Samui Wining & Dining
Sun Ravaged

Taking care of sun soaked skin from the inside out.


52It’s official! The sun is our friend and not a fiery fiend in the sky. A certain amount of exposure to the sun’s rays is not only good for us, but entirely necessary. So, during your time here on Samui, a daily dose of sunshine is going to be beneficial.


But, of course, taking care of our skin in this hot climate is also essential. Jo Rowkins, Executive Health Consultant at The Spa Resort, has some excellent tips on how to stay safe and healthy in the sun.


“A little bit of sunshine is good for you!” Jo advises. “I am all for good, healthy sun exposure, building it up gently, up to 20 minutes without sun protection (yes, you did read that correctly). Though obviously not during the hottest part of the day. And also depending on your skin type. Maybe five minutes is enough for fairer types.”


Jo is concerned about new research stating that the entire Western world is now vitamin D deficient. This is as a result of many people being afraid to go out in the sun. Our bodies manufacture vitamin D from the sun’s good rays and without it our immune system is not activated correctly to defend against many viruses and illness.


So sunshine is good. But we still need to take care on holiday. Jo’s philosophy is that the best sun-protection is based on nutrition, built from the inside out. She says, “Natural skin-care on holiday is the best way to care for your skin. We need to support the skin’s natural function, to minimize sun damage. Both when we’re in the sunshine and later in the day when the sun has gone down.”


Her first tip might seem initially obvious – drinking plenty of water. Simple, easy to get hold of, but many people just don’t enjoy water. It’s boring! Especially on holiday when we want to let our hair down, relax and enjoy somewhat more enticing beverages. But getting water into our bodies doesn’t have to mean glugging down two litres a day. “Many foods are high in water content, so snacking on the abundance of fresh tropical fruits and tasty, raw salads that we have here is a fantastic way of staying hydrated.”

Jo’s top hydration tip is drinking coconut water. “Nature’s water!” she enthuses. “It’s brimful of enzymes and the body loves it!”


So what other sorts of foods should we be looking for to protect our skin from the inside? “The much talked about anti-oxidants,” Jo explains. “To protect the skin from further sun damage, we’re looking for foods containing vitamins A, C and E. Lovely holiday foods that are going to help look after skin in a hot climate. Foods rich in these vitamins suppress those harmful ‘free radicals’ that cause aging and wrinkles.”


Water melon is Jo’s ‘sun protection hero’, rich in vitamins and extremely hydrating. Orange and yellow fruit and vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potato and mango are high in vitamin A. As are leafy green vegetables, such as morning glory and pak choi. Vitamin C aids collagen formation which stops us getting wrinkles; it’s a very good antioxidant and it’s present in fruit and vegetables.


Fruit shakes are ideal holiday foods but they have to be natural. Juices that come in cartons contain masses of sugar. And even the fresh shakes served in the island’s restaurants and bars often have added sugar syrup, which is so loved in Thailand. A sugary shake will wipe out all of our efforts in trying to help our sun-drenched skin, despite thinking we’re having a healthy drink. Jo’s advice is to go for fresh fruit shakes with no added sugar.


But now for another big revelation – alcohol! We know it’s dehydrating, but we’re on holiday. So should we avoid it? Jo, glowing with health, laughs and says, “I’m no purist! It’s all about finding the balance, enjoying what we do without having guilt attached to it.” The good news is that there’re ways of drinking alcohol in a healthy way. Jo’s advice is to use soda water as a mixer instead of coke or tonic water, which are both loaded with the evil sugar. So your gin or vodka and tonic becomes a long, cold drink of your chosen shot, lots of soda, and freshly squeezed lime. A healthy aperitif.


So what about beer and wine? According to Jo, it’s a good idea to alternate between water and alcohol. When you’ve just got back from the beach and you’ve built up a huge thirst, before you grab a beer from the fridge, hold back and enjoy a nice glass of water first. And then have a beer. Although a beer may feel like it’s quenching our thirst, it’s actually hindering hydration. As for wine, well, it has to be a good quality red which is full of anti-oxidants. Some good news there then but it still needs to be interspersed with a glass of water or two to keep our hydration levels up.


And cocktails? Surely this goes hand-in-glove with enjoying a beautiful sunset on the beach. One or two can’t hurt, can they? “No, not if they’re natural,” says Jo. “We’ve got an abundance of fresh fruit here, meaning we can have fresh juice cocktails. There’s nothing like a natural pina colada. We have fresh pineapple here, fresh banana and coconut. Once you’ve tried a completely natural pina colada, there’s no going back!”


So now we know more about the effects of alcohol on the skin but what about repairing some of the damage done after a day on the beach? “Well, a massage with coconut oil is going to be really good for the skin. We’ve got plenty of extra-virgin coconut oil on Samui. That would be my substance of choice to rub into the skin. It’s really nourishing. For me, coconut oil has become a magical elixir. Not only can you use it on your skin, but you can actually drink it. It’s fantastic for all sorts of body processes. So natural and fresh, the skin loves it. If you put it on your skin it’ll certainly minimize the sun damage the following day as well as re-hydrate from the previous day in the sun.”


Aloe vera is also readily available on the island and is amazing if you’ve spent too long in the sun. A fresh aloe vera wrap is the ideal treat for skin that’s had too much sun. Jo’s natural after-sun care routine would be to take a cold shower, then apply aloe vera to the skin and let it soak in. Finally, apply extra-virgin coconut oil as a moisturizer.

“We know that sun damage is harmful,” concludes Jo, “but all of these things will help to protect our skin, keeping it healthy and reducing aging whilst we enjoy our holiday.”


Kathryn Amberley


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