Uncover Your Bare-Worthy Body
Ah, summer. For every delight the season promises—sundresses, outdoor activities, warm breezes—it presents a corresponding challenge—exposed skin, itchy ailments, frizz. But with a few thoughtful changes to your self-care routine, you can shed your dull winter skin, protect yourself from the hazards of heat, humidity, and sun exposure, and radiate with vitality from head to toe. Our field guide to your body shows you how.
Curly hair frizzes because it’s dry. “Healthy hair cuticles are like a tightly bundled bud still on the tree,” explains Lorraine Massey, author of Curly Girl (Workman Publishing, 2001). “But when hair lacks moisture, the cuticle opens like a pinecone drying on the forest floor.” In humidity, thirsty curls will likely go on a drinking binge unless you take steps to seal in moisture.
Shelve the sulfates. Most shampoos contain sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate—foaming agents that create the suds. “Sulfates are incredibly drying and the prime cause of frizz,” Massey says. To achieve a healthy clean, she advises looking for a shampoo with no ingredients that end with “sulfate.”
Try: Terressentials Pure Earth Hair Wash ($10.75, 8 oz; www.terressentials.com)
Throw in the towel. “A towel is so absorbent, it will remove too much moisture from your hair,” Massey says. And because a towel has uneven texture, rubbing your hair vigorously with it will also roughen up your cuticles and cause them to open (in other words, frizz). Instead, use a smooth fabric—such as a T-shirt or pillowcase—and gently squeeze your hair dry.
Although ultraviolet and blue light exist year-round, increased outdoor time boosts your exposure to these hazardous rays. Over time, UV exposure can lead to free radicals in the cells of the eye, a precondition for cataracts and macular degeneration.
Boost your defenses. Marc Grossman, OD, LAc, an optometrist in New Paltz, New York and author of Natural Eye Care (McGraw-Hill, 1999), recommends 6 mg of lutein, 3 mg of zeaxanthin, and at least 500 mg of vitamin C daily. “I call lutein and zeaxanthin nature’s sunglasses because of their ability to protect the photoreceptive cells of the macular from sun damage, while vitamin C protects the cells in the lens of the eye,” Grossman says. To get your allotment of these nutrients through food, he recommends you eat kale (for lutein) and orange peppers (zeaxanthin) three or four times a week.
Keep your eyes under wraps. Just as brown-eyed people are less sensitive to the sun than people with lighter-colored eyes, sunglasses with brown or amber lenses offer more protection from UV and blue light rays than lighter lenses. “Wear wraparound, brown-lensed sunglasses whenever you will be in the sun for prolonged periods of time,” Grossman advises. But since the eye needs light to function properly, he suggests taking those shades off when you’re indoors: “Sunglasses are a great protective tool, but they are only necessary when you’re in full-sun situations.”
What’s more alluring than silky, shimmery shoulders in a sundress? Devoting part of your skincare routine to this oft-neglected body part can make your shoulders glisten and provide sun protection to boot.
Slough off the old. “Exfoliation will get rid of any roughness from the dry skin of winter or freckling from the summer before,” says S. Manjutha Jegosothy, MD, director of the Miami Skin Clinic.
Try: A salt scrub, like Trillium Organics Body Polish ($15.99, 8 oz; www.trilliumorganics.com)
Get your glow on. Rubbing in an all-natural oil will make your skin gleam without leaving any residue on your clothes. Kat James, author of The Truth About Beauty (Atria Books, 2007), recommends coconut oil. “In addition to providing a great-looking glow, this oil also offers a little bit of sun protection—about SPF 4,” she says.
Try: Extra Virgin Coconut Oil from Nutiva ($11.99, 15 oz; www.nutiva.com)
Neck and chest
Now that tank tops are a wardrobe staple, your décolletage is on display. Keep your neck looking its best through exfoliating and moisturizing.
Lighten and brighten. “A seaweed mask gently exfoliates and lightens any discoloration,” James says.
Try: Hydrating Red Algae Mask from Spa Technologies ($24, 2 oz; www.spatechnologies.com), a combination of red algae, red clay, aloe vera, and essential oils of lavender and bergamot.
