The Skincare You’ll Need To Survive An Actual Beach Holiday

Yep, I 100% meant “survive”.

See, it was during a recent trip to Maldives, aka Paradise in the Indian Ocean, that I really pushed my skin to its limits. Between unintentionally basking in the sun and all that UV damage, the perils of seawater during diving and snorkelling, or just being out in the open, my skin has never felt so dehydrated. No kidding, I was applying a hydrating serum 4 times a day (I don’t know if that’s a good thing). Most of the time, my usually-healthy skin felt parched, rough, and obviously, really tan after a week.

But you know, waking up to views like that made the holiday completely worth it! And I do have my forward-planning nature paranoia to thank, because I brought along an entire stash of skincare items. Three bags full. Literally.

Here are the 10 essential skincare items that were invaluable to me during the trip — which you might find very useful on your next beach vacay or summer holiday too:

1. A versatile, fuss-free cleanser

shu uemura Blanc:Chroma Brightening & Polishing Gentle Cleansing Oil, $125 ; Fresh Soy Face Cleanser, $63 ; Pixi + Caroline Hirons Double Cleanse, $36 (available July)

A good cleanser will change the way your skin looks, and psychologically, how you feel about it too. After repeatedly dunking my face in the sea, I couldn’t wait to finally feel like my skin’s clean and fresh again — and I wanted it fast.

Therefore, cleansing oils and makeup-removing cleansers. I really like how fuss-free they are — just massage onto your skin, watch the magic of all your makeup coming off, and rinse! No need for cotton pads that your resort may not provide. Both shu uemura’s and Fresh’s are cult classics that I can always count on, plus they never sting my eyes!

As for the double cleanse method, it’s a little more effort but works particularly well; the first step, a cleansing balm, helps break down and remove all traces of makeup, impurities (like salt deposits), and SPF, so that the second step, a luxurious cream, can really get to work on your skin. With Pixi’s product, my skin felt thoroughly cleansed, and even silky-soft after.

2. A hydrating serum

Pixi Hydrating Milky Serum, $36 ; Belif Numero 10 Essence, $49 ; Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate, $175

One thing I realised: seawater really dehydrates the skin. It’s not all bad — the mineral-rich water has lots of surprising benefits, including treating acne, but the high sodium content strips your skin of much-needed moisture. Sure, serums are kinda an extra step, but they do give you the hydrating boost you’ll need, along with a host of other skincare benefits.

I brought along Pixi’s Hydrating Milky Serum and just loved its lightweight texture and how quickly it disappeared into my skin. The milky formula contains nourishing ingredients such as jojoba oil, rose flower extract, aloe vera, and glycerin that holds in moisture, all of which left my skin with a nice soft surface that’s now primed for my moisturiser.

Belif’s product is more of an essence, but still a hydrating one that restores and strengthens the skin barrier along the way, especially after cleansing your face. As for Shiseido’s upgraded Ultimune, I’m currently in the midst of trying it — the smooth texture is certainly a plus, along with its innovative method of boosting my skin’s immunity so it remains strong and healthy against anything potentially damaging.

3. Gel moisturisers

Pixi Rose Caviar Essence, $36 ; RE:ERTH Hydrating Gel Moisturizer, $85 ; LANEIGE Water Sleeping Mask (Lavender), $48

Rather than heavy creams that might feel too slick, try a gel moisturiser that’s just as hydrating. For the day, layer lightweight gels that sink instantly into your skin — I like Pixi’s Rose Caviar with its nourishing flower oils housed in little capsules. The texture is practically weightless and easily melts when applied, and it contains valuable rose oil as well, an antioxidant-rich, anti-inflammatory ingredient that soothes stressed skin. Follow this up with a moisturiser to lock that goodness in!

At night, or after a day in the sun, gel moisturisers feel extra pleasant on your skin too; we all know that refreshing cooling sensation they provide. LANEIGE’s renowned sleeping mask delivers intensive moisture while revitalising tired skin as you’re sleeping, and with its calming scent, both you and your skin will feel way more well-rested in the morning.

4. Sunscreen!!

Shiseido Global Suncare Perfect UV Protector SPF50+ PA++++, $59 ; Anessa Perfect UV Sunscreen Skincare Milk SPF 50+ PA++++, $39.90 ; NIVEA UV FACE Anti-Age & Anti-Pigments SPF50, $21.50

Do I really need to elaborate on this? Pass the SPF, please. You’ll need all the help you can get to protect your skin against the harmful UV rays from the sun, which I was mercilessly subjected to whether I liked it or not. Always look for one that offers both UVA and UVB protection, and don’t forget to reapply throughout the day.

NIVEA’s latest sunscreen is an eye-friendly formula that boasts none of that unpleasant white, chalky cast that comes along with most drugstore sunscreens — a win for those with darker skin tones then.

I like Shiseido’s for its near-invisible, non-sticky or greasy texture so my skin never feels like I have an extra layer on, and gotta say, the proprietary WetForce technology as well. This makes the sunscreen go beyond simply “water-resistant”, and instead, its sun protective powers get boosted when in contact with water. Great for living in the tropics, eh?

5. Anything aloe vera

Nature Republic Soothing Aloe Vera Gel ; Jorubi Aloe Vera Gel, $19.80 ; The Body Shop Vitamin E Gel Moisture Cream, $30.90

So… despite what I just said, I wasn’t very diligent about my sunscreen on day one and I totally regret it now. My back and legs were scorched from just one snorkelling dip, and turned at least 6 foundation shades darker. But, there’s always aloe vera to the rescue!

