The summer holidays are coming which provides valuable timeout from our regular routine and the opportunity to relax and replenish our body and mind. Summer time also generally means we need to pay extra attention to our skin to protect ourselves against the harmful effects of exposure to excessive ultra- violet rays. UV light is the main enemy of youthful looking skin since it is these rays that are largely responsible for the damage to the DNA in our cells that leads to premature wrinkles, redness, brown spots or excessive dryness. Although some exposure to sunshine provides valuable vitamin D to our cellular tissue, it is important to limit time spent sun bathing and to protect our skin from an early age.

Recent scientific research has also shown that over 78% of premature skin aging is due to incidental exposure to the sun, rather then intentional sun bathing. It is easy to forget that UV rays from the sun can penetrate through the clouds whenever we are outside, even on a dull day … and UV rays can even impact our skin when we are indoors or in a car. Sitting in the window seat of plane whilst going on holiday is also an example of incidental exposure, since when we fly we are much closer to the sun and the windows of planes generally only filter out about 50% of the UV rays. Here are a few aromatherapy tips on how to look after your skin to maintain a youthful complexion over the summer:

1. Protect & Moisturize:

Remember to always protect your face and neck when you are out and about on holiday … and ideally wear a wide brimmed hat which also helps to shield your shoulders, neck and décolletage as all these areas get massive amounts of sun exposure. Wear an SPF all year round, even on cooler days, not only on your face but also on all exposed areas of your skin. In terms of percentages, an SPF 15 filters out approximately 93% of all UVB rays, an SPF 30 keeps out 97% and SPF 50 keeps out 98% … so those with sensitive skin need to use a higher level of protection. However, no sunscreen, regardless of strength, can be expected to stay effective longer than about two hours without re-application.

In recent years there has been a good deal of ‘hype’ online about carrot seed oil or raspberry seed oil acting as effective sunscreens and I have received several enquiries about this issue over the past few months. Having looked into the research on this topic, I cannot recommend using any natural oils in place of a scientifically verified SPF sunscreen since the hard evidence does not back up such claims! UV related problems especially in children or those with sensitive skin are a very real hazard … quite apart from the cosmetic damage caused! Some natural vegetable oils such as jojoba, coconut and avocado certainly possess a small amount of SPF (around 2-6), but this amount is far too little to provide any significant protection against UV rays. Such oils however can be a great bonus when applied throughout the summer months as daily moisturizing agents, since they help greatly to generally lubricate the skin and prevent dryness as well as maintaining elasticity within the tissues.

2. Hydrate the Skin Topically:

Be sure to give your skin direct water-based hydration in addition to applying an SPF sunscreen and moisturizers. Traditional moisturizers help to keep moisture and natural oils locked within the skin, but it is important to also use water-based products, especially floral waters to give extra hydration to the skin in hot weather. This is because when our skin is exposed to the sun or direct heat, drinking water cannot rehydrate our skin as effectively as by frequently spritzing it with an aqua-based spray. But of course it is always important to drink plenty of water too (avoid plastic bottled water) and eat lots of fresh fruit, vegetables and salads, as this helps to keep our entire body hydrated and our skin looking radiant from within. Due to it’s proven ageing effects, it is also important to avoid drinking too much alcohol.

So remember to carry a floral water of your choice with you always over the summer and spray your face and any exposed areas frequently. Rosewater, neroli and melissa waters all have a refreshing, uplifting effect which can be welcome in intense heat; spearmint, tea tree and rosemary waters all act as natural deodorants; while citronella water provides natural insect repellent properties when applied to the skin. Help overcome problems with skin dehydration and jetlag by carrying a bottle of geranium water with you on holiday. This oil is not only delightfully refreshing on long haul journeys, giving a boost to the spirits … it can also help to re-establish equilibrium within the body when crossing time zones.

3. Soothe & Regenerate:

Vitamin C has been a mainstay as skin care ingredient over the years, which has an incredible effect on preventing visible skin aging, but many natural vegetable oils also contain plentiful amounts of Vitamin C plus a range of other vitamins, alongside outstanding anti-oxidant and rejuvenating properties. It is therefore important to apply natural anti-oxidant and regenerative oils to the skin post sun exposure to keep your skin looking youthful. Carrier oils such as rosehip seed oil, argan oil, borage oil and our so- called ‘carrot oil’ (made from a Dead Sea Algae and high in carotenes) all possess potent anti-oxidant properties plus essential fatty acids, to radically revitalize the tissues from deep within. These nourishing carrier oils can be applied direct to the skin or blended with a few drops of an essential oil, which act as bodyguards against damage to skin cells after sunbathing. Essential oils such as frankincense, rose and myrrh are all renowned for their remarkable rejuvenating effects while the addition of a few drops of healing essential oils, such as lavender or chamomile to a blend, can help to soothe any redness or soreness.

If skin pigmentation is already a problem, try to keep to the shade as much as possible and avoid activities that cause extreme heat, such as staying in a sauna or spa for long periods or taking very hot baths. Capillaries get more fragile as we age and studies confirm that exposure to strong heat can also trigger melanin cells to increase and create discoloration. It is therefore best to turn down the temperature of the shower when bathing the face especially. To help deal with pigmentation or sun spots, use borage oil locally and for thread veins, apply low dilutions of violet leaf, rose or yarrow essential oil since they are all indicted for fragile skin. Always remember to massage the face using upward and outward strokes and avoid dragging on the skin.

NOTE: For specific directions on how to make rejuvenating body oils and skin serums, please see our Blending Notebook … and come to my Aromatherapy Workshop on the 1 st July at Botany in East London when I will showing you how to blend your own potions and make an amazing post sun-care body oil.