Tighten. Jegosothy recommends vitamin C for reducing fine lines and tightening a wattle. “Vitamin C is an antioxidant and can reverse DNA damage caused by previous sun exposure and aging.”
Try: Healing Anthropology Rejuvenating Vitamin C Solution ($55, 1 oz; www.healinganthropology.com)
Rhett Butler knew you could tell more about a woman by looking at her hands than her clothes. Protect your hands from long days spent in the garden, and take steps to treat any dark patches.
Target sunspots. A 2006 study by dermatologists at Harvard Medical School showed that topically applied glucosamine—the compound commonly taken for joint pain—can diminish areas of hyperpigmentation.
Try: Sunshine Botanicals Regen-C Firming & Lifting Serum ($68, 1 oz; www.sunshinebotanicals.com) delivers a dose of glucosamine directly to your sunspots.
Soften unnecessary roughness. Before you head out into the garden, rub in a beeswax balm. “The beeswax forms a protective layer on your skin that protects against the roughness that results from repeated abrasion and contact with water,” James says.
Try: Burt’s Bees Hand Salve (1 oz, $8; www.burtsbees.com).
Arms and legs
Many of the skin woes of summer—bug bites, plant-induced rashes, and irritation from heat and sun—show up primarily on arms and legs. Here are two ways to keep your limbs itch-free.
The ocean’s arsenal. When heat, bugs, or rashes have got you itching, hop in the ocean. “Saltwater has an antiseptic effect on the skin,” James says. “The salt boosts circulation, which promotes detox and speeds healing.” If you’re far from the ocean, recreate its effects in your tub by dissolving 2 to 4 pounds of sea salt in body-temperature water, and settle in for a good soak. James recommends unprocessed sea salt, which contains the trace minerals found in seawater.
Try: Real Salt (1 pound, $6.59; www.realsalt.com)
Keep bugs at bay. To prevent bites without resorting to harsh chemicals, look for a repellent that contains catnip, a natural mosquito deterrent.
Try: Mosquito Solutions Natural Catnip Oil, which also contains rosemary essential oil in an easy-to-apply spray bottle (8 oz, $15.95; www.mosquitosolutions.com).
Although you can hide back acne (affectionately known as “backne”) during other times of the year, it’s more exposed in the summer. Try these steps to treat breakouts and keep them from recurring.
Back in the clear. “The skin on your back is the thickest on your body,” Jegosothy explains, meaning many products targeting backne are purposefully harsh. For a gentler treatment, she suggests an exfoliant with azelaic acid.
Try: MyChelle Dermaceuticals Clear Skin Serum ($29.95, 1 oz; www.mychelleusa.com)
Filter your shower water. “Chlorine and other chemicals found in most municipal water disrupt your skin’s natural ecology,” James says. “Purifying your water allows your skin to retain the protective oils that fight bacteria that can cause acne.”
Try: Aquasana makes a combo filter-showerhead that installs easily—and still gives a generous spritz. ($84.99; www.aquasana.com)
“The 26 bones of the foot are each designed to move as we walk,” says Jonathan FitzGordon, owner of the Yoga Center of Brooklyn and creator of the Core Walking program. After months in heavy, confining shoes, your feet could use some liberating exercise.
Strengthen your feet. Before you start sporting bare feet, develop the muscles responsible for supporting your body weight. San Francisco pilates instructor Elizabeth Larkam recommends using a tennis ball or a slightly larger ball. Sitting up tall in a chair, place the ball under the toes of your right foot. Bear down comfortably, and roll your entire foot across the ball several times, then repeat with the left foot. For more of a challenge, repeat while standing, resting your hand on a wall for support.
Try: Franklin Ball ($24.95; www.optp.com)
Kick off your shoes. Once you’ve built up some strength, take advantage of the warm weather to walk in bare feet. “Going barefoot frees those 26 bones and helps your feet better support the body,” FitzGordon says. Take care to walk on soft surfaces, such as grass or wet sand. “Walking barefoot on hard surfaces can be jarring on your joints.”
Kate Hanley, based in Brooklyn, looks forward to a frizz-free summer.