The panel tests... Holiday prep
Given the lack of a real summer in this country, many of us put a lot of preparation into our sun holidays. Having learnt the hard way that our one week in the warmth might be the only chance we get to bare our limbs and break out our bronzers, we want to do it properly. So we like to primp a bit in advance, even if financial belt-tightening dictates that this no longer means a trip to a salon.
There is plenty the cash-strapped can do at home, though, and these are five of the products we felt best put us in a holiday mood. They smoothed our skin -- including the dreaded feet -- and took away the sun-starved pallor. Consider using even one of these prep products as a way of getting into the holiday zone early, and keep your fingers crossed that the Irish summer might even allow you to bare the results on your return.
Softsole Exfoliating Foot Peel, €19.99, pharmacies nationwide
No matter how gnarly your feet, this will improve them like nothing else you've ever tried. A chemical peel based on glycolic and lactic acids, you simply put on the sock-shaped foot wraps, leave them on for two hours, then wait a few days before soaking your feet nightly, after which all the hard skin will simply fall off. But you must, must, must follow the instructions or it won't work, and start it a fortnight before foot exposure, as your feet will be shedding for at least a week. "A little bit icky, but weirdly satisfying too," said a panellist, "and the result is feet like a baby's. Really."
Best Smoothing Prep
St Tropez Tan Optimiser Holiday Polish, €19.90, Brown Thomas
We know that exfoliation is crucial to any kind of tanning, be it bottle or sun, and this is a great product, which makes short work of dead skin cells. It's particularly good for those who neglect their extremities until 10 minutes before they take off for the sun. "I loved this because it felt like it was doing something," a panellist said. "The scrubby bits are very small and densely packed, and they are gritty without being sharp."
Best Colour Prep
He-Shi Day to Day Gradual Tan, €18.50, Brown Thomas, salons & spas nationwide
One way to banish the pallor before a holiday is to use a gradual self-tanner ahead of departure. That way you're not snow white, but you're not mahogany either. But beware how gradual-tanning products, when used daily, can build up around ankles, knees and wrists if you don't exfoliate. "The golden colour of this was very nice and natural," one panellist said, "and it's a good moisturiser too."
Best Sun Prep
Decleor Aromessence Solaire Tan Activator Serum, €55.70, Clerys; selected department stores, pharmacies and salons nationwide
A rich serum with carrot, camomile, geranium and rose oils, which you use in the week before heading to the sun and then under your SPF while on holiday. As it comes in a glass bottle -- the glass keeps the oils stable -- decant a little into a small plastic bottle for travel. "It's my new holiday must-have," said a panellist. "Made my skin softer and the carrot oil really gave my colour a helping hand."
Best Sandal Prep
Estee Lauder Pure Color Nail Laquer in Tempting Melon, €20, Estee Lauder
There's no colour that says summer like coral does, but it can be a difficult colour for Irish skin to carry, as its peach-pinkness has a tendency to make us look a bit piggy. This, however, is simply perfect, whether you're rocking a pale look or turning tan. It's a nice alternative to the reds, fuschias and dark plum that peep out of most sandals. "A summery statement that looks great when you put it on at home and then even better when you hit your holidays," said a panellist. "And it survived both sand and swimming without chipping."
Pictured, clockwise from top left: Softsole Exfoliating Foot Peel; Decleor Aromessence Solaire Tan Activator Serum; He-Shi Day to Day Gradual Tan; Estee Lauder Pure Color Nail Laquer in Tempting Melon; St Tropez Tan Optimiser Holiday Polish
Sunday Indo Life Magazine