best beach skincare routine

What’s your beach skincare game like?

Mine ain’t that different from my everyday skincare routine. I can’t stand to have 10 layers on my face on any given day, let alone when I’m roasting under the sun for hours. Just. No.

My beach skincare philosophy is KISS (keep it simple, stupid): the morning’s all about maximising sun protection and the evening is for damage repair.

Because, sunscreen may protect you from the worst of it, but a day in the sun, sea and sand can leave your skin worse for wear (dryness, anyone?).

I don’t know about you, but I can’t enjoy the sun if I have to worry about my skin. So, here’s the best beach skincare routine to keep you safe before, during, and after sun exposure:

Morning Beach Skincare Routine

Step 1: Cleanser

First things first: let’s get rid of the little grime that settled on your skin during the night.

I like to use a cream cleanser that adds some moisture back into the skin, but any cleanser that’s gentle and pH balanced will do.

The trick is to find a cleanser that removes dirt without stripping your skin naked of the natural oils it needs to stay moisturised. If your skin feels tight after cleansing, you’ve gone too far. Switch to something gentler.

Best Picks:

Related: How To Find The Best Cleanser For Your Skin Type

Struggling to put together a skincare routine that minimises wrinkles, prevents premature aging, and gives your complexion a youthful glow? Download your FREE “Best Anti-Aging Skincare Routine” to get started (it features product recommendations + right application order):

Step 2: CEF Serum

CEF stands for Vitamin C + Vitamin E + ferulic acid.

These three antioxidants patrol your skin and destroy every free radical they see on their path. Vitamin C goes two steps further: it also boosts collagen and brightens your skin.

When used together, these three musketeers of skincare become invincible: studies show that a combo of 15% Vitamin C, 1% Vitamin E and 0.5% ferulic acid makes these vitamins more stable and DOUBLES photo protection.

You see now why I ALWAYS slather a CEF serum under sunscreen before I hit the beach? It instantly boosts its photoprotection, keeping me safer in the sun.

P.S. I know some of you are worried about Vitamin C making your skin more susceptible to sun damage. But when you use this combo TOGETHER with sunscreen, it enhances sun protection, not sun damage.

Best Picks:

Related: Why You Should Add Ferulic Acid To Your Skincare Routine

Step 3: Sunscreen

Beach skincare is all about sunscreen. Pile it on at least 20 minutes before you leave the house. 1/3 of a teaspoon for your face and neck and one glass shot for your body

Don’t forget your ears, feet, back of your knees and all the other nooks and crannies you tend to ignore (I know, I’ve been there too!).

Reapply every 2 hours – or after swimming, sweating and towel drying. I know it’s a pain but the beach where’s your skin’s most vulnerable.

You’re exposing almost your entire body for hours to UV radiation that fries your skin and gives you wrinkles, dark spots and – in the worst case scenario – cancer.

Play it safe. Pile that sunscreen on as often as you can. I really can’t stress this enough.

Best Picks:

  • Drunk Elephant Umbra Tinte Physical Daily Defense Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30 ($36.00): available at Sephora.
  • EltaMD UV Pure BroadSpectrum SPF 47 ($24.50): available at SkincareRX.
  • Topix Replenix Sheer Physical Sunscreen Cream SPF 50 ($32.00): available at Skinstore.

Related: How Much Sunscreen Do You Really Need?

Wait! What About Moisturiser?

A skincare routine without moisturizer?! Has Gio gone nuts?

Nope. For me, beach skincare is all about sunscreen. I know that once I hit the beach, I’m gonna start to melt and sweat buckets. The last thing I need is an extra layer of skincare. Or makeup (I don’t wear that at the beach, either).

Instead, I go for a moisturising sunscreen. That way, I kill two birds with one stone.

If your skin’s dry and needs the extra moisture at the beach, then layering your fave moisturiser under sunscreen makes sense. You can find my fave moisturisers for dry skin here.

Do what works for YOU, not what mags and marketers tell you to.

Related: Dry Skin?: Here’s What Your Moisturiser Should Contain

cerave hydrating cleanser

Evening Beach Skincare Routine

Step 1: Cleanser

It’s finally time to get rid of all the sweat, sand and sunscreen still stuck to your skin.

But not every cleanser will do. You see, sunscreens need to adhere to your skin really well to work their magic and keep you safe. So you need to bring in the big cleansing guns.

An oil-based cleanser is your best bet for this. You have two options here:

  • Double cleansing: Use an oil-based cleanser to remove sunscreen and oil-based impurities and follow it up with a water-based cleanser.
  • Water- and oil- based cleanser: Most cleansers out there already contain both water and oils so they remove everything in one go.

