THE JULY magazine racks and TV ads are a sea of skin, all healthy and wholesome, but bare nonetheless. On the covers and inside, the beautiful and fit lounge gracefully by the pool, romp prettily on the beach, and glow with inner health and beauty -- all very depressing for those women who are fighting frizzy hair, oil-slick complexions and blotches and snags all over.
Expectations of a glorious summer wilt with Maryland weather, and pollutants and chemicals take their toll.
What to do? Relax. Recognize beauty problems that can be helped and learn to co-exist with your natural endowments.
The '90s are in your favor. The times for looking as beautiful as you can be have never been better. Today's women are smart shoppers and cosmetics companies are courting consumers by developing better products and providing better information on product ingredients and application.
However, the broad spectrum of beauty products can be confusing. Who hasn't cruised the cosmetics aisle reading labels, comparing prices and walking out with a =lotion or cream that's used a few times and abandoned?
Investing some time with professionals can put you on a beauty regimen with information and techniques to keep your looks going on your own.
So shake out your hair, add some color to your cheeks and wriggle your toes. It's summer.
"Summer sun, chemicals and water are the hair's worst enemies," says Bill Kearney, chief colorist and stylist at Studio Giovanna in Towson. "Water looks refreshing and feels great for a dip, but causes damage. Chlorinated pool water isn't the only culprit. A trip down the ocean means exposure to salt water. The problem is compounded when hair is washed with the local tap water which comes from wells and is hard with mineral deposits."
Kearney offers a quick-fix for removing chemical buildup from the hair. He says mixing a tablespoon of baking soda in a pint of water works as an after shampoo rinse.
But the buzzwords for hair are protection and condition and it's possible to do both while having fun outdoors. The wet look is fashionable now, so Kearney suggests slathering a good conditioner on your hair and wearing it slicked back or loosely twisted or braided. The conditioner coats the hair shaft and keeps chemicals from penetrating. If there's no conditioner at hand, run a generous amount of suntan lotion through your hair, preferably one with a high sunscreen rating. This has the added benefit of filtering out burning rays and slowing the fade of hair coloring.
As pretty as sun-streaked and highlighted locks are, the prolonged sun exposure needed to get them the natural way is a health risk. An expert colorist can achieve the same effect. Kearney uses a highlighting process in which individual hair strands are wrapped in foil and lightened to three different shades that blend together -- just as nature would have stroked them.
Kearney suggests going along with your own hair's temperament in the summer -- stay curly or straight, a good stylist can make it work. A good cut that takes advantage of the hair's natural tendencies, gentle if frequent shampooing, and careful conditioning will keep your hair bobbing along all summer.
The biggest favor you can do for your skin is to stay out of the summer sun. That being next to impossible for active people, the lesser step is to use and replenish sunscreen any time you're out and about. You've heard the medical warnings on skin cancer and seen the leathery looks of the generation that baked itself and basted with coconut oil. Ignorance is no excuse because sunscreen products carry guidelines on exposure for various skin types and coloring. Yet tan lines are still forming.
"Many of my clients are still out there working on a tan and their skin is showing it," moans Victoria Wilke, esthetician at Gian Bian Studio in Owings Mills. "Some are being more careful and have started using self-tanning lotions which darken the skin without sun exposure, but they want that glow.
"Makeup can give the face a deeper color," says Wilke, "by using a foundation and powder with a darker, yellow undertone for richer color."
But the best foundation of all is a healthy, clean skin.
Summer heat and activity increases production of perspiration and oil. Compounding the problem are pollutants that cling to damp skin and clog pores.
"Cleansing morning and night to remove all surface oil and grime is an essential summer beauty routine," says Wilke, "but soap and water may be too harsh for frequent bathers. A good soap-free cleansing gel may be the answer. Finish with an alcohol-free toner to prevent dryness and then a light moisturizer.
"Many people stop moisturizing in the summer because they believe it will leave their skin too oily. The opposite is true." Frequent washing tends to strip the skin of oil, which will cause the oil glands to work harder and eventually clog the pores.