Vacation Beauty: Your 3-Week Guide to Getting Beach-Ready

From top to toe, you’ll be vacation-ready in just three weeks with our pretty-up primer.

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buff your skin

Three weeks before vacation: Buff your skin

A few weeks prior to your trip, step up your skin-buffing routine by adding an exfoliating body wash during your shower or using a bath mitt, glove or loofah with your usual body cleanser. Sugar or salt scrubs are another way to slough off dry, dead skin. Exfoliate two to three times a week, massaging skin with a gentle circular motion. If you notice redness or irritation, use a gentler touch and scale back the buffing.

For the softest skin, lock in moisture post-body scrub. When you step out of the shower, pat skin dry and immediately apply moisturizer. Products that contain ingredients like jojoba and shea butters provide lasting hydration. And don’t forget to apply sunscreen on exposed skin, too. When you’re actually on holiday – and spending the day in your swimsuit at the pool or dockside – you can combine these two steps. “A good-quality sunscreen can double as a body lotion,” says Dr. Manish Khanna, consulting dermatologist for Garnier Ombrelle. During the summer months, most complexions don’t require as much heavy-duty moisture, and it’ll save space in your bag, too. More room for those figure-flattering swimsuits you just ordered!

To try: Waxon on the Rocks Japanese Peppermint & Eucalyptus, $30; Merben 9″ Jute Body Brush, $28
Not shown: Weleda Birch Body Scrub, $15; Imbrelle Ultra Light Advanced SPF 50 Weightless Body Lotion, $20

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tan product

Two weeks before vacation: Build a faux glow

Nothing says summer like golden skin, but we all know that excess sun exposure is a no-no. (Don’t forget to check these unusual spots for skin cancer.) To get a healthy glow, opt for a self-tanner. For the most foolproof results, use a gradual formulation that slowly builds colour over the course of several applications.

Gradual self-tanners are user-friendly these days, but they still need to be applied with care. Since the colour will sink into dry skin, leaving behind dark streaks, proper exfoliation is an essential first step.

If you’ve just showered, make sure skin is totally dry. Apply a lightweight moisturizer to areas that are most likely to get streaky: nose, knees, elbows and ankles. Now you’re ready to apply self-tanner. Using small amounts, begin at your feet and work the formula into your skin with broad, even, circular strokes, finishing with your arms and the top of your hands.

Next, work a dime-size amount over your face, focusing on your forehead, nose, cheeks and chin –  areas where the sun naturally hits. If you aren’t wearing gloves, wash your hands as soon as you’re through.

Most gradual self-tanners require several applications over the course of a few days or even weeks. Once you’ve achieved your desired shade, maintain the glow with light applications every few days, according to package directions.

To try: Jergens Colour Primer, $13; Clarins Instant Smooth Golden Glow Self-Tanning, $36; Vita Liberata Phenomenal 2-3 Week Luxury Tan, $65; Jergens Natural Glow 3 Days to Glow Moisturizer, $13

Looking for a timesaver? Try St. Tropez In-Shower (Yes, you read that right!) Tanning Lotion, $31. You simply soap up and rinse off as usual and, while skin is still wet, apply tanning lotion. Leave on for three minutes and wash off.

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photo credit: sibu

One week before vacation: Hair removal

Hair removal should be top of your to-do list in the week before a beach vacation. “Smooth skin will just look and feel better,” says Lexi Miles, founder of Waxon wax bars in Toronto and Halifax.

There are plenty of ways to get smooth skin, including salon laser removal treatments, but they require repeated visits and come with a hefty price tag. For consistently great results, we recommend these two tried-and-true methods.

It will keep you hair-free for the longest amount of time – roughly three to five weeks – and guarantee smooth results. If you’re heading to the salon to de-fuzz, make sure your skin is prepped.

“Ideally, you should exfoliate the area thoroughly the night before or the morning of your appointment,” says Miles. This primes skin for hair removal, reducing the chance of bumps and skin irritation post-treatment.

For best post-wax results, apply a cool compress to close pores and prevent bacteria buildup, which can lead to bumps, especially in sensitive areas like the bikini line. A cooling aloe vera gel can also soothe skin. To prevent ingrown hairs, exfoliate every few days.

If you’re waxing at home, you’ll also need to prep your skin by exfoliating. Use a hair remover strip kit for the easiest DIY experience – it takes a lot of the mess out of the application process. But don’t do your bikini line yourself: It’s tricky to get the right angle to rip the wax off and you risk painful bruising.

