We’re more conscious of wellness and taking care of our bodies then ever, so make sure that applies to your summer skincare too, says Michaela Williams
Ask any dermatologist his or her number one anti-ageing skincare tip, and without hesitation the answer will be exactly the same from all of them: wear sunscreen. Yet many of us in the UAE, the land of year-round sun and lounger-dotted beaches, are still not paying heed, with incidences of skin cancer on the rise. While we know it’s a bore, remembering to slip, slop, and slap every time we venture outside, the positive returns in skincare health far outweigh the few minutes spent applying a protective lotion.
Thankfully, the smelly, thick creams and brightly-coloured zincs of our childhoods have been replaced with scientifically proven products, easy-to-wear formulas, and – dare we say – somewhat chic packaging and sophisticated branding that make sunscreen application a pleasure rather than a messy chore.
WHAT’S THE DAMAGE?
Dr Doris Day, a New York-based dermatologist who has been treating sun-damaged skin for over 20 years and regularly sees patients from the UAE, says that it’s never too early or too late to start protecting your skin.
While a study by American skincare brand Murad suggests that your skin is more susceptible to sun damage early in life and, even worse, that just five severe sunburns before the age of 18 can double your risk of developing melanoma skin cancer later on, there’s still a lot that can be done to prevent the effects of sun exposure at any age.
So, what exactly is so awful about a little tanned glow? We hear you – especially the sun-starved expats. Dr Day says that even just few hours in the sun can cause a multitude of issues for skin health.
‘There is a breakdown of collagen and increase in production of melanin as well as other changes that are damaging to the skin,’ she says. ‘The damage can take from years to decades to show – as wrinkles, uneven skin tone, blotchiness and increased redness.’
And as for that ‘healthy’ tan? Dr Day says it’s far from a sign of health. ‘The simplest way to know you’ve damaged your skin is to see a sun tan... a tan is a sign of damage to your skin,’ she says.
‘Your skin makes the tan in response to stress and it’s a defensive move to protect your skin from breakdown, ageing and skin cancer.’
Dr Irena Ivanovska, specialist dermatologist at Euromed Clinic Centre, agrees that the sun’s rays can seriously injure skin. ‘The long-term effects of UV light are damage to the fibres in the skin called elastin,’ she explains. ‘When these fibres break down, the skin begins to sag, stretch, and lose its ability to go back into place after stretching. The skin also bruises and tears more easily, thus taking longer to heal.’
RAYS OF LIGHT
You may have heard of ultraviolet rays before, but are you aware of the specific damage they can inflict on unprotected skin? Present even on cloudy or overcast days, UVA rays are responsible for age spots, freckles, rough texture, fine lines and wrinkles, dullness, discolouration, and pigmentation. However, it’s the nasty UVB rays that are deadly, causing moles and marks that can develop into cancerous melanomas.
It gets worse: UVA and UVB rays are not the only intrusive light targeting sun-seekers. Studies have also discovered that 50 per cent of the sun’s rays are made up of infrared-A (IR-A) light. While this type of light has been linked to free radical formation in skin cells and causing early ageing, there still isn’t a lot of information on IR-As, with most sunscreens not yet containing specific IR-A protection. Additional research released in 2016 also introduced a new spectrum known as high energy visible light (HEVL), which scientists hypothesise is responsible for pigmentation in darker skin, which often appears as largerthan-average moles or stretches of flat pigmentation.
Avoiding exposure to these harmful rays is key to keeping the ageing process at bay, says Rebecca Treston, founder of Rebecca Treston Aesthetics at Euromed Clinic Centre. ‘Sun damage is caused by the accumulative effect of UV rays,’ she says, noting that the