Tips to ensure the heat doesn’t get under your skin

Summer doesn’t have to spell lacklustre skin. Choosing the right make-up, SPF, diet and products is what it takes to keep that glow.

A study published in 2013 in Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology suggests UV rays account for 80 per cent of skin ageing, which alongside skin-cancer concerns, makes choosing the right protection paramount. Antonie Robertson/The National
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Not only is summer a time when most of us find it difficult to keep our cool, calm and collected look intact, it’s also a time when our skin is most in need of attention and protection.

The skin, the largest organ in the human body, is prone to stress under the soaring temperatures.

“While the hot and humid weather dehydrates our skin through perspiration, the prolonged exposure to AC puts toxins into our bodies, causing our skin to look tired and stressed, as well as becoming dried out,” says Beautyspot salon owner Victoria Powell, adding that proper care, including a regular skincare regimen, is vital.

“It is never too late to start – every morning and night it is important that you are using a cleanser and moisturiser with an SPF [for daytime], as well as exfoliating weekly to remove dead skin cells.”

Rehab Abouelseoud, specialist dermatologist at Healthpoint, offers some suggestions to counteract the strain on our skin during the summer months.

“The heat and moisture we experience, of course, causes our skin to sweat, which can lead to blocked pores, acne and pimples if too much sweat accumulates,” she says. “It is advisable to carry wet wipes or cloths that you can use to clean your skin every now and then to prevent accumulation in the pores.”

According to Abouelseoud, the effects of dryness and prolonged exposure to air conditioning depends on individual sensitivity and skin type.

“Oily skin will feel less effect than naturally dry skin [when it comes to air conditioning],” she says. “If you sit in an office with high AC, you may wish to apply a light moisturiser to counteract dryness.”

Perhaps the most obvious and most important action we need to take is protecting the skin from the sun. Not only do the sun’s rays age the skin, but too much exposure can be dangerous, too.

“For those who spend considerable time in the sun, it is most important to apply sunscreen frequently to help prevent sunburn and irregular moles,” says Abouelseoud.

The skin’s pigmentation plays a role in our sensitivity to the sun, too, says the Healthpoint skin expert, who adds that even though people with darker pigmentation in their skin are less sensitive to sunlight, “all skin types should apply sunscreen to protect against harmful UVs in this climate”.

A study published in the medical journal Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology in 2013 suggested that UV rays account for 80 per cent of skin ageing, which alongside skin-cancer concerns, makes choosing the right protection paramount.

“With the UAE enjoying sunshine all year round, it is important for residents and visitors alike to ensure they have adequate protection from the sun,” says Dalia Ibrahim, cosmetologist and laser therapist at Bloom Aesthetic and Laser Clinic in Dubai. “Effective use of sunscreens will not only limit extrinsic skin ageing, but will also reduce skin-cancer risk.”

Not only is it vital to put on sunscreen, but we also need to understand what the SPF relates to when choosing our coverage.

A recent survey conducted by the American Academy of Dermatology revealed that just 32 per cent of respondents knew that SPF 30 sunscreen does not provide twice the protection of SPF 15.

A sunscreen with an SPF of 30 is supposed to block up to 97 per cent of the sun’s rays, says Abel Torres, dermatologist and president of the American Academy of Dermatology. “Higher SPFs block slightly more rays, but a higher number SPF does not allow you to spend more time outdoors without reapplication,” he says, adding that all sunscreens need to be reapplied every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.

So what exactly should we be using on our skin during summer? Abouelseoud suggests that creams and make-up should be “as natural as possible, with more natural ingredients and less processed or compound chemicals”.

Powell says it’s best to avoid thick, heavy products that make your face feel sticky and cakey.

“Tinted moisturiser is perfect for those who want a lighter coverage, and [for sunscreen] lighter skin tones need a higher SPF,” she says. “Mineral make-up is perfect for clean beautiful skin.”

It’s not just about what you put on your face or body though. Water and the right diet also play a significant role.

“Water is absolutely key to maintaining healthy glowing skin,” says Powell, who has salons in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. “Your skin is the last organ to receive water, so the more you drink the better, especially in this climate where we are losing fluids much quicker.”

Up to eight glasses of fluids a day is recommended, and while Ramadan can make that difficult, to ensure good health it is essential that we keep our bodies hydrated.

“You will know when your skin is dehydrated simply by a rougher sensation or visible dry patches,” says Abouelseoud, “and follow up with your dermatologist if it becomes extreme or causes discomfort.”

As for diet, she says it is advisable that we stick to foods that promote good health. “We recommend a low-sugar, low-glycemic index diet rich in fruit, vegetables and nuts, complemented by a substantial intake of water,” says the dermatologist. “Caffeine tends to dehydrate the skin and body, so be sure to avoid coffee and other caffeinated drinks when you will be in the sun for prolonged periods.”

Powell adds: “Foods high in vitamin C help with collagen production, while omega-3 and amino acids strengthen the skin. Antioxidant-rich vitamins A and E are essential for beautiful skin.”