The combination of sun, chlorine, salt water, sand and wind which our bodies have been exposed to in recent months will undoubtedly have made us feel fantastically well, but the same cannot be said about the appearance of our hair and skin, two parts of us which suffer the most during summer holidays. "Despite what you might think, the summer is the time when the skin and hair look at their worst. It's true that a tan can make us look good, but exposure to the sun takes its toll on our bodies," says dermatologist Isabel Aldanondo, of Grupo Pedro Jaén. In order to recover the health of our hair and skin after not paying much attention to them for several weeks, it is important to follow a series of guidelines and also to be consistent with the treatments, "especially with hydration," she says.
From shiny hair to matted
The sun, chlorine in the swimming pools and salt in the sea water damage the outer layer of the hair (cuticle) and make the hair split more easily, become brittle and lose its shine. "To help to restore the cuticle you can use hydrating treatments such as masks, serums or essential oils and even more intensive hairdressing treatments," says dermatologist Ángela Hermosa, the spokesperson for the Trichology group of the Spanish Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (AEDV). She also advises against using a hairdryer.
Apart from losing its shine, another consequence of exposing the hair to the sun for so long is that it will tend to fall out more in the weeks to come. That isn't a myth. It's a fact.
"There is a type of hair loss that is seasonal and it usually coincides with the autumn," says Dr Hermosa. Experts believe this is because, as we are in the sunlight so much in the summer, hair doesn't grow so fast. As we start to lose some a couple of months after being left to grow, this may be the reason we notice a slight increase in the amount that falls out in October and November.
"It normally lasts less than three months and recuperates spontaneously, so it is nothing to worry about. However, if it goes on for some time, or you notice that your hair gets thinner or there are patches of alopecia you should consult a dermatologist to rule out any conditions which can also cause hair loss, such as alopecia areata, which is an auto-immune illness," says the doctor.
What can we do about this hair loss?
"There are treatments which help to prevent hair loss, so it stops before it would on its own and even make the hair that has fallen grow more rapidly, such as minoxidil, either topical or oral, mesotherapy with platelet-rich plasma or the use of melatonin," she says.
Goodbye, sun tan
The end of the holidays is a good time to exfoliate the skin once or twice a week, "especially if there is a lot of seborrhoea or a tendency to acne. That gets rid of the dead cells and helps the skin to recover," say experts.
Dr Hermosa recommends using day creams with antioxidants such as vitamin C to help the cells repair the damage produced to the DNA by the ultraviolet radiation, and at night you can apply creams with retinols or alpha hydroxy acids.
If what you need to do is revitalise and deeply hydrate the skin,
"You can use treatments such as mesotherapy with vitamins and low cross-linking hyaluronic acid or collagen biostimulation with platelet-rich plasma," she says.
Another common occurrence during the summer months is the appearance of marks or moles on the skin, and these should be assessed and treated by a dermatologist.
Once the type of mark has been analysed, it will be treated with depigmenting agents, peelings or light sources such as laser and pulsed light.
We usually feel better when we have a sun tan, but that brown colour we like so much is still aggressive for the skin.
"Ultraviolet radiation is the main cause of oxidative stress. It induces the destruction of collagen and the elastic fibres which keep our skin firm and it causes alterations to the pigmentation, such as lentigines and melasma.
It also damages the epithelium and causes pre-cancerous lesions such as actinic keratoses, and over the years and with repeated exposure to the sun, these can become malignant tumors," says Dr Aldanondo.