Memorial Day weekend is upon us! In my town, this means I’ll get plenty of invitations to hang out at the river, pool, beach, and everywhere in between over the next three months. Yesterday, a friend floated the idea of going swimming soon, and I came home and tried on a few bathing suits I’d bought at the end of summer last year and have never worn yet. Because as much as my body confidence and *comfort* have risen in the past decade, I still do think twice about donning a bathing suit in front of people I know! (Complete strangers though? Who cares!)
For younger dumplings, I just want to say that my body confidence was lowest between the ages of 15 and 26 or so. Although I became vegan at age 19, which did wonders to keep me healthy and vibrant, I still had disordered eating patterns. In college, I would eat a lot and then workout a lot to keep the weight off. I sometimes felt ashamed for still being hungry after eating a perceived “normal” amount of food. A college boyfriend once hinted that I would be better off not eating a vegan chocolate chip cookie after dinner, and that one incident left an indelible mark of shame over my appetite. There were also some months when I ate very little, to control the one area of life where I felt in power. As if that was not enough, I often compared myself to the other, naturally slender girls on campus.
Now I look back and see someone who had a very natural amount of appetite for being in their teens and early twenties. This is when your growth hormones are pumping, and even if you have stopped getting taller, you’re still requiring and expending more energy. I wasn’t gluttonous, but just young—and in need of affirmation, hugs, and security, all things that we often lack when we crave comfort from food.
Around 27 or so, I noticed my appetite decreasing significantly. At the same time, I found the mode of exercise I really need (for me that’s dance, even more than yoga, running, barre, or Pilates). I found loving relationships with non-assholes who didn’t put me down for wanting dessert. In fact, some of them expressed adoration for my body when I was at my heaviest. It was empowering to find that I was physically attractive—not to everyone, but to enough people that I felt validated. It was even more empowering to find that I didn’t even need or want to think about my physical attractiveness that much anymore, because there were other, more pressing concerns in adulthood. Looking hot in a bikini is a distant concern when you’re struggling to make ends meet! Priorities!
Which brings me back to looking hot in a bikini. I can now honestly say that I love my body the way it is. First of all, it has followed my lead wherever I took it for the past many years. It’s beautiful and gives me a lot of joy, through movement, through intimacy, and just the way it takes up space in the world. I’m no longer even fazed by the stretch marks on my butt, because again, priorities. But I’m not someone who has let go of all vanity. For me, a little mental and physical prep goes a long way in making me feel good in tiny little pieces of spandex, and that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look your best!
Leading up to the swim day, drink a lot more water and tea.
I am permanently dehydrated (every facialist I’ve ever seen said so!). Drinking mint tea helps me cool any inflammation, which is key especially during summer. Interestingly, mint tea is also a great GI helper and de-bloats. I’ve personally noticed that when I drink mint tea, I eat less sugar. My skin looks glowing (see here what drinking mint tea did for Lindsay’s skin) and I feel calm and cool before heading out to battle the sun. Win-win!
Focus on your body skin care.
I care about my facial skin year-round, but neglect to even look at my body skin most of the time. I’ve recently begun dry brushing a few times a week to exfoliate in a jiffy and do lymphatic drainage. I realized how helpful it is when my facialist started using a very small dry brush on my face. Enthusiasts say dry brushing can even reduce the appearance of cellulite, and I do feel more toned after using it. I like to do this in the bathtub before a shower so that I can easily wash away the dead skin cells.
To shave or not to shave… We had a lovely and affirming article recently about Imola’s choice to stop shaving body hairs. If you’re in that camp, we support you. I personally like to shave, and if so here’s the ultimate shaving guide. I have friends who swear by sugaring. I even have friends who routinely get Brazilian waxing done. I find that this is a very personal choice—whatever you decide, we recommend letting go of shame and doing things for you.
After exfoliating and showering, use body oil or moisturizer of your choice while your skin is still wet. Remember, consistency is key so do this *every* time you shower, and you’ll be boasting soft body complexion in no time (as I sit here in my non-moisturized skin, reminiscent of a turtle shell). For sunscreen, my favorite so far is Badger Clear Zinc Sunscreen SPF 40+, which is reef-safe and comes in a fully recyclable metal container. Why isn’t this more common?!
When I’m stripping down to near nothing in public, the goal isn’t to have a supermodel’s body but to look luscious and well-cared-for. Which is why I believe in shimmer for beach day. I just discovered the most brilliant product for my bare skin: Chantecaille Radiance Elixir. It’s cruelty-free and vegan, and has the most wonderful rose scent that’s most refreshing. It is *skincare*, not makeup, but leaves your skin subtly airbrushed with the tiniest bit of shimmer. And because it’s not makeup, it stays on your skin even when you’re playing in the water. (When I put it on at night, I wake up looking very radiant, too.) I don’t know how they did it guys—this stuff is magic.
For the body, I love Olio e Osso’s Lustero Glow Body Oil. It’s also cruelty-free and vegan, and the women-owned brand makes it in small batches in Oregon with ethically sourced mica. I love the shimmer and the gorgeous scent of cedar and bergamot—perfect not only for beach days, but also for any time you’re wearing a dress or shorts. Note: if you do choose to wear glitter, make sure that it’s biodegradable and not made of plastic!
Focus on your accessories
Scarf & hat
I wear a floaty scarf from May to October to cover my delicate décolletage from the sun. Use it as a headband, hair tie, sun protection, sarong, and if nothing else, just tie it on your beach bag. Always appropriate, always chic. If it’s going to be truly sunny, I also wear a huge straw hat.
A great pair of sunglasses hides your water-smudged mascara while protecting your delicate eye area from sunburn.
Yes, I plan my jewelry in advance for beach day. If you have affordable costume jewelry that you don’t mind getting wet, this is the day to wear them. There’s no way you can maintain a perfect makeup on a beach day, but big earrings, bangles, or a necklace add the va-va-voom without being fussy.
Sandals, mani & pedi
A colorful and sparkling pedicure + sandal combo goes a long way in boosting one’s confidence and making this beach get-up an “outfit.”
I have a go-to summer perfume and a winter perfume. During summer, I wear Oribe Côte d’Azur, a fresh floral that brings me back to the South of France.
We spend a lot of time obsessing over the right bikini, forgetting that it’s a part of a whole outfit! My favorite beach bag is a handmade Balinese straw bag I bought on Etsy. It was under $50 and it’s so much more polished than a backpack or a random tote bag.
Figure out a hairstyle that you feel good in and won’t impede your fun! I am fond of leaving it long and wavy (with leave-on conditioner), braiding it, or putting in an up-do.
Remember, this is about you. Don’t do anything just because of peer pressure—you can even keep all your clothes on! Do what makes you feel comfortable so that you can have the most fun.
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Photo: respective brands