We know, you’ve been doing it for decades, but a quick refresher on best practices will ensure great results. For starters, hop in the bath or shower – hair that’s hydrated is 60 percent easier to cut. But, don’t soak for too long – a long bath can cause skin to wrinkle and swell, making it tougher to get a close shave. Use a new blade (they should be replaced every five to 10 shaves) and a rich shave gel or cream. Move in the direction that feels best for you, using light pressure and a soft touch. Save the tricky spots, like around your knees and ankles, until last, giving the shaving cream time to work its softening magic to prevent knicks.

To try: Sibu Sea Berry Therapy Miracle Stick, $20

Not shown: Prince Reigns Ingrown Hair Serum, $30; Gillette Venus Swirl Razor, $20 (includes razor and two refills); Nair Moroccan Argan Oil Ultimate Roll-On Body Wax, $19

Do you need a “vajacial”? (It’s almost as weird as the penis facial!) At least one Toronto spa is now offering a facial-like skin treatment – for the bikini line. Vajacials are performed 10 to 20 days post-wax, when hair is just beginning to appear beneath the surface. The area is cleansed, exfoliated and treated to a special mask designed to treat and prevent ingrown hairs. The process also helps to smooth bumps, diminish discoloration and shrink enlarged pores. Find out more at

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nail polish

A few days before vacation: Get polished

Your nails definitely deserve some attention before a big vacation. Whether you’re heading to a nail bar or going DIY, a manicure and pedicure are musts.

“It’s a great time to get your feet properly exfoliated and polished before exposing them in the cute sandals you’ve been dying to wear,” says Kristen Wood, CEO of the Ten Spot beauty bars in Toronto. If you’re doing your own toes, follow the same steps they’d take at the salon: Begin by soaking your feet to soften calluses and rough patches, then use a foot file to smooth them over. Cut and file nails as needed, push back cuticles, exfoliate feet and moisturize. For the best polish application, “Clean the nail plate with polish remover to get rid of any oils first,” advises Wood. Use base and top coats, and apply two coats of colour for the richest-looking finish.

Not sure which shade to choose? “Bright pinks and corals have been all the rage going into summer, but teal and plum are also popular,” says Wood.

Follow the same routine to clean up your fingernails, using a matching or complementary shade of polish. If you’re going to be away for a week or two, keep in mind that lighter shades wear better because chips won’t stand out.

If you’re leaving the polishing to a pro, consider some nail art that will disguise imperfections. “A negative space half-moon is a great option for vacations because the regrowth will be less obvious,” says Wood. For a longer-lasting mani, consider a gel polish (using an at-home kit or done at the salon), which will stay put for one to two weeks. Geometric nail art is also a huge trend on Pinterest and Instagram right now.

To try: Crabtree & Evelyn Spring Bloom Nail Lacquers, $6 each; Impress Accent Press-On Manicure by Broadway Nails in Boogie Down, $11

Not shown: Seche Base Ridge Filling Base Coat, $13

No time to soak and scrub callouses? We’re loving the Amopé PediPerfect Electronic Foot File, $50. On dry feet, you simply roll the file over rough spots and it gently smoothes skin.

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One day before vacation: Pack your beauty essentials

Having a stash of the right products – in plane-friendly sizes – will make the trip so much more pleasant (and pretty). You’ll be able to tame messy hair, revive dry skin and touch up makeup all before you touch down. And don’t forget the sunscreen! These mineral sunscreen options are tinted for the perfect no-makeup look. (And don’t forget to pack your travel-sized mouthwash for close encounters of the vacation kind.) Bon voyage!

1. Sephora Mini Tidy Detanlging Comb, $8
2. Rococo Nail Apparel Nail Polish Remover Tissues, $12
3. Joe Fresh Hand Cream, $6
4. Burt’s Bees Facial Cleansing Towelettes with White Tea Extract, $4 (10 pack)
5. Colab Dry Shampoo Rio Tropical, $6 (50 mL)
6. Smashbox L.A. Lights Blendable Lip & Cheek Color Stick in Silver Lake Sunset, $36
7. Avéne Thermal Spring Water, $10
8. L’Occitane Pivoine Sublime Lip Balm, $20
9. Garnier BB Eye Miracle Skin Perfector Eye Roller, $20
10. Quo Facial Blotting Papers, $6

Originally Published in Best Health Canada

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