Who doesn’t dream – especially on a rainy school-run – of returning from their hols, whether in the Caribbean or the Canaries, radiating a sun-kissed wellness and showing off a caramel-coloured bod? The reality is, of course, that many of us either overdo it in the sun and return with oddly placed blotches (or, worse, sunburn) or are too cautious and come back paler than before we left.
With so many products to choose from, it can be hard to narrow down the field. With the all-crucial sun protection, a high SPF of 30+ is recommended for most skin types, and constant, regular reapplication throughout the day is a MUST. A good tip is to apply sun protection before you leave your accommodation then re-apply when you reach the beach – you can easily burn in a matter of minutes in hot climates.
Remember to follow basic ‘safe sun’ rules: lying out in the midday sun is a no no; reapply protection after going for a swim; and never forget that you can burn even if it's overcast.
See also our tips page on family holiday health and safety, and also our features on best sun protection products for kids and dads.
Prices were correct at the time of writing but are subject to change.
Indulge in an all-over body scrub once a week for a few weeks before leaving to prepare the skin for an even, long-lasting tan. Lisa Hoffman’s Spa Shower body range is practical yet luxurious, with rare, exotic ingredients such as Star of Madagascar orchid, Acai oil and Hawaiian white honey. The heavenly smell transports you somewhere hot and tropical – perfect to get you in the holiday mood. Her Body Scrub (harveynichols.com; £31) contains crushed bamboo to exfoliate the skin, with a little going a long way. And yes, she is married to Dustin…
If you’re feeling flush, the Shiffa Dubai Basil and Mint Body Scrub (shiffa.com; £53.75) is by a new Middle Eastern brand calling on ancient beauty traditions and ingredients and contains hazel, sweet almond oil and Dead Sea salts as well as sumptuous-smelling essential oils, leaving skin unbelievably soft.
Follow a scrub with good body moisturiser to replenish and keep skin supple. Amazene’s Passion Fruit and Guava Body Butter (amazene.com; £14.95) uses active ingredients from the Amazon region, free from harmful and unnecessary chemicals. G Baldwin’s Replenishing Pomegranate, Bilberry & Rose Body Lotion (baldwins.co.uk; £10.99) is a lighter option that revitalises skin dull from too many months hidden under layers of clothes.
A light, all-over fake-tan is a good idea but don’t over-do it – there’s nothing worse than streaks of orange when you bare all on the beach. Sun-Believable Expert Tan’s organic Tan Me Self Tan Mousse (sun-believable.com; £30) is virtually odourless (at last!) and instant-drying. It develops in 2-4hrs and lasts for up to 10 days so it’s a good option if you need to self-tan few days before you take off. St Tropez’s new Skin Illuminator (st-tropez.com; £12), meanwhile, gives skin a strobe-like sheen and highlights even the lightest tan.
Boots’ Soltan range has something for everyone. For delicate skin, the fragrance-free Sensitive range comes in SPF15, 30 and 50+ (£9.75), while Soltan Once (£13.29) is a great option for those who are prone to forgetting to top up their sunscreens, with a high SPF of 50 and protection for up to 6hrs.
Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess products have the most luscious scent out there; the medium-protection SunScreen SPF15 (esteelauder.co.uk; £21.50) is great for darker complexions, adding a subtle radiance to limbs. Cult French suncare specialist Institut Esthederm has a sun cream for every type of skin and every type of holiday; the Adaptasun Face Cream (liberty.com; £29.95) has an anti-wrinkle protection and is ideal for tropical climates where sun exposure is more intense. La Prairie’s Cellular Anti-Wrinkle Sun Cream (laprairie.com; £92), also specifically for the face, has a SPF30; the steep price tag is down to this being an all-singing all-dancing anti-ageing cream combined with sun protection.
A tiny solid stick ideal for those on the go, Clinique’s Targeted Protection Stick (Clinique.co.uk; £15.50) with SPF35 looks after fragile places that burn easily, such as lips, earlobes and nose. To prevent dry and brittle nails and prevent varnish colour from yellowing by blocking UV-rays, brush on Orly’s Sunscreen for Nails (orlybeauty.co.uk; £9.45).
For hair, comb through Tommy Guns Leave Me In Conditioner and Styling Crème (tommygunshaircare.com; £7), with ginger root and green tea to keep hair soft and detangled, plus UV and thermal protection. For water babies, Philip Kingsley’s cult Swimcap (philipkingsley.co.uk; £18) is a must, waterproofing your hair, guarding against discolouration and damage caused by sun, salt-water, wind and chlorine, and working as a super conditioning treatment.
When temperatures climb, make sure you have a spritz – not only to refresh and cool but to keep skin hydrated. Caudalie’s Grape Water (caudalie.com; from £4) is a natural, plant-based formula, while Jurlique’s Rosewater Balancing Mist (jurlique.co.uk; £14.50) tones and hydrates to leave skin dewy and soft.
After a session in the sun, cool off and restore, rinsing off the day’s debris with Ahava’s Mineral Botanic Cream Wash (ahava.co.uk; £15), a velvety body cleanser with Dead Sea minerals and organic plant extracts. Follow up with the Ahava Aftersun Rehydrating Balm (£16), to cool and calm. For red patches or sore skin, Ole Henriksen’s all Purpose Aloe Vera Gel (harveynichols.com; £35) a light, oil-free gel with camomile, soothes skin irritations and sunburn.
Keeping Your Tan
Moisturising is vital not only during your hols but also when you return. Mrs White’s Classic Cold Cream (roullierwhite.com; £20) sounds old-fashioned, but once you discover its multi-uses you’ll be hooked – as well as a cleanser, this natural cream containing beeswax, rose absolute and olive oil can be smoothed on overnight to deeply hydrate and protect.
Long-term Sun Protection
Preventing premature ageing from too much sun exposure with Perricone MD’s More Than Moisture (perriconemd.co.uk; £49), a deep hydrator with anti-ageing properties as well as an SPF30. Or Barefoot Botanical’s Rosa Fina Face and Decolletage Oil (barefoot-botanicals.com; £26.95) is a night-time treatment containing high-grade rosa mosqueta oil that reduces rosacea and tones and moisturises to prevent those tell-tale signs of too much time in the sun (especially round the neck and chest area).