I had a mountain of laundry to fold today to continue our recovery from vacation-palooza, so I watched In The Heights while I worked through it, and the movie was a delight! I felt so attached to the male lead, Anthony Ramos, who was also one of my favorites from Hamilton as well as Lady Gaga’s BFF in A Star is Born, that any time something happened to him I would burst into tears. I am now dangerously dehydrated, but I did finish folding all the clothes!
The true MVPs of this vacation were my parents, who invited three young children to their fairly new and extremely white house in Florida, where they did what kids do — got sticky fingerprints on every surface and in one instance dripped blood from a scratched toe all the way through the house. Luckily, my parents had banked all their patience for children over the last nineteen months, and I didn’t hear any yelling (except from me) the whole trip. Honorable mention goes to my sister’s dog, who barfed in the house before we came to prepare my parents for the mayhem that would follow.
I am extremely fair, and after my diagnosis I noticed my skin wasn’t just pale, but had a grey cast to it. Before we left, I started using this spray on my face a couple times a week to gradually give me some color, and didn’t look particularly tan, just less on the verge of needing a blood transfusion. It doesn’t have a strong smell and is forgiving with even coverage that is buildable. You can apply it several days in a row for a more dramatic affect, and it doesn’t contain a bronzer so my pillowcase was unscathed. This will be in my regular rotation, especially when I’m having seasons of more serious illness, to even out my skin color and make me look alive.
For the same reasons, I tried my hand at self-tanning over the last year. I have now experimented with the classic, the express tan, and the dark versions of St Tropez tanning mousse, and I mostly prefer the dark, which probably seems odd since I am ghostly by nature. Precisely because I’m so light, I don’t actually look tan with a hefty dose of classic even after eight hours, especially on my legs, which are immune to most tanning sprays and also sunlight. With the dark, I will actually get a decent amount of color on my legs, and it’s not orange at all. It is, however, green. The undertone of this self-tanner, in all the iterations I’ve tried, is green. It’s alarming at first, but it keeps me from turning orange, which is usually the result of a spray tan from a salon for me. The drawback of the dark formula is that you will look like a sea monster until you wash it off, so you can’t rub on some spray tan and then run to buy some milk. It could be because my skin is light and the green is prominent, but I’m betting most people will be staying home while they wait for it to process.
I will never buy another “spray-on” tan, only mousse from now on with a tanning mitt to apply it, because let me tell you I have made some mistakes. The worst mistakes were in spray tan booths, like stepping in a puddle of tanner without noticing and ending up with orange feet, but I’ve also had my fair share of mishaps at home. I would prefer to use a tanner without bronzer but I really need the guide color to help me see the spots I’ve missed, and the mousse and mitt make for better blending and more forgiving borders. I wear sweats and a long sleeved shirt to bed and have never had any transfer issues.
I’ve recently tried some tanning drops that you mix into your own moisturizer, and I’ve had varying levels of success. Its customizable (more drops=more tan) and good for desert skin that needs a real body cream and not drying chemical tanners, but its colorless at first and hard to get even, so I use it only on my legs. The drops are pricey, but will last a while. The recommended dose is like three drops per body part mixed with your lotion.
For the desert, I use Cetaphil, and there is nothing better. For vacation, I decided to treat myself to some Bum Bum Cream. I don’t care for scented products at all, but Bum Bum Cream is the exception. It smells like a beach vacation but not like a pina colada, it’s almost like a tropical perfume. It’s not dry in Florida or Wisconsin, so I didn’t need my heavy duty cream, and this one is such a luxury. Mom left a tube of Bum Bum lip balm in my room, and it was surprisingly moisturizing, even in the desert (yes I absolutely stole the fancy toiletries from Chez Mom).
While I was in Florida I had about a foot of hair chopped off, and declared the weather incompatible with blow-drying. My favorite I-Don’t-Feel-Like-Drying-My-Hair products are Don’t Blow It and Surf Spray. A little Don’t Blow It on my damp roots and a few spritzes of Surf Spray gives my fine, flat hair lots of beachy body without turning on a blow dryer (there is a Don’t Blow It for thick hair, too!). On vacation I like to take the time to blow my hair out and put some waves in it with a curling wand, but Florida in June quickly put that idea right out of my sweaty head. No, thank you.
What does a fair Irish gal wear to the beach? Sunscreen. Lots of it. Last time I was in a Sephora (2019!) a lovely woman talked me into trying SuperGoop Mattescreen. It has a bit of tint and a matte look which I was unsure about, since I prefer a dewy cheekbone and browline, but honey, leave all the dewy makeup at home if you’re going to Florida in the summer. It’s all dewy all the time. This matte version gives me about a half hour without a shiny face that I truly appreciate — longer in places that are not Florida. I also usually prefer spf50 on my face (see: Irish) but this spf40 is very reliable. I used this stuff every day on my sunscreen-averse skin and never had any irritation or burning. I also love their sunscreen mists, because you can reapply over a full face of makeup if you’re in the sun for a while.
Lastly, special mention goes to Olive and June nail polish. I gave myself a manicure and pedicure three days before we left because I knew I wouldn’t have the time on the eve of our departure, and I was so rough on my nails (caught one in a suitcase zipper) I ended up removing that polish a few days into the trip, however, my toes still looked good when we got back home, almost three weeks after the initial painting. In defense of O&J, they say to reapply top coat to your nails every few days to protect them, and I forgot, so I’m sure if I’d taken better care of my manicure it would have better survived the rough treatment I exposed it to. The polish and top coat does seem to outlast traditional polish, but comes off easily unlike a gel manicure. I also got the primer, and I find my polish doesn’t lift from the nail and flake off like with regular base coat. If you regularly give yourself mani-pedis, you probably won’t need the full kit, but I waited until my tools needed to be replaced to spring for the kit, which comes with a super helpful slanted platform to put your foot on for pedicures — game changer.
There are so many MVPs for a long trip with kids, like Fire tablets for kids (it’s Prime Day!) which are lighter and more durable than iPads at a fraction of the price. Also, portable kiddie toilet seats were hugely helpful for my daughter who was potty-trained during the pandemic and had no experience with bathrooms outside her house before this trip. I went to Old Navy to get my son some pajamas before we left town and all their cloth masks were on clearance, so if you think you or your kids might continue to need masks for travel or school, definitely check them out. They are comfortable, adjustable, breathable, and come in all different colors and patterns. Our Old Navy had them for $1 for a five pack (usually $12.50) in store.
As always, honorable mention goes to antibacterial gel and wipes, cleaning staff at airports and on airplanes doing their best to keep things germ-free, and all the staff dealing with people who don’t believe in masks at all. It’s been quite a year for airlines and airports having to explain rules to people who agreed to wear masks when they purchased their tickets (you have to click through an agreement before you book) and then plum forgot that authorities could tell they weren’t wearing them in person. Yikes.
Safe travels to you and your families this summer! And remember, even if you’re not Irish, wear sunscreen!