There’s a reason why this is so often the first thing you think of when treating a bad sunburn — the natural remedy’s immediately soothing and relieves pain and inflammation, has healing properties that repair damaged skin cells, and even forms a protective layer that hydrates and holds precious moisture within the skin. With minimal side effects too.

My tip would be to immediately treat any sunburn before it has time to escalate. Go for the clear, jelly-like gels and be generous when slathering it on; you’ll feel less of that searing heat, redness, itchiness or discomfort — it’s that effective. You can also further hydrate your face with The Body Shop’s oil-free moisturiser too, since it contains sustainably-sourced aloe vera. I’m still undergoing the 5 stages of grief sunburn and learnt the hard way — you shouldn’t have to.

6. Detoxifying products

Caolion Magic Black Powder Sparkling Wash Powder, $45 ; Mamonde Petal Purifying Bubble Mask, $28 ; Fresh Umbrian Clay Purifying Mask, $88

This refers to anything from cleansers and exfoliating scrubs to moisturisers and mud/clay masks — the point is, you want products that get rid of the pollutive particles, makeup, bacteria, and other things that sit on your skin and end up clogging your pores. Ingredients to look out for include: antioxidants, activated charcoal, clay and mud, as well as marine algae.

It’s good to start with an exfoliator or deep cleanser, one that gently sloughs away dead skin cells and impurities. Caolion’s Magic Black Powder Sparkling Wash Powder purifies your skin with its signature ingredient, the micro-fine graphene powder. As for Mamonde’s 1-min bubble mask, the formula reacts with oxygen in the air to create micro bubbles that help lift away dead skin cells and impurities for a clearer complexion.

Then, keep a clay or mud mask at hand too as these are really effective in drawing out skin impurities and excess oil. Fresh’s Umbrian Clay Purifying Mask is my go-to when it comes to making my skin feel less slick and grimy, and it even helps in preventing breakouts if I spot a zit forming.

7. A tinted moisturiser / skin tint

Shiseido Synchro Skin Tinted Gel Cream, $56 ; Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 20 ; Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Skin Perfector, $58

Sometimes, you’ve got no time to beat your face. I don’t even do that on a daily basis, but really, when the sun doth shineth, you’ll want to get up and go, not spend an hour indoors fixing your makeup. So to perfect that #nomakeup makeup look, go for tinted moisturisers.

More lightweight than foundation, with perhaps less coverage, they still do their job of blurring pores and evening out your complexion such that your skin looks like it’s naturally filtered. You can read what the NYLON team thought about Shiseido’s Tinted Gel Cream here.

Pick those with a dewy finish for that summer glow! Now, you’ll be able to pull off an enviable, confident nonchalance while lounging on a deck chair.

8. A multi-purpose lip balm that works

LANEIGE Lip Glowy Balm, $14 ; Burt’s Bees Tinted Balm, $20 ; Rosebud Perfume Company Rosebud Salve, $18

It’s less about having your lips look kissable, and more about having them look healthy in the first place — not flaky and puckered. All of these lip balms help keep them moisturised, though I do like the gel texture of LANEIGE’s Lip Glowy Balm. It’s so moisturising that there’s an instant lip-plumping effect. Tinted lip balms are also highly useful in preserving some healthy colour on my face. And for the holy grail of fuss-free skincare, I’ve heard great things about the Rosebud Salve, which you can not only use on chapped lips, but also to heal cuts, moisturise dry patches (elbows!) and even tame flyaway or frizzy hair, which does tend to happen when your hair is subject to the harsh elements of a beach “holiday”.

9. Something for your hair & body

The Body Shop The Body Yoghurt, $20 ; Kew Organics Luxuriant Multi-purpose Dry Oil, $39.95 ; Percy & Reed Perfectly Perfecting Wonder Balm, $40

I tend to concentrate most of my skincare on my face, thus happily ignoring the majority of the body where skin exists too. But you know, the elements gave me a rude shock about that complacency in no time. I wanted the soft, smooth skin I was used to, not this strange dry tough layer! In came the body moisturisers — recently, I’ve been relying on The Body Shop’s Body Yogurt, which my skin loves to slurp up in seconds since the formula’s so much lighter, while still boasting an astounding 48-hour hydration.

Kew Organics’ product contains camelia seed oil for its nourishing, cell-recovering properties, and comes in a useful spray that gets absorbed quickly into both your skin and hair. Then, there’s Percy & Reed’s multi-tasking Wonder Balm that does everything you need it to; it’s like a primer for hair and helps with hydration, shine, smoothness, high humidity protection, anti-frizz, definition, and tames hair with a light hold. Pretty sure that’s more than what one generally needs.

10. A mist

Les Merveilleuses Ladurée Rose Mist, $30 ; LANEIGE Water Bank Hydro Mist, $22 (70ml) ; Thann Tahitian Lagoon and Alps Mineral Water Face Mist, $29

I was never really fond of mists. Being in an air-conditioned environment in office means I do make the occasional spritz, but it just didn’t seem all that effective or revolutionary… which is why I left this out while packing. Instant regret.

After coming back from being in the water for a couple of hours, I realised my skin really needed that extra hydration, and that means going through the whole process of applying my serums and day moisturisers — this would be way less tedious if I had a mist at hand. It’s like a magic wand that hydrates the skin in seconds, hassle-free! Who wouldn’t want that?