Counting down the days to a holiday in the sun is often the only way thing that keeps us going when work is a grind and the weather seems determined to depress us. But a sure-fire way to make the first few days of your well-deserved break uncomfortably painful is to overdo the sunbathing. Although the temptation to spend all day basking is understandable, when your skin is unprepared you risk burning yourself and having to spend a chunk of your vacation hiding in the shade.

A good way to avoid this is to get a sun-kissed look before leaving for your vacation by using fake tan from St Tropez; it won’t prevent you from burning, but it will make you less likely to spend too long in the rays in the first few days. Nevertheless, whether you pre-tan from a bottle or not, it is vital that you protect yourself with a suitable sunscreen as the sun’s rays contain two types of ultraviolet radiation that can damage your skin, cause premature aging and increase the risk of skin cancers. UVB radiation is primarily responsible for burning; UVA radiation has a deeper penetration and is the cause of leathering, wrinkling, sagging and other aging effects.

Available as lotions or sprays, sunscreens are most effective when they are reapplied every 90 minutes, or after you’ve been in the water. They will also have a varied effect depending on your skin type, so it is important to make note of the Sun Protection Factor: the higher the SPF number, the more protection the sunscreen will offer. In order to keep the wrinkles at bay, but still ensure a sun-kissed glow, it is advisable to use at least two different screens for the body and face: a very high SPF on your face, neck and décolletage (where the skin tends to be thinner), with a lower number on the rest of your body.

You should also remember to pack a good hair shampoo, preferably one that specifies sun-damaged treatments as the salt from the sea, chlorine from the pool or constant heat will all conspire to damage your locks. Particularly if you have highlights or any other colouring treatment, it is even more important to use conditioner as the dye process itself opens up the follicles and allows more sun damage. One way to aid protection is to wash your hair with warm water to rinse off any detritus, rinse it with cold water to close the follicles then use a conditioner with added sunscreen – leaving it in for a while to help add protection.

The final essential beauty product is an after sun cream, or body lotion with an SPF, designed for use in high temperature climates. Tanning may leave you with a healthy glow, but neglecting to properly moisturise your skin after washing off the sunscreen can lead to dryness, flaking and a rapidly fading tan! Make sure to apply the lotion to damp skin in order to lock the moisture in and work your way up from your toes to your chin. In fact, it is good to be in the habit – whether on holiday or not – of applying your moisturisers and lotions in upward strokes as dragging the skin downward can, over time, worsen sagging as the skin loosens with age.

In general, no matter where you are spending your holiday and what products you take with you, make sure to use sunscreen, stay out of the rays at the peak of the day and keep your skin supple with these essential beauty products.