Tanned skin man asleep on the beach while on holiday
Written by Jeremy Langmead
Aug 24, 2022 

Jeremy Langmead is an editor and writer (a columnist for The Times and author of Vain Glorious: A Shameless Guide For Men Who Want To Look Their Best) and is currently a Senior Advisor to Humanery. Jeremy is the former brand and content director of MR PORTER, the online men's style destination. Previously he has been the editor of Esquire, Wallpaper and the Sunday Times Style magazines.

Your plane home wasn’t cancelled, and your luggage arrived, too; the train ran on time; your tan is glowing; no sign of Covid; a loaded Duty Free bag is clinking away promisingly in your hands, and it’s another two days before you return to work and the gym. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, nothing…as long as you don’t mind putting just a little bit of effort into a post-vacation recovery regime. You might not feel as if you’re in need of anything, but whilst you’ve been lying in the sun, dipping in and out of the sea, taking advantage of the inclusive buffet and local nightlife, your skin, hair and body have taken quite a battering; it’s not quite been such a holiday for them.

So now it’s their turn. Follow the eight recommendations below - most of which you can do whilst watching The Sandman on Netflix (he certainly keeps out of the sun) - and your post-holiday glow will last longer, your mind and body will look and feel better, and you’ll head into September ready to take on the world.

1. How to make you tan last longer.

It’s too late to suggest that you exfoliate and moisturise your skin before a vacation (next time), and that you try and avoid basking in the sun too much of the day (boo), but you can hold on to your tan a tad longer by feeding your skin with body butters and lotions - ideally ones containing hyaluronic acid - to stop it drying out and flaking. Keep your showers on the cooler side - piping hot water strips the skin of its natural oils and dries it out.

And, although it might sound unlikely, gently exfoliating will also prolong the life of your tan. The dead skin cells that sit on the surface of your skin will hide not enhance your tan. The melanin in your skin - which gives it the tanned effect - won’t be deterred by some soft scrubbing.

Finally, don’t be afraid to top up your tan with self-tan solutions. Today, the ones on offer are highly effective and easy to apply.

2. How to reduce the redness and repair the rest.

Unless you’re incredibly self-controlled, the chances are you will have spent hours on a sun lounger soaking up the Mediterranean rays. Even if you were careful about continually applying an SPF50 to your skin, there will still be repair work to be done. Dr David Jack, one of Harley Street’s top skin specialists, who religiously stays out of the sun on vacation - he’s just returned from 10 days in Greece and still resembles Casper The Friendly Ghost - says that using anti-inflammatory ingredients in your skincare is important following sun exposure. “A combination of Azelaic acid and Niacinamide is ideal for this,” says Dr Jack. “Both of these ingredients work in tandem to help reverse the low-grade inflammation that often persists in the skin following sun exposure, and in turn helps to restore the health of the skin and reduce the risk of longer-term redness.”

These ingredients will also help reduce post-summer, sun damage-related hyperpigmentation that often worsens following sun exposure. 

Man taking skin care moisturiser from pot in hand

After returning from vacation is  a great time to revisit your skincare and grooming routine. 

3. De-stress your skin (it needs to look as good as you feel)

Antioxidant ingredients are also important - sun exposure causes oxidative stress on the skin, which in turn causes collagen and elastin breakdown. Antioxidants help neutralise this and reverse the ageing process of the sun to minimise the development of fine lines and wrinkles, and sagging skin. Vitamins A, C and E are ideal ingredients to look out for in your serum or night creams.

4. Feed your skin on the inside

Taking antioxidants orally can also help reverse these changes from inside out. Dr Jack recommends taking a high dose of vitamin C on a daily basis, whilst maintaining a good water intake to optimise the blood flow to your skin. Alongside this, a high protein diet also provides your skin all it needs to maintain healthy levels of collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid in the dermis.

Fruits with vitamin c for skin health

5. Don’t let your skin get thirsty.

Not only does sun exposure cause deep and lasting damage to the skin, it also can dry out the epidermal layer of the skin, causing dryness and sensitivity. To counteract this invest in skincare that is rich in humectants (such as hyaluronic acid) and ceramides to help hydrate the epidermis and maintain a healthy skin microbiome. Remain hydrated. Continue drinking lots of water once you get back from your trip. Your skin will appreciate it.

6. Post-holiday hair repair 

You will also need to rescue your hair from the effects of UV rays, chlorine and salt water. Invest in a good, deep-cleanse shampoo and a moisturising conditioner . Supplements rich in protein and antioxidants are also very useful - but it is biotin (vitamin B7) that you should keep an eye out for in any supplements that you are taking. This has been shown to boost hair and nail health.

And if, like me, you like the way your hair looks after a trip to the beach - textured and a bit messy - then try a sea salt spray that will give you instant volume and texture without damaging your hair.

7. Keep up the exercise

With many of our summer exercise routines focusing largely on getting those perfectly-toned holiday selfies, it’s tempting to let things go a bit when you return home and get back to work. Maintaining a healthy level of exercise (a minimum of 20 minutes per day) post-holiday is important for both the health of your body and your mind. A sensible exercise routine can help stave off the post-vacation blues since exercise produces endorphins—the chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers.

8. Last not least: your feet

Hopping around footloose and sock-free on hot patios, pebbles and sand causes the skin on the base of your feet and heels to harden, dry out and then crack. Our feet get a bad rap all year round, so do your best not to look as if yours are made from chunks of parmesan this September. Foot scrubs are great at exfoliating the dead skin that sits at the surface of your skin; or try a foot mask (ideally with glycolic acid) that will help soften your skin and help rid you of calluses. And invest in a proper foot cream (a face or body moisturiser won’t be rich enough to be truly effective). You should really use the latter one all year round.

Apologies if that sounds exhausting; you might think you’ll be ready for another holiday after adhering to all of the above. But the truth is, most of these tips are fairly effortless to build into your post-vacation regime and the results will last a lot longer than your tan. And if I may give you one last bit of bossy advice: even after you’ve returned from your vacation, it’s particularly important to keep going with sunscreen. “The UK sun is particularly harsh at the moment, with UVA levels (and therefore deep sun damage) especially high,” points out Dr David Jack. “Always opt for a high-factor sunscreen with broad spectrum cover, ideally one that doubles as a moisturiser to maintain skin hydration.” That’s you told. 

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