Dr Sophie Shotter is one of the industry's most loved aesthetic doctors. She's the woman the Red beauty team leans on, time and time again, for sage advice. Here, she shares the skincare she packs in her holiday suitcase, and why there is such thing as responsible tanning...
"Knowing what the sun can do to the skin in terms of health and premature ageing, I used to spend my holidays in the shade, avoiding a tan at all costs," says Dr Shotter.
"That changed a few years ago when I discovered Institut Estherderm, a French brand which believes that, as long as we’re using sunscreen wisely and giving the skin everything it needs to stay hydrated and protect itself from inflammation, it’s ok to enjoy a reasonable amount of sun and even pick up some colour. I’m still responsible - I stay in the shade when the sun is at its highest, I have yearly mole checks and I’m scrupulous about reapplying my protection. It just means that if I see a bit of sun while I’m out playing tennis or reading a book after a dip in the pool, I am confident I’m not recklessly damaging my skin."
What the skin needs to stay safe in the sun, says Dr Shotter, are not just sun filters but anti-inflammatory and antioxidant ingredients that strengthen the skin's own defences and stop damage in its tracks. Alongside UVA and UVB protection, Institut Esthederm features a patented complex that protects from (and repairs) DNA damage and oxidative stress, helping to avoid uneven pigmentation, lines and wrinkles – and it’s loved as much by the GH beauty team as it is by Dr Shotter.
Dr Shotter also recommends the suncare brand Red has spotted on more than one expert’s list of summer must-haves. "Dermatologists and aestheticians all love Heliocare, because it has textures to suit all skin types and even the highest protection absorbs well," she explains.
"I take the 360° oral supplement, too, to prepare my skin for the sun from the inside out. As well as vitamins C and E, and enzymes that repair DNA damage, it uses an ingredient called N-acetylcysteine to prompt the body into making its own antioxidants".
As for travelling light, Dr Shotter isn’t one for scaling back her skincare on holiday, pointing out that a good routine does a lot to support your sun protection.
"While lots of women strip their skincare back to the basics while they’re away, I stick to a consistent routine, focusing even more on hydration and antioxidants. That way, I don’t come back home with dry, dull skin, or a huge amount of reparative work to do."
There's one active ingredient that's worth prioritising over almost everything else come summer, and for Sophie, a great vitamin C serum is a non-negotiable. Layering one of these under your sunscreen will turbo-charge your protection protocol by inhibiting the melanin production which can lead to hyperpigmentation, while working on existing dark spots and fine lines.
Sophie rates Medik8's brilliant C-Tetra serum, which features a super-stable form of Vitamin C, making it powerfully effective yet kind on sensitive skin. It does a stellar job at perking up signs of tiredness and evening out discolouration at a very reasonable price point.
Medik8's formula is one that feels slightly oilier than most. If you prefer a lighter consistency, or if break-outs can be a problem, Sophie recommends Vichy's offering, which has more of a water-like texture.
"I also travel with my night-time retinoid serum," continues Sophie, who loves the excellent Skin Better Science AlphaRet Overnight Cream. "I'm extra careful with my SPF the next day, so sun sensitivity isn't a problem for me - and modern formulations are much less irritating than they once were. The thing I'm most careful with in the sun are strong exfoliating acids. I might use the odd bit of PHA [milder polyhydroxy acid, which suits most skin types], but I would always swap out glycolic or lactic acid cleansers for an enzyme formulation."
A lightweight moisturiser is another holiday essential for Sophie. For morning and evening use that won't break the bank (we're all for saving washbag space, too), she recommends CeraVe's classic Moisturising Lotion. It's an unfussy staple that puts hydration back into the skin without feeling heavy.
As for body cream, Sophie's product of choice when she's at home in the UK is Ameliorate's Transforming Body Lotion, which keeps rough or reddened skin feeling sleek and soft. When she's away, she'll switch to something simpler. "Be careful with body creams that have active ingredients such as acids or retinol when you're in the sun," says Sophie, explaining that without constant sun protection, they can make skin more susceptible to irritation and burning.
For an active-free alternative, Sophie rates Beauty Pie's excellent Super Healthy Skin Body Cream. It's rich, beautifully hydrating and easily absorbed.
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