All the Products You Need to Keep Your Skin Safe on a Tropical Vacation

See recent posts by Anne Olivia Bauso

So you're going to the tropics! Farewell meeting pop-ups, hello beach palapas and pineapple-slice-topped mai tais. But before you put your feet up, you've got to nail down your sun care plan. This is your tropical getaway, and damaging free radicals, premature aging, and painful sunburns are not invited. Take a look at our most essential beauty products for keeping the tropics' powerful sunbeams at bay.

Think of your face as a fortress. Your first line of defense? An antioxidant base. Antioxidants are natural ingredients (think grape-seed and goji extracts) that shield your skin from free-radical damage caused by the sun. For my base, I love Mad Hippie Antioxidant Facial Oil, which is impressive for its totally natural ingredient list and its $25 price point. Its mix of organic argan and pomegranate seed oils (among many others) that hydrate the skin and help keep it safe. If you’re willing to spend a bit (okay three times) more, go for Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum, the absolute gold standard of antioxidant serums (and the product our executive editor swears by). Or, if you have a daily moisturizer that you love, consider souping it up with extra SPF, like Algenist’s UV Defense Fluid SPF 50. You can either mix in a few drops of the super-sheer, super-silky liquid directly into your face cream, or layer it on top.

Next up: eye cream, preferably one with SPF. It’s hard to find an SPF eye cream that doesn’t burn or sting if it gets into your eye, but I can say that I’ve had 100 percent success with the ones by PCA Skin (SPF 30), Supergoop (SPF 37), and SkinCeuticals (SPF 50). The PCA and SkinCeuticals picks both have a velvety texture and a natural-looking tint that works with most skin tones, while the Supergoop option is a light white cream that takes a little longer to soak in.

On top of that goes a BB cream, which is similar to a tinted moisturizer, but with extra SPF oomph. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’ve tested about 100 different ones, and that MDSolarSciences MD Creme Mineral Balm is my favorite. It’s oil- and paraben-free and has a crazy-smooth, powdery matte finish that doesn’t make my face look chalky. And — drum roll, please — it’s loaded with sun protection (SPF 50). Best of all, it’s mineral-based, so it doesn’t contain chemicals that can cause damage to ocean reefs. A good drugstore pick is Revlon’s PhotoReady BB Cream Skin Perfector.

BB cream does not replace proper sunscreen. For your face and neck, try Neutrogena Healthy Defense SPF 50, or, if you’re feeling fancy, the zinc-based SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50. I like to toss a bottle of Elta MD UV Clear Broad Spectrum SPF 46 into my daypack or beach bag for touch-ups: It’s so lightweight (and lightly tinted) and takes all of two seconds to completely sink in.

I tend to pick a big ol’ bottle of body sunscreen at the local supermarket or drugstore whenever I touch down. But if you have room in your carry-on or suitcase (and don’t want to take any chances), bring La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-In Sunscreen Milk SPF 60. The fragrance-free lotion soaks in quickly, is water resistant for up to 80 minutes, and isn’t a bit slick or slimy. I’d also like to add that EIR Surf Mud was my MVP (most valuable product) on a recent Thailand trip. The zinc-based blocker has the consistency of silky mud and is fast to absorb. But here’s the best part: Bugs and mosquitoes hate the way it smells! Now, just throw on a hat and a pair of polarized sunnies, and grab a cotton scarf to toss over your shoulders. You’re good to go!

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