Make-up at the beach: yes or no? Do’s and don’ts to protect your skin under the sun

We talked to Prof. Massimo Gravante, Lecturer in Dermatology at UniCamillus University

Time for sun, sea and tan. Golden skin masks most of the flaws that the pallor of winter ruthlessly displays, such as dark circles, pimples and blackheads—just as beach days are ideal for refreshing baths, seaside walks and impromptu volleyball games. Yet, beyond sunbathing and fun, many women do not give up make-up at the beach. But is it really a good choice? We are not, of course, referring to the fact that make-up can smudge—there have been waterproof variants of cosmetics on the market for decades now. Instead, we allude to dermatological problems that sun exposure, combined with the presence of certain ingredients contained in make-up products, can cause or exacerbate.

We talked to Prof. Massimo Gravante, Lecturer in Dermatology at UniCamillus University.

The key word is “layering”.

“When we are at the beach, the skin receives stimuli to which it is not normally accustomed: at the beach, we are subjected to humidity, high temperature, ultraviolet rays, wind and salinity”, explains Gravante. “That is why, if you wonder whether wearing make-up is OK or not, the answer is ‘it depends’“. It depends on the initial condition of our skin: if we suffer from conditions that worsen with sun exposure, such as porphyria, allergic contact dermatitis, polymorphous solar dermatitis and rosacea, we’d better go on holiday… and take a holiday from make-up too! “To look good at the beach, the less we apply, the better”, suggests our expert.

However, if we do not suffer from any particular allergies or diseases and do not want to give up make-up at the beach, Prof. Gravante suggests the technique of product layering.

Layering changes according to skin type. “If the skin is dry and parched, it is important to first apply a moisturising cream, and that’s even better if it is reinforced with antioxidants. Once this has been absorbed, sun cream can be used, with an SPF of 50+. As a final layer, it would be better to avoid foundation, and go for a BB cream (in the case of young, delicate skin) or a CC cream (if the skin has more imperfections to cover)”. In the case of oily and acne-prone skin, it is better to opt for a gel instead of cream. If, on the other hand, your skin is young and supple, the specialist suggests skipping the initial moisturising cream step. And if the BB cream already contains SPF? “If the SPF is 50+, then sun cream can be avoided”.

Products to be avoided at the beach

Watch out for the INCI names of products you use at the beach, whether cream or make-up. “The ingredients to avoid at the beach are salicylic acid, retinoic acid and retinol“, warns Gravante. “Although in winter they help combat wrinkles, in summer the action of the sun increases their irritating effect“.

Another element to pay attention to is how dated a cosmetic is and how it has been stored. “Sunscreens need to be protected from the sun’s rays themselves! Therefore, they must be stored at a suitable temperature, just as it is best to avoid sun cream from the previous year“, specifies Prof. Gravante. “Make-up, moreover, must be ‘fresh’: if the product is dry and uneven, there is a high risk of bacterial proliferation“.

Also potentially irritating are perfumes, which are among the most allergenic substances: better to replace them with perfumed waters, which are less fragrant but safer on the skin.

Common sense always wins

Of course, using specific, non-allergenic products and avoiding make-up are not, by themselves, insurance against burns, dermatitis or sunburn! On the beach, we must always take the right precautions“, concludes Gravante. “Sunscreen should be applied every two hours and after each swim in the sea. It is important to avoid the sun at its most violent time, i.e. between 11.30am and 4pm. Beware of cloudy days, because clouds filter the sun’s rays and reflect them back from the surface of the sea, enhancing their damaging effect. Finally, you need to hydrate a lot and eat red and orange summer fruits rich in beta-carotene, which is an important antioxidant ally of the skin”.