In case you’re wondering, I go for the second option. I don’t see the need of using two products when the one will do.

Best Picks:

Related: Are You Removing Sunscreen The Right Way?

Step 2: Prescription / Retinol

If your derm has given you any prescription treatment for acne/wrinkles/whatever, use it now.

If not, go in with a retinol serum. I know what you’re thinking, “but won’t that make my skin more susceptible to sun damage?”

Nope. One: you’re using it at night, once the sun has gone down. Two: you’ll be wearing sunscreen the next morning, right?

So, no, retinol won’t harm your skin. But it’ll help you repair some of the damage UV rays have done to your skin. How? Three ways:

  • Antioxidant: It fights the UV-induced free radicals that give you wrinkles and dark spots
  • Collagen booster: It replenishes lost collagen, keeping your skin firmer
  • Cellular turnover: It speeds up the skin’s natural exfoliating process, fading away wrinkles and hyperpigmentation

I wouldn’t recommend using it every night (unless your derm told you otherwise). Two or three times a week should be enough on holiday.

Best Picks:

  • La Roche Posay Redermic Anti-Aging Dermatological Treatment ($49.99): 0.1% retinol. Available at Dermstore, Feel Unique, and Look Fantastic
  • Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum With Retinol ($34.00): 0.03% retinol. Available at Paula’s Choice.
  • The Ordinary Retinol 1% In Squalane (£5.80): 1% retinol. Available at Beauty Bay and Cult Beauty

Related: What Strength Of Retinol Do YOU Need?

Step 3: Hyaluronic acid

Let’s face it: spending a day at the beach can suck all the moisture out of your skin and make it look like a withered old prune.

During the day, I make do with a moisturising sunscreen. But as soon as the sun goes back, I slather on a hyaluronic acid serum.

Hyaluronic acid is a moisture magnet: it attracts water from the air and binds it to your skin. It’s so powerful, it can hold up to 1000 times its weight in water!

All that moisture keeps your skin soft and plump, ready for the next day at the beach.

Best Picks:

Related: Why You Need Hyaluronic Acid In Your Skincare Routine 

Step 4: Moisturiser

I may skip moisturiser in the morning but I sure pile it on in the evening. Your skin needs all the moisture it can get after a long day at the beach.

Sure, hyaluronic acid helps. It drops plenty of moisture into your skin. But you need a moisturiser to seal it all in.

Which one you choose depends on your skin type:

  • Oily: Opt for lightweight, oil-free formulas.
  • Dry: Go for rich, oil-based moisturisers.
  • Sensitive: Make sure it’s fragrance and irritants free.

Bonus points: the more antioxidants it has, the better.

Best Picks:

  • Paula’s Choice Calm Redness Relief Moisturiser Normal To Dry Skin ($29.00): available at Paula’s Choice
  • Paula’s Choice Calm Redness Relief Moisturiser Normal To Oily Skin ($29.00): available at Paula’s Choice 

Related: Do You Even Need Moisturiser?

Wait! What About Exfoliation?

I’m obsessed with exfoliation… but NOT at the beach.

Exfoliation removes the superficial layer of dead skin cells, making your skin smoother and brighter. BUT those dead cells are there for a reason. They help protect your skin against its enemies, sun included. If you remove it, you make your skin more susceptible to UV rays.

That’s why I give my skin a break from exfoliation during a beach holiday. Sure, if it’s a long holiday (more than one week), I’ll exfoliate every few days. But, as a rule, I try to keep exfoliation to a minimum.

The only exception? If you have oily, acne-prone skin, keep using your salicylic acid every other day. It’s worth it to keep the acne at bay. But make sure to pile on that sunscreen afterwards!

Related: What’s The Best Way To Exfoliate Every Skin Type?

Bonus Tip: Pack Some Aloe Vera Gel

I don’t go to the beach often. No matter how diligent I am with sunscreen, I’m so pale I still burn if I spend a little too much time in the sun. Ouch!

That’s why I always pack a tube of aloe vera gel in my beach bag. Aloe vera is a godsend for sunburns. Its soothing properties reduce redness, itching and irritation. Plus, it feels so refreshing on.

Best Picks:

  • Benton Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel ($19.00): available at Soko Glam.
  • Nature Republic Aloe Vera 92% Soothing Gel ($11.96): available at Yes Style.

Related: 9 Ingredients That Soothe Irritated Skin

The Bottom Line

Beach skincare is all about sunscreen + hydration. Put your UV shields up, keep the hydration flowing and always have a tube of aloe vera gel at hand. Everything else can wait until you’re back from your beach vacay.