What's Actually Up With Vacation Skin?


Your skin looks better when you’re on vacation. Fact.

Why, you might ask? A mystery! Can’t possibly be because when you’re on vacation you’re just less stressed, and stress hormones affect skin more than we’d like to admit. Can’t be that, because being carefree and OOO all the time simply is not an option. Nope.

But… It also isn’t because of air travel. I know this because air travel broke me out consistently until a tip from Emily Ferber changed my life. (Also because sitting in a tin can with 100+ breathing strangers is gross, and if that was the key to clear skin, I’d feel betrayed.) It, surprisingly, isn’t because sunshine and ocean water solve everything. We all know the havoc UV rays wreak, and when it comes to the ocean, salt is drying and a dermatologist once told me that the only potential benefit comes via aquatic microorganisms. (In other words, fish poop et al.) Ditto with sweat, which is responsible both for post-hike bacne and a luminous, flushed glow all at once?! There’s also the fact that I have not once, not ever, had a kale and quinoa salad on vacation. I have however found time for gelato breakfast many, many times.

All that is to say, vacation skin as a concept is definitely A Thing, but it has a lot of confounding variables. I hear the voice of my 10th grade psychology teacher as I type: correlation does not prove causation. Helpful when navigating the pandemic news cycle! Also helpful when you can’t figure out if your hotel’s sink is doing something magical yours at home doesn’t, and whether or not that means you should invest in a $200 water filter.

As we head into a long weekend, I’ve got a longshot inquiry: is there anything bottled, tubed, or boxed that can replicate the epidermal nirvana of vacation skin? I’ve heard good things about Mother Dirt, a microbiome replenishing mist that might be able to replicate an afternoon spent floating in a natural body of water. An exfoliating flash mask might do the trick in a pinch… though maybe the answer is just skipping the cleanse and hitting the hay early? Where in the world has your skin been the clearest—and why do you think that was?

Any leads welcome.

—Ali Oshinsky

Photo via ITG